In Iowa, As Huck Goes, So Goes Romney?

Presidential primary politics is not, as Robert Wright might put it, always a zero sum game. Given the prevailing metaphors of political positioning and space, one candidate often fills an ideological space and displaces others -- think Pat Robertson in the 1988 Iowa caucuses. But just as often, the power of one candidate in a particular state provides an excuse for another candidate to play down the stakes.

To put it one way: Mitt Romney needs to have a strong Christian conservative candidate in Iowa. Ex-AR Gov. Huckabee's grassroots supporters have been working Iowa hard, and Romney might have gotten a pass if he decided not to campaign in a state where his religion was a barrier to a victory. A "pass" doesn't mean that Romney wouldn't have to compete in Iowa. He would. But he could use his existing, fairly formidable infrastructure to take home a solid bronze, fulfilling expectations.

Without Huckabee -- if he decides not to run -- and assuming Sarah Palin does not run or does not gell with Iowans -- Romney's ability to half-heartedly compete in the state and defer to the clear favorite is minimized. Romney would face expectations that he at least match his performance from 2008. If he doesn't think he can do that, he can try to opt out entirely, which creates its own set of problems.

Just a reminder that Huckabee's pardon woes have more than one dimension to them.
Presented by

Marc Ambinder is an Atlantic contributing editor. He is also a senior contributor at Defense One, a contributing editor at GQ, and a regular contributor at The Week.

The Blacksmith: A Short Film About Art Forged From Metal

"I'm exploiting the maximum of what you can ask a piece of metal to do."

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Riding Unicycles in a Cave

"If you fall down and break your leg, there's no way out."

Video

Carrot: A Pitch-Perfect Satire of Tech

"It's not just a vegetable. It's what a vegetable should be."

Video

An Ingenious 360-Degree Time-Lapse

Watch the world become a cartoonishly small playground

Video

The Benefits of Living Alone on a Mountain

"You really have to love solitary time by yourself."

Video

The Rise of the Cat Tattoo

How a Brooklyn tattoo artist popularized the "cattoo"

More in Politics

Just In