I'm going to contradict myself and briefly discuss Rick Santorum again. The former U.S. senator secured a key Iowa Republican's endorsement over the weekend, a move that won't significantly improve his chances at gaining the presidential nomination (still only a fan-fiction dream among personhood supporters). But the endorsement highlights the prevalence of discontent among the conservative base this year.
Last week, I speculated that Mitt Romney could still win the Iowa caucuses if he poured enough resources into the state over the next two months. Evangelical Christians might have the loudest voice in the Iowa GOP, but they don't constitute the whole party. They're matched by a set of business-minded Republicans who favor low taxes and defanging regulation and who are less concerned with the social issues that could derail Romney's campaign; thanks to the 2010 midterms, the ranks of registered voters from this wing has increased significantly since the last time Romney ran for president in Iowa.
With controversy circling Herman Cain all week, pundits have begun searching for the next conservative bubble. With Mitt Romney unable to top 25 percent in the polls, some candidate must step in to fill the conservative void, or so the thinking goes. Perhaps Newt Gingrich will get his moment in the sun. Or maybe Rick Santorum will steal away Cain's supporters in Iowa polls.
When Politicorevealed the sexual-harassment charges against Herman Cain over the weekend, it would have been fairly easy for the Republican candidate to dismiss their relevance. They were the musings of the liberal media! Or a targeted hit from an opposing campaign! As Jamelle noticed Monday, conservative luminaries like Rush Limbaugh jumped to defend Cain. Politico followed up yesterday morning with a story about how unconcerned Iowa Republicans were with the scandal.
Changes in electoral law often shift elections in ways that cannot be predicted. Jimmy Carter won the Democratic nomination in '76 thanks to his understanding of the new primary rules that favored victories in early states rather than hobnobbing with party elites in smoke-filled rooms. The rise of the super PAC could play a similar role in 2012, completely revamping the operation of presidential campaigns. Thanks to the Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United ruling, this new type of group is allowed to raise unlimited campaign funds from both individuals and corporations.