romney17.jpgWondering how the Romney team sees its chances among “values voters” after badly losing evangelicals to Mike Huckabee in Iowa, God-o-Meter swung by Romney’s New Hampshire headquarters in Manchester this afternoon. It found Tom Tancredo–there for an anti-immigration press conference, new Romney backer Bay Buchanan–ditto–and a team of Romney advisors convinced that Huckabee’s Iowa evangelical surge was an anomaly that will be impossible to reproduce elsewhere.
“The only way to characterize Iowa was as a success,” Romney political director Carl Forti told God-o-Meter. “We met every voter goal. Based on history and trends, there should have been a turnout of about 80,000 to 85,000 Republican caucus goers.”
Instead, Republican turnout was closer to 115,000, with six in ten Republicans identifying as evangelicals or born again Christians. Another advisor said the Romney team had exceeded its goals for evangelical support, which were based on a hard figure, not a percentage of the total vote.
Forti argued that Iowa is such a low population state–and that the complex and time-consuming caucus process deters so many people from participating–that a surge of evangelical voters can radically alter the outcome of the race. In a state like South Carolina, he said, the much larger pool of primary voters acts would dilute another evangelical surge for Huckabee. “One state doesn’t portend anything,” Forti says. “It’s an isolated incident until it happens in two or three states.”
Another senior Romney advisor, speaking on background, said that Huckabee’s having spent much less time in South Carolina than Iowa, and the presence of more military families likely to support McCain and of more Southern Fred Thompson types, would cost Huckabee votes. This advisor told God-o-Meter to keep an eye on Michigan, whose presidential primary happens January 15–and where Romney has been organizing hard in the evangelical-rich western part of the state–as a place for Romney to build momentum going into South Carolina, presuming he wins New Hampshire.
But God-o-Meter notes that should Romney lose New Hampshire, his plan unravels. That could make South Carolina his last stand. And with Huckabee’s proven appeal in the evangelical rank and file, God-o-Meter is not so sure he doesn’t still enjoy a major advantage in the Palmetto State. It might not be an Iowa-like landslide, but Huckabee can still win and steal all Romney’s thunder.


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