Still image of Karl Rove Tuesday on Fox
Here's Karl Rove yesterday on Fox, making the absurd claim that if Newt Gingrich doesn't win Iowa by a double-digit margin, people will see it as weakness:
If in the polls, Newt is leading by 10 or 11 or 12 points going into the Iowa caucuses, and doesn't win by that margin, then people are going to say, "well, he didn't meet his mark." So that's the challenge for somebody who has not built organization.
Actually, if Newt Gingrich wins Iowa at all, it will be impressive, considering that he's up against not just Mitt Romney's organization but also Ron Paul's. If anyone has expectations to meet, it's Romney, who got 25 percent of the Iowa caucus vote in 2008 and can't afford to fall much below that in 2012. Nonetheless, according to Rove, Gingrich's "lack of organization" won't just hurt his campaign in Iowa—it will also hurt him throughout the country (pay particular attention the paragraph I bolded on Ohio):
And it's not just Iowa, it's also in New Hampshire. For example, I was talking to a keen observer of New Hampshire politics who said Newt's headquarters just recently opened there, there are three staffers there, and there's no telephone! In order to call it, you need to had to know the cell phone number of the campaign manager for the state.
In Ohio, we're going to have a test tomorrow—you have file for the Ohio primary ballot tomorrow and there's a real question as to whether Newt Gingrich is going to get the Congressional district signatures he needs in all the districts to qualify, so lack of organization matters.
Right now Newt Gingrich has the advantage of momentum, or Newtmentum I guess we ought to call it, but organization will matter here, particularly in caucus states like Iowa.
I highlighted the paragraph on Ohio because it turns out that what Rove said wasn't exactly correct. He neglected to mention two critical things:
- Thanks to redistricting, today's deadline isn't likely to matter. The real deadline is almost certainly going to be in March. So it's very unlikely that Gingrich will won't be on the ballot unless his campaign otherwise implodes.
- The Ohio primary isn't until June. It is in fact the penultimate state primary. By the time it rolls around, the nomination will almost certainly have been decided, so even if Gingrich weren't able to get on the ballot, it probably wouldn't matter.
Even though Rove's criticism was fundamentally unsound, the conservative Washington Times echoed his attack in article published last night:
Newt Gingrich is surging in the presidential polls, but his campaign organization has not caught up — making it possible he’ll miss Wednesday’s deadline to file enough signatures to even appear on Ohio’s primary ballot. [...] Gingrich backers said the campaign could mount a write-in effort in Ohio if need be. But missing that state’s 4 p.m. Wednesday deadline would be the latest embarrassment for Mr. Gingrich’s organization.
So Karl Rove makes a false attack which then gets picked up in conservative media. It's a familiar story, isn't it? The only thing unusual here is that Rove's target isn't a Democrat—it's a fellow Republican. So break out the popcorn and enjoy the fight.