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Political Strategy Notes

Nate Silver gives Romney a 42 percent chance of winning the Iowa caucuses, followed by Ron Paul at 34 percent and Rick Santorum at 20 per cent. The final Des Moines Register poll, which has an impressive track record, indicates a 2 point lead for Romney over Paul. Ezra Klein also sees a Romney win. Howard Dean and Ed Schultz predict a Santorum upset nonetheless.

Mark Blumenthal has an instructive post at HuffPo Pollster, "Newt Gingrich Under Attack: How Much Did Negative Ads Matter?" As Blumenthal explains, "Assuming that 45 percent of the ads run in two markets were anti-Gingrich, and using the statistics we provided from the IowaPolitics records, Hutchins estimated that the average television viewer in those two markets would have seen anti-Gingrich ads roughly 60 to 80 times in December." But John G. Geer argues at Politico that it isn't the attack ads that have tanked Newt; it's the frontrunner scrutiny of his lengthy baggage.

Give it up for John Nichols, whose Nation post headline "Iowa's $200-Per-Vote Caucuses Reward Negatives, Nastiness, Narrow Thinking" pretty much nails the dark side of the caucuses.

For those who take the Iowa Caucuses more seriously, Kyle Leighton's "Just Who Votes In The Iowa Republican Caucuses?" at Talking Points Memo has the skinny: "A recent national Public Policy Polling (D) survey of Republican primary voters showed that 42 percent considered themselves "very conservative," while the latest numbers from the Des Moines Register released Saturday night show that only 34 percent of likely GOP caucus-goers define themselves that way. There are the same amount of moderates in both sample sets, so data shows the Iowa group is tilted a little more to the center on the ideological scale. There is confirming data in other PPP numbers specific to Iowa...NBC News and Marist College recently partnered to run a survey with a huge sample size of Iowans: they polled nearly 3,000 registered voters in the state and then whittled down to who would be voting in the Republican caucuses...Nearly a quarter of respondents described themselves as moderates or liberals, and only 46 percent said they were evangelical or fundamentalist Christians. A majority, 54 percent, said they were definitely not. The cross-party voting affects the numbers strongly on other labels: nationally, the PPP numbers show that 57 percent of Republican primary voters view themselves a supporter of the Tea Party. But NBC/Marist data from Iowa shows a 46 - 47 split against support of the conservative movement.."

Lest anyone be tempted to read too much into the Iowa Caucus results, however, Juan Cole has a couple of pie charts in his "Conservative White People's Primary" that put the demographics into clear perspective.

The Nation's editor Katrina vanden Heuval has an interesting WaPo op-ed "Voting rights, super PACs and the media cloud the election" urging readers not to get too distracted by the horse race aspect of the primaries. Instead "pay attention to three issues that could affect the outcome of the election, even though they have nothing to do with the campaigns themselves" -- the impact of voter suppression, big money from the super PACs and MSM "false equivalence" reportage.

Ronald Brownstein reports at National Journal on Santorum's success in winning support of working-class Republicans.

Mark Lander of the New York Times ponders the ramifications of the Obama campaign's strategy targeting the "do-nothing congress." Joshua R. Earnest, the president's deputy press secretary, describes the meme thusly: "the image of a gridlocked, dysfunctional Congress and a president who is leaving no stone unturned to try to find solutions to the difficult financial challenges and economic challenges facing the country." Not bad, but "do-nothing Republicans" would be a more accurate term, since more congressional Dems have negotiated and compromised in good faith, than have Republican House members.

Sasha Issenberg's Slate.com post "The 12 Kinds of Undecided Voters,"
 is more intuitive than data-driven." But it nonetheless sheds some light on a large constituency.

John Huntsman may be toast. But he should get a consolation prize for the most creative attack ad thus far, "The Ron Paul Twilight Zone."

Iowa does get one thing very right, however, according to "GOP windbags have little to say about a huge Iowa success story" by Daily Kos's Meteor Blades. "In all the hot air that has been expended in what one person rightly called a glorified straw poll, hardly anything has been said about one of the state's major accomplishments, getting roughly 20 percent of its electricity from 2800 wind turbines across the state...Many Republicans seem to view wind power, and fossil-fuel alternatives in general, as a socialist plot...While the Republican candidates pretend to care about jobs and pretend that Democratic efforts to create more of them have been utter failures instead of just not enough, wind power has generated more than $5 billion in private investment in Iowa, some 4000 jobs with a payroll of $70 million."