And third, because President Barack Obama is running in this primary season unchallenged, scant attention has been paid to the growing discontent among the very people who put him in office in 2008. As a result, the 2012 presidential election promises to be long, contentious, extremely expensive and perhaps more negative than any in history.
Mitt Romney technically prevailed in the Iowa caucuses, squeaking out an eight-vote margin over late-surging Rick Santorum. Libertarian Ron Paul garnered an impressive 21 percent of the vote in the crowded field. Note that the Republican Party does not allow a recount of the handwritten, hand-counted ballots, and that the final Romney edge was first reported on right-wing Fox News Channel by none other than its paid commentator Karl Rove, the architect of George W. Bush’s two controversial presidential election wins.
So, the prevailing wisdom is that while Willard Mitt Romney retains the veneer of “electability,” he cannot persuade more than 25 percent of Republicans to vote for him. Santorum’s surge was a late-breaking coalescence of the anti-Romney vote, boosted by massive voter flight from Newt Gingrich that was inspired by a withering campaign of anti-Gingrich attack ads attributed to Romney.
While Romney’s Iowa operation maintained a positive campaign strategy, a super PAC that supported him went on the offensive. Restore Our Future, according to NBC’s Michael Isikoff, spent $2.8 million in ads in Iowa, more than twice the amount spent by the Romney campaign itself, all attacking Gingrich. The super PAC is not limited in how much corporate or individual money it can take in, and does not have to disclose the identity of its donors. While super PACs are prevented by law from coordinating with campaigns, three of the founders of the pro-Romney Restore Our Future were campaign staffers on Romney’s failed 2008 presidential bid: Carl Forti, Charlie Spies and Larry McCarthy.
The Iowa caucuses can be seen as the first instance in a presidential electoral race waged after the January 2010 U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission ruling. As summarized by the SCOTUSblog, the split court decided that “political spending is a form of protected speech under the First Amendment, and the government may not keep corporations or unions from spending money to support or denounce individual candidates in elections.”