This Republican caucus in Iowa has the looks of a travesty, a victory of dollars over democracy, equity over equality. Romney is destroying the only opponent he fears for the nomination with a relentless, wealth-driven advertising campaign that the voter can only escape if he turns off his television set. He's doing it without his fingerprints on the ads, without his face of voice or name attached to it. He's doing it while he stands before crowds reciting the verses from "American the Beautiful." If there's ever been a more cynical use of money and media, it is hard to recall it.
And so what exactly will Tuesday night's results mean? Will they mean that Iowa likes Romney? Will it? Or will it say that the voters of Iowa have been used to destroy his most formidable national opponent?
What it looks like Iowa will say - in the headlines at least - is what it says often - that it likes the candidate who adheres most closely to the Evangelical line. In this case, they have a perfect vessel - Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania is pro-life. He educates his children at home. He is opposed to same-sex marriage. He is, to the Evangelicals and other Christian conservatives, one of them.
So if Santorum gets up around the high 30s tomorrow night that will be about right. A third of those heading to the caucuses are people of his political and social persuasion - Evangelicals. He could get more votes from those who simply are looking a true-blue conservative. He could do this well for one other big reason: he has not been hit by a massive negative, unsigned television ad campaign.
Ron Paul will also get his share of the vote tomorrow - the Libertarian vote, bolstered by the young and the anti-war of all ages. You may have noticed that no Republican has even whispered the name "W" in this campaign. Try and find Republicans who are ready to stand up and say the Iraq War made sense or who want the "decider" out there working the rope line for them.
No, this campaign fits a groove. The Evangelicals have found their soul brother. The Libertarians have a genuine article in Ron Paul.
And the people, the conservatives who were looking for someone who thought like them and could still beat Obama have seen that hope killed by an expensive, furtive, stealth campaign that has left them with the choice of voting for Mitt Romney. They've been left with that choice and I bet they will flinch from it. They will hold back in hopes of finding some way to avoid voting for someone they know in their souls is not one of them.
If Mitt Romney breaks 25 percent of the vote tomorrow night it will be a victory of stealth over openness, cynicism over conviction, and as I said, equity over equality, dollars over democracy. How ironic that it was the conservatives who made this kind of campaign legal.