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E.J. Dionne Jr.
NationofChange / Op-Ed
Published: Wednesday 4 January 2012
“It is rare in politics to have constituencies as clearly defined — and different — as the Iowa Republican caucus-goers who rallied tonight behind Mitt Romney, Ron Paul and Rick Santorum.”

Three Very Different GOPs in Iowa

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It is rare in politics to have constituencies as clearly defined — and different — as the Iowa Republican caucus-goers who rallied tonight behind Mitt Romney, Ron Paul and Rick Santorum.

First, the split in the Republican Party is no longer between conservatives and moderates, but between members of the party who are very conservative and those who are only somewhat conservative. The days of Rockefeller Republicans are long gone. Close to half of Iowa caucus-goers thought of themselves as very conservative; a third said they were somewhat conservative. Fewer than a fifth were moderates, including a very tiny (and brave) group of self-described liberals.

Romney’s constituency is Republican Classic. He was the candidate of the “somewhat conservatives” and did well with the moderates, particularly moderate Republicans. (Moderate independents went strongly for Ron Paul — and thanks to Mike Dimock of the Pew Research center for sharing his insightful analysis for NPR of the difference between moderate independents and moderate Republicans.) Romney trailed badly with very conservative voters, running well behind Santorum in that group. Romneyites are much older: He was strongest among caucus-goers over 65 — which is presumably hopeful news for him in the Florida primary at the end of the month — and he also did well among voters between 45 and 64. But he did very poorly among voters under 45.

Rick Santorum, as he hoped to, won a lot of the same vote that Mike Huckabee carried four years ago. Santorum is clearly the right-to-life candidate: He carried voters who listed abortion as their deciding issue by a landslide. He was definitely the surge candidate: He handily won voters who said they decided in the last few days, though Romney did relatively well in this group, too, suggesting he helped himself with his final campaign push. Interesting, Santorum ran quite evenly across age groups; his constituency was slightly younger than caucus-goers as a whole. Santorum ran well ahead of Mitt Romney among white evangelical voters, but he had to share them with Rick Perry, Ron Paul, Newt Gingrich and, to a lesser degree, with Michele Bachmann. Bachmann and Gingrich’s fades were key to Santorum’s breakthrough.

If Santorum should fall short of victory — and at this moment, he is still very much in the hunt for first place — it will be the fracturing of the evangelical and very conservative vote that held him back. Consider Calhoun County in northwestern Iowa. That county voted overwhelmingly for Huckabee over Romney four years ago, 40 percent to 15 percent. This time, Calhoun turned out for Santorum, too, but more narrowly: Santorum received 30 percent to 17 percent for Paul and 16 percent for Romney. But two other conservatives, Rick Perry at 16 percent and Newt Gingrich at 12 percent, cut into Santorum’s margin.

That said, an outright Santorum win would be all the more impressive, given the obstacles he faced that Huckabee didn’t.

Ron Paul’s vote was something altogether different. He won overwhelmingly among the young, and brought young voters into the caucuses. Somewhere around a third of Paul’s voters were under 30, compared with only 15 percent of all caucus-goers. Nearly a quarter of caucus-goers said they were independents, not Republicans, and they gave close to half their votes to Paul. His vast improvement over his 2008 showing — he appears to have doubled his vote — was built in large part on the votes of non-Republicans, or at least of voters who hadn’t thought of themselves as Republicans before.

For months, pundits of all political stripes went on and on about Romney’s difficulties with the right end of the Republican Party, including the overlapping constituencies of white evangelicals and Tea Party supporters. Whether Romney wins Iowa, or comes in second or third, it’s a problem he still has to deal with.

© , Washington Post Writers Group

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ABOUT E.J. Dionne Jr.

E.J. Dionne writes about politics in a twice-weekly column and on the PostPartisan blog. He is also a senior fellow in Governance Studies at the Brookings Institution, a government professor at Georgetown University and a frequent commentator on politics for National Public Radio, ABC’s “This Week” and NBC’s “Meet the Press.” Before joining The Post in 1990 as a political reporter, Dionne spent 14 years at the New York Times, where he covered politics and reported from Albany, Washington, Paris, Rome and Beirut. He is the author of four books: “Souled Out: Reclaiming Faith & Politics After the Religious Right” (2008), “Stand Up Fight Back: Republican Toughs, Democratic Wimps, and the Politics of Revenge” (2004), “They Only Look Dead: Why Progressives Will Dominate The Next Political Era” (1996), and “Why Americans Hate Politics” (1991), which won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and was a National Book Award nominee. Dionne grew up in Fall River, Mass., attended Harvard College and was a Rhodes Scholar at Balliol College, Oxford. He lives in Bethesda, Md., with his wife and three children.

Haahahha. I'm not too bright

Haahahha. I'm not too bright today. Great post!

OGBLOFELD is absolutely

OGBLOFELD is absolutely right. It is extremely disappointing that Nation of Change reprinting an article from corporate media that trying to show corrupt American election and political system as democratic. Either Nation of Change with 99% and OWS movement or is not? You can not go both ways.

"between members of the party

"between members of the party who are very conservative and those who are only somewhat conservative"

Wut? None of them are conservative save for Paul.

Chris Hedges talks at length about the corrupt system and how both parties are the same, and Nation of Change has had several Hedges articles on their site, and yet they continue to act as though it matters who wins the primary (unless it's someone such as Paul), since they are all owned by the same people.

Obama and Romney list of top10 donors are nearly identical.
Different rhetoric, same actions.
Stop falling for the trap.

Iowa caucus winner does not

Iowa caucus winner does not end up in the White House, not very often. since Iowa consistently tracks what America doesn't want in the White House, the only conclusion is that we don't know what we don't want. that's simple.whereas the election of Obama and the subsequent disillusion with him indicates that we don't want what he meant what he said he thought we thought we wanted. not quite as simple.

About 1/8 of R caucus goers

About 1/8 of R caucus goers in urban areas were Democrats, voting for Ron Paul. So Iowa Republican regulars at the caucus were further to the Right than you report.

Following the results of

Following the results of these horse races would be so terribly boring if our future did not depend on which insane clown we end up with as a "leader".

My guess, to echo the first comment, is we will end up being sold out for another 4 years by the current white house occupant.

Is this the best we can do?

They are not clowns; they're

They are not clowns; they're fascists. Call them what they are. Why are you so shy?

Wonderful, Christo/Fascism in

Wonderful, Christo/Fascism in three colors... perhaps it will cost them the election and Mr. Obama can continue to sell us out.

Just a further note to the

Just a further note to the above comments/percentages: prior to the mid-term elections in 2010 there were just over 600K registered Republicans in the state. Based on the caucus turnout this means that only about 20% of the party faithfull participated in the process and a 25% share of the total amounts to about 5% of the total registered Republicans.

With the additional fact that there were over 700K registered Democrats in the state the fulminating and media hype over the "results" of the caucus and what they may mean are a just a bit ridiculous.

Case in point for Paul and Santorum (not to mention Newt) is that Hukabee won overwhelmingly in '08. Nuff said there.

The primary process is clearly broken and both parties need to adjust the process in such a way that candidates need to "show their wares" in multiple state simultaneously in order to creat a more even handed process, not just for the candidates but for we the electorate as well.

Iowa and New Hampshire

Iowa and New Hampshire practice retail politics, a scratch-and-sniff test that eliminates the psychologically unfit. Regional primaries would depend on media. If you really think we should base elections on TV commercials, consider this: Corporations have enough money to elect a ham sandwich.

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