IOWA CAUCUS: Are Women Swayed by Family Values?

Seems just about every Republican in the race for President gets to take a turn as the "It" kid.

This week, it's former Senator Rick Santorum. His popularity as the new kid in school seems to come on the heels of the desire from the top-tier to effectively kill Speaker Newt Gingrich's race once and for all.

So, they went for the cheap shots at his family life. Could that be an attempt to win over women voters?

Perhaps, but Iowa's not exactly a breeding ground for female political empowerment. In fact, the state's never elected a woman to the House, Senate or Governor's Office.

So, the family values message could really be aimed at the male voters in the state: "Vote for this guy, or else your little lady might get some crazy ideas in her head."

We've certainly noted how Congresswoman Michele Bachmann mentions her family life incessantly, and that seems to have done little to assist her since she won the straw poll many moons ago.

But do family values separate the top-tier from the second-tier candidates?

Truth: Speaker Gingrich ain't led a perfect life. He's a power-hungry egoist. There's not a would-be presidential candidate in history whose without rough edges. We're not dealing with average, mild-mannered type Americans.

Another Truth: You don't want "nice guys" running. Politics is a full-contact blood sport; only survival-of-the-fittest types need apply.

While we could debate the merits of the family values issue on the Iowa Caucus, we cannot debate the merits of negative campaigning.

Hate it all you want, ladies, we know negative campaigning absolutely works for the candidates who use it well based on election outcomes.

Those with the heaviest fists typically land the deadliest blows.

Since Speaker Gingrich claims he'll not stoop to such measures, we must infer that he does not intend to win in Iowa and his numbers dropping like a stone mirror that philosophy.

Perhaps he will roll over before the August 2012 Republican National Convention, but I wouldn't count him out yet. He surged once after he was thought DOA; it could happen again.

Here's a just few examples of Gingrich's lack of fight being fully taken advantage of by his opponents:

 ---> Anita Perry talking about marrying her high-school sweetheart. She looks and sounds great, Governor Rick Perry's appearance at the end is a bit jarring but it comes back to that "we're wholesome" message. Cute, but not political.

----> Romney's Christmas card. Woof - this guy's got a huge family. They should buy stock in plaid and cotton. But note all the comments following the card are from women.

----> Romney taking swipes at Gingrich. What's interesting about this match-up is that Romney seems to feel he's got a foothold on "family values" - ground he can't best Perry in though he's more equipped in debates. In fact, he could probably name three ways (couldn't resist).

 ----> Here's a poll on that ad and the issue of Gingrich's family values. Didn't seem to resonate in Iowa, at least not a couple weeks ago.

Personally, I'm not sure the family values issue strikes women in the way politcal consultants might guess. As a center-right voter, I'm far more concerned about bottom line thinking and foreign affairs policy right now.

Knocking a guy for failed marriages doesn't mean he can't deliver jobs, jobs, jobs. And with the 50 percent rate of divorce in this country, he's in good company.

But I suppose what these philosophical fistacufs come back to is believing the leader of the free world is above reproach, better than the average Joe. And in that regard, despite dismal public approval ratings, President Obama scores well.

From what we can see, the President is a devouted husband and father. Perhaps, that's really where the thrust for such attacks returns; matching up against the only opponent the last man or woman standing must face.

All the candidates will be pushing platforms hot and heavy leading up to tomorrow with the bulk of push in Iowa.

Stantorum might be flash in the pan, or the Republican who can actually connect with voters in a way Romney's not managed.

In politics, it was once thought: "As goes Iowa, so goes the nation." But a great recent piece in the Washington Post pulled apart five myths surrounding this once powerful political temperture gauge.

While it's not gospel, Iowa does matter in a few important ways including how these candidates square off with one another.

Buckle up, it's gonna be a fun ride to August.

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