Pop quiz for campaign buffs.
A rich Republican politician with disputed conservative credentials and New England ties who had distanced himself from Ronald Reagan in the somewhat distant past tries to present himself as the heir to the Reagan Revolution.
Iowa Republican voters groan and guffaw and reject the well-funded putative frontrunner. He loses badly — even a Southern Baptist preacher tops him in the caucuses.
A few days later, New Hampshire Republican primary voters: (Pick all that apply)
A.) Deliver a second-consecutive defeat to their New England neighbor and his campaign never recovers.
B.) Embrace their New England neighbor and he goes on to win the presidency.
C.) Neither A nor B.
D.) Both A and B.
Answer below the jump.
A. is the correct answer if we’re talking about the 2008 presidential election. B. is the correct answer if we’re talking about 1988.
It’s too early to tell whether Romney 2012 will be a repeat of Romney 2008 or whether it will mirror Bush 1988.
Yes, George Herbert Walker Bush got humiliated in Iowa, finishing third behind Bob Dole and televangelist Pat Robertson. A New Hampshire lost would have been a campaign death blow. But Bush bounced back in Manchester and Concord and a hundred other hamlets and villages.
Even after winning the Republican nomination, Bush looked like an incredibly weak candidate. For a time, he trailed by as many as 18 points behind Mike Dukakis. But his campaign caught fire in the fall and never looked back.
In 2008, of course, New Hampshire further derailed Mitt Romney’s Inevitability Tour, and South Carolina and Florida delivered the final knockout blows.
Either scenario — 1988 or 2008 — is plausible in 2012.