It's an interesting fact that Mitt Romney, after outspending both Ron Paul and Rick Santorum and the rest of the Republican field by millions of dollars, can't seem to break out above a ceiling of around a quarter of the conservative base. Pollster John Zogby and others have made this point in the immediate aftermath of the Iowa Caucuses: "This was the percentage of the vote the former governor received in the 2008 Iowa caucuses, a figure he never superseded in pre-caucus polls nor in the actual vote in 2012. It was enough for a close race but it shows some weaknesses in his bid for the White House. For starters, there are currently three co-equal strains in this year's GOP -- the libertarian/anti-statist wing represented by Ron Paul; the Christian Conservative wing that now belongs to Rick Santorum; and the Establishment/moderate conservative wing that favors Romney. Paul's base is comprised of many young and first-time voters and doesn't seem likely to support Romney (or perhaps any other Republican). The pro-family Santorumites just don't like or trust Romney." So after having run in Iowa during the last presidential election cycle and having had another three years to prepare for 2012, after spending millions more than his rivals and being backed up by a powerful Super Pac, Romney is back were he was after Iowa's 2008 Caucuses. So what does that mean for Romney going forward? Well according to Zogby: " after Iowa, an angry and scorned Newt Gingrich is aiming his guns at the whites of Romney's eyes in South Carolina. Romney could possibly survive the January 21 southern state primary, but it is hard to see how he puts together a severely fractured party. He had a good showing in Iowa, but he ended up having to spend a lot of money, energy, and negative advertising to get to 25%."
And then there's, among numerous other articles on the topic, this from Rolling Stone: "Call it The Romney Ceiling. And its durability nearly led to an astonishing victory in Iowa by the raging mysogynist, racist, Islamophobe, and gay baiter Santorum — who was last seen on the national stage getting trounced by 18 points in his failed 2006 senate reelection bid in Pennsylvania. Rick Santorum is the bottom of the GOP's not-Mitt barrel — a C-Lister par excellence. Yet he lost to one of the best funded candidates in the history of politics by a mere eight votes...By all rights, Mitt Romney should be on a glide path to the nomination today. But at this moment, his candidacy seems equally likely to spark a fratricidal war inside the GOP — one that could even spill over into a third-party bid. They say that Democrats fall in love with their candidates, while Republicans fall in line. That narrative is busted in 2012."
What then is the follow on to all of the aforementioned? Lets consider the following: Romney is a Republican progressive by any objective yardstick and the Ron Paul crowd will most likely never support him. Santorum's supporters are very pro-family and not likely to support Ron Paul's libertarian views on gays and drugs. Santorum has plenty of his own baggage that has as of yet not been subject to scrutiny by either the liberal media or his political rivals. That scrutiny may do to Santorum what the same scrutiny did to Newt Gingrich just a week or so ago. Mitt Romney has plenty of Super Pac cash to smother Santorum in negative ads going forward just as he did Gingrich in Iowa. Few in the Republican establishment, especially the NeoCons, are likely to buy into Ron Paul's isolationist or anti-Israel positions. What we may have here is an intra-party crack up in the making with one of two likely outcomes, both of which could herald the end of the much hoped for and stalled conservative revolution.
Is There a Mitt Romney Ceiling of 25%?; http://www.huffingtonpost.com/john-zogby/is-there-a-mitt-romney-ce_b_1183763.html
The Romney Ceiling; http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/blogs/national-affairs/the-romney-ceiling-20120104