Several recollections from the campaigns of 2007/2008 in Iowa could help some candidates if they pay attention.

First, Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney finished one and two in Iowa because they both spent a tremendous amount of time here. You can’t win Iowa without visits, lots of Iowa visits. We, like the folks from New Hampsphire, expect to be courted.

In addition to his time here, however, Romney spent tons more money than Huckabee but still lost. Why? It appears that Romney spent money on three things, First, radio ads. Romney ran an ad touting himself as the next Ronald Reagan. It was a good ad and focused on reducing spending and taxes. The problem, in my opinion, was that the ad ran on WHO Radio which is mostly talk radio. Romney ran the same exact ad over and over and over and over and over again for months and months and months and months and months. If you got bored reading that sentence, think how bored we got from hearing the same voice-over commercial every day during Rush and other shows. We had it memorized and certainly knew who Mitt Romney was. I had never heard of Mike Huckabee.

Second, Romney must have spent a lot of money on mailable print advertising. Our family got at least two flyers from him (and none from Huckabee or any other candidate). The problem was that the pieces featured either prominent unflattering pictures of Mike Huckabee or his name in big letters. There was Romney’s introduction of Mike Huckabee to voters of Iowa. Romney chose to focus on Huckabee rather than himself. If Huckabee had higher name recognition, blame Romney for running a mostly negative campaign.

Third, the Ames Straw Poll was won by Romney, almost two-to-one over Huckabee, and the also-rans Newt Gingrich, Tommy Thompson, Duncan Hunter, Tom Tancredo, Sam Brownback, Rudy Giuliani, John McCain or Ron Paul (who I think came in third place). Fred Thompson didn’t even get in the race in time to make the poll (a big mistake, I think). But my personal impression was that Romney’s show at the Ames Straw Poll was purchased by bringing in big name entertainment, busing in voters, and setting up a circus atmosphere. Huckabee voters drove themselves there from all over the state ( I don’t claim that these observations – in this paragraph – are anything other than my own personal impression and subject to my own biases).

Finally, on caucus night, Newton, Iowa, the stage was set for our local caucuses. All precincts met at one school and then caucused in individual classrooms. After being appointed to a room, each of us listened to representatives of each candidate give a spiel. In our room, the spokesman for Romney had been brought in from Utah and he was apparently a politician from there. After he spoke, he left so that he could speak in other rooms. I spoke for Huckabee in our room (and of course, stayed, and cast my vote for Huckabee). Who are people more likely to vote for if they are on the fence? The guy who probably paid people to travel 2000 miles away (even if the spokespersons paid their own way, the impression left was otherwise) or the guy represented by your neighbor? I am quite sure this process played out in room after room, town after town, city after city. Romney’s money was not well-spent, in my opinion, whether for radio or print ads, straw polls, or last minute persuasion by outsiders.

18 comments
  1. Very interesting, especially about how Romney won the Ames poll by essentially purchasing it. That seems to be his pattern, whether it’s Ames, CPAC or winning the SRLC poll when he even backed out of attending the SRLC, pretty much at the last minute, because he was too busy doing his practically invisible book signing tour.

  2. This article is nothing more than Huckabee propaganda. It was the Huckabees that made the assertion that Huckabee’s low budget campaign meant something.

    The comparison above is faulty on many counts:

    1. Romney was a virtual unknown and unrecognizable figure.
    2. Many Americans were suspicious of Romney’s Mormonism, which Huckabee targeted with this “Satan and Jesus as brothers” comment.
    3. Romney was unknown to a majority of conservatives nationally.
    4. Huckabee’s once in a lifetime win in Iowa produced a hype that propelled Huckabee farther than his persona and experience could sustain.

    As far as Huckabee being “number 1” this is debatable as well. Huckabee stayed in the race after Romney dropped out. The delegates Huckabee gained AFTER Romney left cannot be counted.

    Before Romney left the race, he had beaten Huckabee with the SPENDING. Isn’t that the motivation of this article? To show Huckabee’s win of delegates while Romney was spending money?

    Huckabee has a Foxnews program, but he won’t win Iowa or any other state again in a Republican primary.

    1. Not so quick. A key idea here is that money alone does not win. It did not win for the liberal of Massachusetts. It did not even win for the publisher of Forbes magazine years ago.

      1. It is OBVIOUS that elections are not won by money alone. The author of the article makes a fallacious argument that Huckabee won more delegates by spending less money than Romney. The comparison doesn’t hold since Romney dropped out of the race before Huckabee. When Romney dropped out, Romney had more votes than Huckabee. So, it does not follow that Huckabee won more delegates by spending less money.

        This is just yet another bad argument from the Huckabee loyalists. There is a big difference between Huckabee and Romney. Romney has a chance to be president because he can appeal to independents and blue dog democrats in larger numbers than Huckabee can.

      2. My point was not that Huckabee won by spending less money. That would be absurd, of course. Since Is spent no money at all, I should have won by a landslide. But, your first statement better identified one of Romney’s problems. He relied on his money.

        As to your observation about loyalists, it would be hoped for the sake of Romney loyalists such as yourself would not take victory for granted. National Polling shows Huckabee beating Romney in Iowa, Texas, Pennsylvania, Alabama, and many other states as well as besting him in National Polls in beating Obama. He polls well among independents and appeals to many blue dogs with his observation that he is more like the guy you work with than the guy that layed you off.

    2. My response to James.

      1. I agree and his radio ads definitely increased his name recognition.
      2. While Huckabee’s comment may have been disingeuous, I doubt if it made one bit of difference in the final totals.
      3. I am not sure of your point.
      4. You might be right, we will wait and see. He currently leads Iowa polls, however.

      “The delegates Huckabee gained AFTER Romney left cannot be counted.”

      Tell it to the delegates (and the voters)

      1. David,

        The argument from Huckabee loyalists is that Huckabee ran a campaign and got more votes by spending less money than Romney. But this doesn’t follow the facts. Romney had earned more votes than Huckabee the day after Romney left the race.

        So, even more Christian appeal, a win in Iowa, Huckabee was UNABLE to get as many votes as Romney up until the day Romney left the race.

        When Huckabees are faced with this stark reality, how do they explain it? They conjure up a scenario wherein Americans are persuaded to pick Romney over Huckabee SOLELY because Romney spent more money on radio or TV ads than did Huckabee.

        Where’s the research? Where’s the proof?

        It would see that a more likely scenario played out here….. Romney had more appeal to Republican voters than did Huckabee.

        Huckabee can win Iowa all day long, but he’ll never be President.

  3. Republicans used a winner-take-all system for their primaries while Democrats split delegate proportionally. John McCain beat Mitt Romney in California and McCain got all the delegate, Clinton won California as well but had to split them with Obama.

    If Democrats had used the Republican system Hillary Clinton would have easily secured the nomination.

    If Republicans had used the Democratic system then Romney probably would have won – the way Obama did.

    Romney and Obama ran great campaigns – it was the different allocation systems that resulted in the different outcomes.

    1. “If Republicans had used the Democratic system then Romney probably would have won”

      And if the NFL didn’t allowing tackling, peepsqueeks could compete.

  4. I did get a chuckle over the discovery in the last paragraph that you were a Huckabee supporter. Perhaps that disclosure could have come a wee bit sooner?!

    1. “Perhaps that disclosure could have come a wee bit sooner?!”

      Hey Goose, thanks for your post. I’ll try to remember that next time I talk about Huckabee.
      By the way, I went to your “Catching up with the Huckster” blogpost and couldn’t see where you ever said who you voted for in 2008. ??

  5. Romney lost ultimately because he was viewed as wishy washy. He’ll lose again in 2012 because of Romney Care. I supported Huckabee in 2008, but I don’t think he has the chops to win. His fundraising ability even with his PAC has been wanting.

    The key with a Caucus is grassroots, Huckabee had it, Romney didn’t. That’s about all you can learn. His primary track record wasn’t that great until Romney got out of the race. You have to raise funds to win in a primary. Also more people vote in primaries than caucuses meaning you have to be able to run ads on radio and TV.

    Anyway, in a nutshell, Huckabee’s win in Iowa isn’t a strategy that can be duplicated in primary states.

    1. Perhaps a caucus is a better method, then, of assessing the will of the people in the nomination of a candidate. You suppose there will be a movement, soon, to replace caucuses with primaries? Or maybe even to replace the electoral college system with a nationwide primary?

    2. Shane,

      A majority of Americans are for Health Care reform. Romney himself has fought hard against Obama’s application of MA health care program to the federal government, and has fought very hard to position candidates in 2010 to repeal Obama care.

      Before Romney was elected Governor in MA, the concept of universal health care and how to apply it to the federal government, already existed. Romney didn’t create it “ex nihilo.”

      But to say that Romney won’t be an authority or have credibility to speak on these issues and solve the problems that Obama has created by providing a workable alternative, is to live in a Huckabian fantasy.

      It is BECAUSE of Romney Care that Mitt Romney can AUTHORITATIVELY say that Obama Care is bad for the country. Romney has the experience to persuade and convince Democrats and Republicans.

      1. There are economic principles at work that Romney ignores. His mandated coverage of pre-existing conditions in Massachusetts and mandated purchase of insurance, as well as disallowing catastrophic insurance dooms, his plan from the start. There is a reason Massachusetts citizens continue to pay the highest premiums in the oompany even after Romneycare.

  6. Christopher, I am confused. The electoral college is for the general election, primaries are for the primary system, hence the name “primary” (Also because they come first).

    Now, if you are arguing for a national primary instead of state’s choosing their own dates, beware of the consequences. Only those with huge followings or money before the process begins will have a shot. There will be little vetting going on.

    If you are arguing for abandonment of the electoral college, it would require a constitutional amendment, I believe. It would take us further down the road from state’s rights and guarantee that small states would get no visits from presidential candidates.

    Finally, I think liberal states (in response to Al Gore’s defeat in 2000) tried a scheme that would supposedly guarantee that the winner of the overall vote total would win the election. Enough states agree to bind themselves to the popular vote total when it came time for the electoral college to meet. There was no guarantee that states or their delegates would follow through.

    1. My point was that as soon as party leaders get the idea that caucuses are better at discerning the will of the people, those party leaders will attempt to replace caucuses with primaries. Underlying my point is my suspicion that the establishment in any political party are so motivated to maintain their own power that they eventually grow to hate or fear the grassroots.

      I was comparing this hypothetical attack to the extant ideas that would give us a nationwide primary in place of our current electoral college system. Submit an internet search for “nationwide primary election” (with the quotation marks) to see to what I am referring. A single national primary (instead of state-by-state contests, some of which are caucuses) might very well shift the center of political clout drastically away from the grassroots. How long then before party elites attempt to advance both changes?

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