It would undoubtedly have been all right with Mitt Romney on Tuesday night if all 1,700-odd Iowa caucuses were like Urbandale 8, a suburban Des Moines precinct where the Republican establishment’s favorite presidential candidate received 34.6 percent of the vote.
And Michele Bachmann would have dearly wished that the 250 or so voters in the Lutheran church’s community room weren’t representative of the rest of Iowa in the first contest of the GOP nomination battle. The Minnesota congresswoman, who was the frontrunner a mere four months ago, after she won the Iowa Straw Poll, received a pathetic 4.2 percent—and there was nobody present even to speak on her behalf.
“What?” cried Iowa state Sen. Brad Zaun, a Bachmann supporter who represents suburban Urbandale and dropped by after the balloting, when I told him his candidate lacked an orator. “There must have been a foul-up somewhere. “
Rick Santorum came in second with 24.5 percent, followed by Ron Paul with 15.2, Rick Perry with 11, and Newt Gingrich with 10 percent. Jon Huntsman, who gave Iowa a miss and is pinning his hopes on the New Hampshire primary, received a single vote.
“Electability,” said Romney voter Chad Bruggemann, a 37-year-old IT manager, when asked what dynamic was driving the Romney victory. “I think a lot of people liked what Ron Paul had to say, but they didn’t see him as electable.”
Bruggemann said he wasn’t surprised by Bachmann’s sad showing: “It seemed like her campaign was falling apart toward the end.”
The caucus was an efficient operation, starting promptly at 7 p.m. and producing results an hour later. A surprise guest, Karen Santorum, the wife of the former Pennsylvania senator, spoke for her husband—praising him as “a good provider,” a great father, and a man of faith. “It’s a beautiful thing to see a man kneel down to pray with his family,” she said.
The caucusgoers wrote their preferences on orange and green squares of paper that were folded over, piled into straw baskets, and carried to a counting room. Straw baskets were also passed around for cash—money for the Polk County Republican Party.