Peggy Noonan for Wall Street Journal: Romney Wins but Takes a Beating

January 6th, 2012

Wall Street Journal
January 6, 2011
By, Peggy Noonan

Mitt Romney’s victory in Iowa is underappreciated. It was a well-run campaign and no one thought the day of the Ames straw poll, in August, that it would happen. The victory of Rick Santorum is a pundit-humbler: No one saw that coming even six weeks ago, except perhaps Mr. Santorum.

The Iowa results almost perfectly reflect the Republican Party, which, roughly speaking, is split into three parts—libertarians, social conservatives and moderate conservatives, who went for Ron Paul, Mr. Santorum and Mr. Romney respectively. The three parts of the party have been held together by agreement on three big issues: spending (which must be cut), taxing (which must be reformed), and President Obama (who must be removed).

These three issues have force. Taxes and spending are the ties that bind, the top and bottom crust that holds the pie together. They’re the reason the party is still the party, and not the splinter groups. The third element, Mr. Obama, is this year equally important.

But there’s no denying the Republicans are in a brawl, and it is becoming ferocious.

In New Hampshire the question isn’t whether Mr. Romney is in the lead—he is, famously. A poll Wednesday from Suffolk University and WHDH-TV had Mr. Romney with 43%, trailed by Mr. Paul at 14%, Newt Gingrich at 9% and Mr. Santorum at 6%. The coming week will answer two questions and begin to answer a third. First, how committed to Mr. Romney are those who tell pollsters they support him? If less than firmly, the other candidates will succeed in doing what they’re trying to do, bleed his lead. Second, how much does Mr. Romney have to win by to be called the winner? Is 15 points enough? Twenty? If he wins by 10, did he “lose”? Third, how much damage is going to be done on the way to the convention?

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