Iowa Calling

By Sumana Chattopadhyay

While writing this I cannot help but recall the last post I wrote for this blog in March. In that post I had discussed the state of the Republican primary race which had just started to gain some momentum. What is surprising to me today is that most of the names I had discussed then are no longer being talked about at all in the primary campaign right now which is heating up in anticipation of the Iowa caucus. Except for Romney who continues to be one of the key contenders to the nomination and Bachmann who still continues to somehow be in the race (though she no longer has the magic touch she seemed to have in the early days of the campaign), mostly today the campaign seems to have new faces and new names. Herman Cain is gone and Rick Perry who became a phenomenon after my March post is starting to look weaker with every passing day thanks to the gaffes that he keeps committing on the campaign trail.

However, two candidates have been gaining momentum lately- Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul- neither of whom were in the reckoning in March. Newt showed humor and poise, during his performance in the December 10th Des Moines debate and even owned up to the mistakes he has made in his personal life when compared to the other happily married candidates in the race. He also offered a strong defense of his Middle East views, his lucrative work after leaving Congress and his conservative credentials.

Ron Paul too has been gaining ground recently. Thus far he has been looked upon as ‘the too extreme’ candidate- the one with his own group of loyal supporters but not considered as a serious potential contender but things are looking different for him in Iowa.  As a New York Times article succinctly observed, “In a year when the Republican field is unusually fractured, with front-runners coming around as often as carousel ponies, Mr. Paul’s ability to mobilize niche groups like home-schoolers may make a big difference.” Paul has won a few straw polls and has exhibited an ability to organize and mobilize supporters, which is of particularly importance in a state like Iowa, where relatively small numbers can turn the scales in the caucuses. Meanwhile, Romney continues to deal with questions related to his faith and his flip flopping. It will be interesting to see which candidate finally manages to win the Iowa caucus and who finally becomes the Republican nominee for 2012. At the moment though, the race continues to be wide open.

Sumana Chattopadhyay is an assistant professor in the Broadcast and Electronic Communication department at Marquette University.

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The opinions expressed here are those of the individual authors and do not represent the views of Marquette University or the Diederich College of Communication.

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