Why Newt Gingrich is likely to win Iowa

Newt Gingrich doesn't have a big campaign staff or lots of money. But Newt Gingrich has got several things going for him in Iowa, notes DCDecoder.

AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich at Nationwide Insurance, Dec. 1, 2011, in Des Moines, Iowa.

There are plenty of reasons to discount the Newt Gingrich surge as the latest flash-in-the-pan phase of the GOP nomination contest.

He’s got a bare-bones political staff. There’s no indication he’s doing more than a serviceable job raising money. There’s all of his political and personal baggage, from two divorces to his recently-disavowed global warming ad with “Princess” (Herman Cain’s words, not Decoder’s) Nancy Pelosi.

But let's look at why Newt isn't likely to implode. 

As Matthew Dowd writes in today’s National Journal, the widely held belief that it’s important to have massive campaign staff in Iowa simply isn’t true (see “Pawlenty, Tim”).

"In nearly every Iowa Republican caucus in recent memory, it wasn’t the candidate with extensive and experienced organization who exceeded their poll numbers but the candidate with the energy and momentum going into the Caucus." [emphasis Decoder’s.]

Why is this the case?

"One reason this myth gets repeated is that there is confusion over the Democratic process in the Iowa caucus and the Republican process. The Democratic caucus is much more complicated. It involves meeting certain mandated thresholds, convening in groups at each caucus, reconvening, and using various mathematical equations that are instrumental to choosing a winner. In that process, an organization is a huge advantage, helping lead each individual precinct caucus and having many folks that understand the byzantine Democratic rules.

For Republicans, this isn’t true. The Republican caucus is very simple and is much like the Ames Straw vote held last summer. Folks show up at a meeting place, you count their votes, and you know who won or lost by adding the votes up from around the state. An organization is not a necessity if you have enthusiastic supporters."

Moreover, while Gingrich has a small staff it isn’t as if everybody else is running with a traditional Iowa organizing strategy - well, except (arguably) Rick Santorum.

Next up is the history of the Iowa caucuses, where the New York Times’ FiveThirtyEight blog shows that “of the 11 competitive caucuses since 1980, the candidate leading in the polls a month in advance won them 8 times. That’s a pretty good batting average for Mr. Gingrich,” with the caveat that “in the five prior cases where a candidate had a single-digit lead, he won twice but lost three times.”

Third, Gingrich’s strength is likely understated by the most recent polling - as the Washington Post points out, he has the strongest support of Iowa’s top contenders among the most committed conservatives and he’s a top choice for former Herman Cain backers.

And, finally, there’s this: Mitt Romney finally sees an opponent he feels the need attack.

Go beyond:

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