“The Republican Party has gone insane,” influential conservative commentator Erick Erickson wrote this morning. He was referring to GOP’ers support for Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich, despite those candidates’ one-time backing of individual mandates to buy health insurance—a cardinal sin for conservatives. But he might just as well have been talking about the Republican nomination race writ large, which has turned into a political version of Pick Six. Fifteen days before the Iowa caucuses, the Gingrich bubble has burst, his support dropping by half.
Ever since Jimmy Carter door-to-doored his way to an eye-opening Iowa victory in 1976—he actually finished second to “uncommitted,” but he beat the other candidates—the first-in-the-nation caucuses have played a supersized role in both parties’ nomination processes. In spite of quadrennial grumblings about Iowa becoming “less relevant,” it never happens. The charm of Iowa isn’t just that it’s usually won with old-fashioned, shoe-leather campaigning; it’s also that the state’s caucus-goers, in both parties, are so full of surprises (see: Pat Robertson, John Kerry, Mike Huckabee). And with the media’s collective binary brain desperate to boil down the GOP race to Gingrich versus Romney, Iowa just might be poised to uncork another shocker in 20 days.
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Ding! Welcome to "Ringside Seat," The American Prospect’s daily guide to Election 2012. Each afternoon we'll send an end-of-the-day compendium of the campaign news you might have missed—but shouldn’t. Please send tips to firstname.lastname@example.org.
In April, Rick Perry traveled to North Texas for a taping of televangelist James Robison’s TV show, Life Today. For six months, starting as soon as he was re-elected Texas governor in November 2010, Perry had been crisscrossing the country to promote his second book, Fed Up!, while testing the presidential waters with potential donors and conservative activists. His visit with Robison, a hellfire-breathing pastor known as “God’s hit man” (for “giving ’em so much hell nobody will ever want to go there”), had the potential to pay serious dividends.