By Ken Feltman (originally published at Politico)
A moderate Republican can win in Iowa and has — most recently, Presidents Bush 41 and 43. But social conservatives dominate many of the caucuses.
This means that candidates who are more moderate on social issues have challenges. Because Iowans want a candidate who can win in November, electability is important. Because most caucus-goers meet many or even all of the candidates before voting, they get to judge the personalities of the candidates.
Former Gov. Mitt Romney is not comfortable at retail politicking. He does not enjoy meeting people, pressing the flesh. He is like the awkward teenager who does not know what to say and, therefore, says all the wrong things (as pointed out in excruciating detail by Dana Milbank of the Washington Post). Clearly, this hurts him in Iowa.
When I was advising candidates who had this problem when meeting and greeting voters, I suggested that instead of trying to make small talk, they ask questions: “What one thing do you want me to understand and take to heart here in Muscatine?” or “As president, how could I work with your congressman and senators to help Council Bluffs?”