Perry, Bachmann, and Gingrich: Signals of Doom

When candidates start talking about focusing on post-IA/NH primaries, they are in trouble.

Via the AP:  Bachmann, Perry Plan to Head South After Iowa Vote

both say they’ll jump ahead to the first Southern state to vote, a recognition that they have little hope of making up ground in the nine days before New Hampshire’s primary.


Perry, the Texas governor, heads straight to Greenville, S.C. on Wednesday. Bachmann, a Minnesota congresswoman, will spend part of three days in that state beginning Wednesday, her campaign manager said.

Whenever candidates start talking about/acting as if they are going to make some sort of stand after Iowa/NH, they are signaling that they are zombie candidates.  They are the walking dead.

Even Gingrich appears to be falling into this camp:

“I think New Hampshire is a good place to start the debate for South Carolina,” Gingrich said Sunday.

This all reminds me of Rudy Giuliani’s brilliant scheme to not worry about the early primaries and come blasting onto the stage in Florida.   If you don’t remember that particular bout of brilliance it is because it was far more whimper than bang.

As Jonathan Bernstein correctly notes:

skipping New Hampshire is as much of an implausible strategy as skipping Iowa. Neither make any sense. That doesn’t mean candidates have to go all-in on these early states, but they really do have to compete there.

This is the way that it is.  As Bernstein correctly notes by way of example:  had Santorum skipping Iowa to focus on New Hampshire, he would not have the chance to surge at the moment.  And if Santorum comes in the top three tonight it will help him in New Hampshire which may, in turn, help him in SC. Perry, Bachmann, and Gingrich are going to emerge from the next week and half largely ignored.

Like it or not (and as I have noted on numerous occasions, I don’t):  Iowa and New Hampshire play pivotal roles in the nomination process.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2012, US Politics, , , , , , ,
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter


  1. Gustopher says:

    The base does not want Romney. Santorum will likely fade as people take a better look at him.

    Is the base going to get behind Willard, or are they going to pick the least worst not-Romney? I’m betting the latter, and if I had been campaigning for a year, I’d hold out for a few more weeks.

  2. I kind of disagree here.

    Based on the polls, it’s very clear that Mitt Romney is a prohibitive favorite in New Hampshire. Does it really make sense for most of these candidates to expend time and money on a race where they’d essentially be running for third, fourth, or fifth place? Add in the fact that a good deal of NH falls into the Boston media market, and you’re talking about spending a lot of money for little reason.

    Quite honestly, the only candidates who should be focusing attention on NH after today are Romney because he’s leading, Paul because he has a libertarian constituency there, Gingrich because he was endorsed by the Union -Leader and can’t afford to just ignore the state now, and Huntsman and Roemer who have basically been living in the state. If Santorum does well tonight he has more to gain by going south and building up a campaign in a state where the voters are more in line with his brand of conservatism. Perry and Bachmann are just marking time till the end (frankly I have a feeling Bachmann will be out this week, or at leas before the SC primary)

  3. @Doug Mataconis: I understand the logic–and some candidate/candidates engage in it every four years. The question becomes: does it ever work?

    I need to go back and look, but if memory serves a successful candidate cannot ignore (read: fail to be competitive in) both IA and NH and then go on to build a successful campaign after that point.

  4. Dave Schuler says:

    The base does not want Romney.

    Judging by performance to date the Republican base does not want anybody. We’ve seen a succession of candidates rise to lead the pack of non-Romnies then fall.

    Romney has a fairly solid base of between 20% and 25% of Republicans. Ron Paul has a solid base of between 10% and 15% of Republicans. No other candidate has anything remotely resembling those bases.

    Ron Paul is the candidate most likely to frighten the bejeezus out of moderates and independents and get them to the polls for Obama.

    Republicans’ choice is between Romney and Obama not between “unspecified Republican” and Obama. They don’t want Obama but who else do they want?

  5. I was going to write another comment, but it seemed better to address this in a post:

  6. PD Shaw says:

    Let the blog wars begin.

    And if anything negative is said in the comments, I blame Citizens United.