From bizzaro Iowa caucuses, Romney proves he’s got game

You would be hard-pressed to divine a more inglorious way to initiate the contest for the most important office on the face of the planet than the depraved Kabuki dance that is the Iowa caucuses.

It’s embarrassing — as in demeaning, big time.

I mean, we are a shining city on the hill, the hope of humanity in a lost world, an arsenal of democracy, etc., and this deep-fried-apple-pie of a political cluster is how we pick our fearless leader?

Don’t you just know the intelligentsia on the other side of the Atlantic, prone to look down their noses at we Americans even on our best days, snicker at the spectacle of it all?

“Lovey, lovey. Put down your Earl Grey tea and come watch the American politicians try to throw a pig.”  (Laughter)

Seriously folks, can you imagine Winston Churchill giving a speech on North Atlantic defense issues with a mashed potato waffle cone in his hand?

But all of this mocking of Iowa, while true and pleasing to the ears, misses the most important point of the Iowa affair — OK, the only important part of the Iowa affair.

The real point of Iowa is in, simply, surviving — and where possible, excelling — in this sea of supercilious humanity.

For a Republican Party collectively looking down the $1 billion barrel of Barack Obama’s campaign war machine, a capacity to survive and thrive in a sea of turmoil seems especially vital. Because indigestion from a banana-split ham sandwich at the Iowa State Fair is going to be the least of the worries facing the Republican nominee later this year.

Once our nominee is chosen, Obama is going to release the hounds of left-wing hell on a scale that has never been seen before. In the face of this gathering storm, conservatives had better select someone who is nimble, tactical and shrewd enough to navigate the roughest political waters ever seen.

In that sense, the absurdity of Iowa seems a little less absurd. It is a testing ground for a test that will be far more difficult.

And in this essential sense, during this essential (and bizarro) test, Mitt Romney was nothing short of virtuoso.

For the last 12 months, Romney has been harassed and harangued by many of the nation’s most prominent conservatives and his GOP opponents for not being up to conservative par — a lethal line of attack for strongly conservative voters like those in Iowa.

Against the backdrop of these incessant attacks, Romney and his team have methodically assembled a national campaign focused on building and winning the needed delegates to secure the nomination. They haven’t chased headlines, or tried to score political points every news cycle. They have been steady, methodical — so “slow-burn” that it’s even alarmed their most ardent backers at times.

Bitterly stung by defeat in Iowa in 2008, the Romney campaign spent the entirety of 2011 downplaying the import of Iowa. Romney’s early bet has always been New Hampshire, and no candidate in the modern times has won both Iowa and New Hampshire. Why shoot for the moon in Iowa and risk an embarrassing loss?

But, in the final weeks before the Iowa caucuses, Romney put his chips on the table, diving all in for the Iowa win, gamely pitting opponents against opponents, while lethally chopping down his most viable opponent (Newt Gingrich) with an ad war that was omen to Obama. And it worked — masterfully — in the end.

On the heels of a razor-thin Hawkeye win, Romney boasts a 30-point lead in New Hampshire, and a straight shot at turning the once-impossible Iowa-New Hampshire daily double.

Can Republicans actually match tactical wits with the Obama machine this fall? Can we compete and win in the highest stakes election in a generation?

From the bizarro proving ground that is the Iowa caucuses, the answer rang loud and sure earlier this week: “Yes we can.”

There’s no denying it: This Romney guy knows what he’s doing.

Josh Penry is a former minority leader of the Colorado Senate. He is a graduate of Grand Junction High School and Mesa State College.


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