Perhaps the strongest reason for some voters to support Governor Romney is that the smart money says he is more "electable" than the other candidates in general and Newt Gingrich in particular.While it would be nice if Newt wins in Iowa, that probably isn't going to happen at this point with half of the political TV ads on the air slamming Newt. If Rick Santorum wins, is that going to change anything? Not really, it will just mean he will stay in the race longer. The fact that he has spent a rock solid 3 months in Iowa, means he has little to no organization in other places, as is indicated in the polls in New Hampshire and South Carolina. Plus, once he wins Iowa wait until the conservative press starts remembering his support of steel tariffs, his vote for Medicare Part D, his support for Arlen Specter over Pat Toomey, his love of earmarks and his involvement in the K Street project. While he has been marketing himself as a 100% down-the-line principled conservative, the reality, like always, is a little more complicated. In fact, his record isn't really that much different than Newt's (who has a slightly higher rating from the ACU). Also, I think some of his over the top social views may turn many people off even those generally positively disposed to him. Remember when he equated homosexuality with bestiality and blamed radical feminism for the degradation of society? There will be a full week between Iowa and New Hampshire and then another week before South Carolina. That is plenty of time for some character assassination.
But there was a time when even some conservative smart money types were saying that Ronald Reagan was too old to run for president, and that he should step aside for someone younger.
Washington Post editor Meg Greenfield said that the people in the Carter White House were "ecstatic" when the Republicans nominated Reagan, because they were convinced that they could clobber him.
Today, it is said that the Obama administration fears Romney, but would relish the opportunity to clobber Gingrich because of his "baggage." CNN has already started digging into Gingrich's most recent divorce.
Much depends on whether you think the voting public is going to be more interested in Newt Gingrich's personal past than in the country's future. Most of the things for which Gingrich has been criticized are things he did either in his personal life or when he was out of office. But, if we are serious, we are more concerned with his ability to perform when in office.
Even some of those who believe that Gingrich would devastate Obama in head-to-head debates on substantive issues nevertheless claim that all Obama has to do is come back with questions about Newt's work for failed mortgage finance giant Freddie Mac.
But, even at the personal, point-scoring level, Barack Obama can open up a can of worms by going that route, since Freddie Mac at least never planted bombs in public places, like some of Obama's political allies.
There are no guarantees, no matter whom the Republicans vote for in the primaries. Why not vote for the candidate who has shown the best track record of accomplishments, both in office and in the debates? That is Newt Gingrich. With all his shortcomings, his record shows that he knows how to get the job done in Washington.
Now if Ron Paul wins in Iowa, that might be the death knell for the Iowa caucus being so important. Why should candidates spend so much time and money in Iowa when it will be perceived to have little to no correlation with the eventual nominee. And Ron Paul will never be the nominee. Sure he might win some crowded caucuses when only about 10% of a political party actually attends but has zero shot in primaries.
So even if Newt finishes at #4 or #5, it won't be the end as I think Bachmann might be finished barring a miracle, as could Perry (a bigger if as he still has funding and support from quite a few conservatives). Neither of them poll particularly well in NH or SC so I don't see how they continue for long. Those supporters will have to find a home and there is a good chance it could be Newt, who will likely be reinvigorated by additional debates and people start souring on Santorum (who is not seeing a surge anywhere other than Iowa where he practically waits outside people's homes to shake hands and kiss babies). A victory in South Carolina might catapult him back to front runner status and this time without 3 other conservatives in the race siphoning off votes.
And finally, it is important to remember that no actual national convention delegates will be apportioned in the caucuses, just delegates to the county conventions who then pick delegates to district conventions and then to the state conventions who then do the apportioning. It's like one giant political game of telephone and whoever wins the caucuses might not actually get the most delegates in the end.