As we move into Christmas weekend, when presumably campaign ads will take on a more cheerful tone, it is useful to take stock of where things stand.
First, endorsements can be tricky things.
Rick Santorum nailed the big endorsements of Bob Vander Plaats and Chuck Hurley, but The Family Leader as an organization failed to endorse. Expect Santorum’s campaign to use these endorsements in every way imaginable.
Newt Gingrich picked up a notable endorsement in Iowa Speaker of the House Kraig Paulsen, but this seems unlikely to stem his steady decline in the polls. Gingrich is probably the candidate that would have benefitted the most from an endorsement by The Family Leader or even Bob Vander Plaats, if nothing else to generate some positive buzz about his campaign and much needed credibility in conservative circles. But, Christian conservatives seem to have drawn a line in the sand.
Ron Paul appears to be the latest candidate to rocket to the front of the Republican field according to recent polling; much to the chagrin of mainstream and socially conservative Republicans. And, if history is any measure, a December surge bodes well for caucus night. The Huckabee surge of 2007 occurred in November, and while Gingrich appeared to be assuming this role, his campaign has started to experience serious backsliding.
Support for Michele Bachmann is immovable. Despite aggressive performances in the Des Moines and Sioux City debates, Bachmann’s support among likely caucus-goers has remained relatively unchanged. Mistakes made early and often have exposed looming concerns on credibility. Bachmann’s current 99 county, 10 day jaunt around the state is her last chance to convince voters in Iowa and elsewhere of her electability.
Rick Perry is also traveling the state and continuing to saturate the airwaves. Although the polls have shown little movement in his support, one has to wonder come caucus night whether the media blitz will pay dividends. Perhaps caucus-goers will be thinking of Christmas songs and Rick Perry jingles as they cast their votes.
To sum up: In the absence of debates and a strong organization, the Gingrich campaign appears to be in serious trouble of losing ground to both Paul and Romney. Though unlikely, should Paul’s supporters waiver, particularly college students on break, we may find ourselves right back where we were in May and June with Mitt Romney as the Republican frontrunner.