Iowa Win Unlikely to Make Romney Inevitable

Iowa Win Unlikely to Make Romney Inevitable

By Scott Conroy - January 3, 2012

DES MOINES, Iowa -- On Jan. 7, 2008, Barack Obama appeared to have all of the momentum on his side.

As New Hampshire voters prepared to head to the polls the next day, the Illinois senator held a seemingly insurmountable 41 to 28 percent lead over Hillary Clinton in the Granite State, according to a Gallup poll released that day.

Obama was surging after his resounding victory in the Iowa caucuses just four days earlier, and all signs pointed to New Hampshire’s Democratic and independent voters propelling him forward on a relatively simple path to the nomination.

The next day, however, Obama was handed a stunning three-point defeat by Clinton, and the Democratic nominating fight would go on for months.

Though 2012 Republican front-runner Mitt Romney finds himself in a fundamentally stronger position than Obama ever was in New Hampshire, the 2008 Democratic experience is a reminder that nothing is guaranteed -- even if Romney wins the Iowa caucuses.

Romney has a massive 22-point lead in New Hampshire over Ron Paul, his nearest competitor in the RCP polling average, and his ingrained organizational strength there remains unchallenged.

But voters in the nation’s first primary state are notoriously late deciders and have a penchant for rebutting the conventional wisdom and making life difficult for front-runners.

Nonetheless, the Romney team’s confidence about its prospects in New Hampshire appears to be higher than ever.

The former governor of neighboring Massachusetts announced plans to detour from New England on Thursday and Friday for a brief swing through South Carolina -- the next primary state on the calendar.

The venues for Romney’s visits to Myrtle Beach and Charleston have not been determined, which suggests the trip was scheduled at the last moment after campaign officials concluded their candidate’s New Hampshire position remains rock solid.

After months of campaigning in the state with nothing to show for it in the polls, Rick Perry appears to have given up on pulling off a New Hampshire surprise, as his campaign announced plans to head straight to greener pastures in South Carolina after the Iowa caucuses.

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Scott Conroy is a national political reporter for RealClearPolitics. He can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @RealClearScott.

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