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.
As I mentioned earlier today, we are just beginning to observe the role super PACs will play in the 2012 election. A handful of groups capitalized on the Citizens United ruling to begin spending money in 2010, but the extra preparation and heightened interest in presidential politics means the money spent by these groups will skyrocket over the next year.
At New York, John Heilemann ponders Mitt Romney's standing in Iowa. Early in the campaign, team Romney made a deliberate decision to downplay his presence in the first-in-the-nation caucus. He would not repeat his 2008 mistake, where he invested heavily in Iowa only to lose handedly to Mike Huckabee , a candidate who had been buoyed by a wave support from Iowa's active evangelical Christian base. Romney has made just three Iowa trips to date this year, and his Hawkeye staff is limited to five people with no television or radio purchases to his name.
Rick Perry's campaign spent last week floating the possibility that the Texas governor might skip some, if not all, of the remaining presidential debates. Their logic was pretty clear: Perry entered the field as the newly crowned frontrunner in August, only to see his stock plummet after a series of inept debate performances. They hoped to pull their candidate from the debate podium and counted on having few primary voters notice or care. As Jamelle noted last week, that was a risky strategy, which could alienate the conservative elite who already wary to support the governor after his stumbles.
The Des Moines Registerreleased their latest caucus poll over the weekend, and Herman Cain is the official favorite to win Iowa two months before caucus day. Cain posted support from 23 percent of likely voters, narrowly edging out Mitt Romney at 22 percent. No one else could even come close to touching the top two. Ron Paul gathered 12 percent. Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry—both of whom were crowned caucus frontrunners at one point in 2011—only had eight and seven percent respectively.