While you could fit the number of people who gave Mitt Romney his Iowa caucus win over Rick Santorum last night into a Chevrolet Suburban, the nominating contest for the Republican ticket has its first technical victor — as well as a bewildering second-place finish from a man whose antigay positions are legion, yet who lacks the campaign staff and coffers to compete against Romney in New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Florida.
In a succinct 100 words or less, we asked LGBT leaders across the political spectrum what the Iowa results mean for us, and what we can expect moving forward.
Ditch the divisive politics
R. Clarke Cooper, executive director, Log Cabin Republicans:
While there’s no definitive winner in Iowa tonight, a long-term victory over Barack Obama will require a candidate who can unite and expand the Republican ranks. Of the candidates who participated in the Iowa caucuses, Romney was one of the best on issues affecting LGBT Americans. By contrast, Santorum rose by appealing to a uniquely socially conservative electorate. The divisive social issue politics that helped Santorum’s campaign in Iowa will only hurt him in New Hampshire and beyond. We suggest all candidates reject Santorum's politics and focus on the issues that matter most to Americans: jobs and the economy.
A dying breed of antigay voter
Kate Kendell, executive director, National Center for Lesbian Rights:
In the repellent race to the bottom, it’s no surprise that Rick Santorum came close to winning the Iowa caucuses. Mitt Romney is in a major stall, and in a field of class clowns Rick Santorum clearly stands out as particularly cartoonish. Thankfully, Romney’s chilly relationship with voters is unlikely to thaw anytime soon; the disarray and fumbling will continue for months to come. Santorum’s strong showing is not a referendum on who he is as a man (inhumane and sanctimonious) or a candidate (pandering and mean). It’s simply the gasping statement of a dying breed of American voter.
Straight rights now!
Dan Savage, creator of the It Gets Better project:
Rick Santorum's emergence as the evangelical standard-bearer is good news for LGBT Americans. His anti-straight agenda, once it's exposed, will wake up heterosexual Americans. Santorum doesn't just think that abortion — and gay marriage — should be illegal. He thinks birth control, which 99% of Americans use, should be illegal. While many Americans — too many — don't think LGBT civil rights are important enough an issue to let it impact their vote, straight Americans are going to rally to the defense of straight rights.
"Anyone But Mitt" an enduring motif
Jerame Davis, executive director, National Stonewall Democrats:
The Iowa caucuses paint a sad and desperate picture of today's Republican Party. Mitt Romney has been running for president for 5 years and yet 75% of Iowa Republicans would like anyone but Romney to be their standard bearer. Last night, Iowa scraped the bottom of the barrel and came up with Rick Santorum — a dyed-in-the-wool culture warrior hell-bent on imposing his warped moral values on the rest of the nation — as their anti-Romney. Of all the clowns in the car, they picked the most virulently homophobic and least qualified of the lot.
What a reported $1 million and homophobia buys
Fred Karger, openly gay GOP presidential candidate:
After a long, long night, it appears to be tie between Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum in Iowa. That said, it really is a huge loss for Romney. He and his campaign stupidly declared victory last week, only raising expectations. The fact that gay-hater Rick Santorum nearly beat the Romney Machine is pretty amazing. The reported $1 million that one of Santorum’s backers — I’m guessing the National Organization for Marriage — paid Bob Vander Plaats’ Family Leader organization for its endorsement must have helped. Santorum is also NOM’s handpicked candidate for president. Scary.
A further glimpse of the unacceptable alternatives
Richard Socarides, longtime gay rights advocate, former White House special assistant during the Clinton administration:
The far right has taken over the Republican Party. Santorum, the most antigay candidate, emerges with the only real momentum out of Iowa. Romney, still the likely nominee, remains completely unacceptable to any gay person who's paying attention. Ron Paul is no better. While President Obama hasn’t demonstrated the kind of emotional connection to our issues that we hoped for, on the merits he has delivered for us, and now it is crucially important that we deliver for him. In doing so, we can build on the important gains we have made and save ourselves from the totally unacceptable alternatives.
Santorum’s surge is Romney’s savior
Jimmy LaSalvia, executive director of GoProud:
Santorum doesn't have the campaign in place to capitalize on his strong showing tonight. Heck, he's not even on the ballot in several contests. I think he's the one hit wonder of 2012. Santorum's strong showing does hurt candidates like Bachmann and Perry. Iowa could be the end for those two. This is all good news for the Romney campaign. Romney’s free-market and limited government vision for America’s future is vastly different, and infinitely more optimistic, than the failed big government approach of President Obama.
Post-caucuses, Iowans will continue to fight for gay rights
Troy Price, executive director of One Iowa, the state’s LGBT advocacy group:
This extremely close outcome shows that in spite of the millions of dollars and constant campaigning on the backs of loving, committed gay and lesbian couples in Iowa, the attempt by social conservatives to dominate the caucuses simply didn't work. Rather, this tie between Santorum and Romney shows the deep divisions that exist between social conservatives who want to harm loving and committed couples, and fiscal conservatives who prioritize job creation and smaller government. The debate over LGBT equality will continue in Iowa, and One Iowa and its allies will do everything possible to protect our rights and freedoms.