Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

The Search for 'Not Romney' Goes on Santorum Is the Best of the Iowa Bunch

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

The Search for 'Not Romney' Goes on Santorum Is the Best of the Iowa Bunch

Article excerpt

Iowa Republicans have just two days to recover from last night's festivities before it is time to vote. For many, a stiff drink may ease the pain of having to choose from among the current field.

Most pundits expect the top three finishers in the caucuses Tuesday night will be former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Texas Rep. Ron Paul. The order is anyone's guess. The polls have been all over the place.

Rep. Paul has zero chance to win the nomination. His libertarian positions on economic issues are popular, but his anti-military, anti-Israel foreign policy views appeal mostly to crackpots.

Yet Rep. Paul may win in Iowa, because the field is large and the "frontrunners" are small. The one consistent theme in a highly volatile race is that roughly three-quarters of Republicans don't want Mr. Romney to be the nominee. He rarely is above -- and often is well below -- 25 percent in national polls.

Conservatives fret that Romneycare in Massachusetts was the model for Obamacare, and we're uncomfortable with a candidate who seems to change his positions nearly as often as he changes his underwear.

So we've searched desperately for someone else. One Not Romney after another has rocketed up in the polls, then plummeted when their flaws were exposed. First was Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota; then Texas Gov. Rick Perry; then businessman Herman Cain.

Mr. Gingrich seems to be on the same trajectory. He had a big lead a month ago. Then he got hammered by negative ads, and by vitriolic criticism from prominent conservative pundits. His lead in Iowa is gone.

Mr. Romney is heavily favored in the New Hampshire primary a week from Tuesday, so -- despite the pronounced lack of enthusiasm for him -- he may be able to wrap up the nomination early if he wins in Iowa.

If Mr. Gingrich wins, the race will go on.

If Ron Paul wins, the big loser will be the Iowa caucuses. Few would ever take them seriously again.

What may matter most Tuesday is who finishes fourth. Ms. Bachmann, Gov. Perry, and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum appear to be in a pretty even fight for that dubious distinction. …

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