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The Carletonian

More tight races to come in Republican primaries and caucuses

<y, that was a close one.

In the first primary of the election season last Wednesday, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney won the Iowa Caucuses, besting former Sen. Rick Santorum by merely eight votes.

Romney went on to win the New Hampshire primary, securing 39.3 percent of the votes.

The results did not surprise Professor of Political Science Steven Schier, who cautions to buckle up for more tight contests.

In an interview earlier this week, Schier said that social conservatives continue to look for an alternative to Romney and that, leading into Iowa, Santorum had benefitted from an endorsement by a group of Iowa social conservatives a few weeks before the race. 

Schier attributed Newt Gingrich’s weaker showing in Iowa to his poor public performance and a barrage of negative advertising in the run up to the race. 

“Gingrich did not handle the spotlight well,” he said.  He also credited Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s substantial decline to poor performance in public and in debates.

In Iowa, Texas Rep. Ron Paul took third place with 21.4 percent of the vote while former Speaker of the House New Gingrich took fourth place with 13.3 percent. Local hero Michele Bachman’s sixth place finish prompted her to pull out of the race.

In discussing the importance of last week’s results, Schier stressed that the importance of the results should not be overestimated, as only a “small fragment of the party speaks in Iowa,” and that group is “disproportionately extreme.” 

“Iowa does not predict the winner, but sets the tiers of the competition,” he said.

In New Hampshire, Paul took second place behind Romney with 22.9 percent, followed by former governor and ambassador John Huntsman, Santorum and Gingrich.

Schier said Romney holds an advantage now that he has multiple opponents.

“His opposition is splintered,” he said, referring to the split of the social conservative votes between Santorum and Gingrich.

That Romney won the New Hampshire primary by a “vastly larger” margin than his win in Iowa did not surprise Schier, who will be keeping his eye on the upcoming South Carolina race on Jan. 21.

Schier believes Romney is strongly positioned to win South Carolina, a crucial test of the candidates’ social conservative credentials.

With the countdown officially underway until the general election, Schier still views Romney as the likely choice to secure the Republican nomination.

“Romney is a strong favorite, but I don’t put money on these things,” he chuckled.

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