Iowa may be a harbinger for the strength of different types of Republican voters in the remaining primaries or caucus states. Basically, there appear to be four kinds of Republicans; those who are establishment and generally favor Romney, those who are anti-Romney but don’t expect a lot of social conservative enthusiasm (what I would term Rush-Hannity Republicans), libertarians (who have long decided that Ron Paul is their favorite) and social conservatives.
Among Republicans across the nation as a whole, the three types, other than libertarians, are evenly balanced. But among Iowans who intend to cast their votes in the caucus, social conservatives have managed to recently dominate. In 2008, Huckabee won pretty convincingly with over 1/3 of the votes cast. But so far this cycle, their support has been split between Bachmann, Perry, and Santorum. Recently, though, Santorum has consolidated his support.
Santorum has campaigned in the state for the last year, holding over 300 events. He has built up an extensive organization, claiming to have over 1,000 people who would speak for him at various caucuses in the state. Recently, two of the prominent leaders of Family Leader, a social conservative group with much support throughout the state, Chuck Hurley and Bob Vander Plaats released a statement that they were supporting Santorum since he, more than any other candidate, has linked the national economy to family issues.
Recent polls in the state have shown each of the three social conservatives hovering with about 10% suppor. But with this recent set of endorsements, Santorum may receive the lion’s share of the votes. Then, if he does handily defeat Bachmann, she will likely withdraw from the nomination fight shortly thereafter. In itself, this could well enable Santorum to be victorious in South Carolina and Florida, unless Romney can move his support out of the 25% range.
Could Santorum win the nomination, if everything broke right for him? Absolutely. It is difficult for any candidate, especially Mitt, to directly attack him since they could alienate a significant portion of their base. But if he succeeds in Iowa, he could be more than a gadfly in the future nomination events.