Who's up, who's down, who's out?....
But Iowa was best summed up by a happy Rick Santorum, whose first two words were: "Game on!"
Romney's 8-vote margin (30,015 to 30,007)--a swing of 5 votes would have changed the result--over Santorum gave him the headline he wanted, but no one can consider a margin of less than 1/00th of one percent anything but the "virtual tie" Romney called it.
One wonders how many Iowans who stayed home had second thoughts this morning....
A neat measure of comparative spending: Santorum spent 73 cents per vote to finish in a virtual tie, while Rick Perry spent $364 per vote to finish fifth.
Mitt Romney tied 25 percent, his number from 2008, an unimpressive performance. Rick Santorum's surge to 25 percent from 5 a few weeks ago & 10 just a week ago, leading to last night's photo finish, was perfectly timed. An astonishing 65 percent of voters who decided in the last week (t/h Steven Hayes of Fox) broke for the former Pennsylvania senator. But how he will perform in the limelight later this month remains to be seen. Santorum has spent lots of time in South Carolina, also in New Hampshire. Santorum noted last night that he had appeared 30 times in NH, more than anyone save John Huntsman, of whom RS quipped: "And he cheats; he lives there."
If Santorum as a conservative places in the top three in a swing state, his electability argument is stronger. New Hampshire's Presidential voting history shows 6 R & 4 D in the past 10 Presidential contests, but 4 of the past 5 times NH has gone D, excepting Bush 43 in 2000. NH voters have, Ed Rollins notes, rarely has followed Iowa in recent campaigns. Fred Barnes notes NH has a penchant for giving the win to long-shots. The last Rasumussen NH poll before the Santorum surge (Dec. 12) had him at 3 percent; it will not stay there. If Perry's & Bachmann's 3 each go to Rick, he is at 9 percent, one point behind Huntsman's 10 percent in that poll. Now, if Romney's 33 percent is pulled down under 30, his "not Romney" ceiling issue will be reinforced.
Potentially more important is that unaffiliated voters can also vote, leaving Democrats room to vote strategically in ways to gum up the GOP race. As Romney is the candidate they seem most to fear, they may decide to vote for Santorum to weaken Romney's already shaky front-runner status.
3rd place finisher Ron Paul (21%) did best (48%) with "independents" & first-time caucus voters (37%), which suggests possible cross-over registration--outsiders who registered as Republicans for a night; Paul's performance is thus not a precursor of his future performance in GOP-only primaries. Yet Paul seems to have faded a bit in the closing days, perhaps reflecting more publicity about his unsavory newsletter and isolationist foreign policy views.
Newt Gingrich's 4th (13%) keeps him alive, if just barely. He may, Jonathan Tobin observes at Commentary Blog, stay around just long enough to fire negative shots at Mitt Romney; Newt heaped praise on Santorum, in his post-caucus speech, for running a positive campaign. How much money he will have to do that, and how many freebie soundbites the networks will give him, is an open question. (Romney & Santorum are on good terms, as Santorum endorsed Romney in 2008.) A check of the 2012 Presidential Primary debate schedule shows that there will be two debates before next week's primary, likely Newt's best chance to score points.
Michele Bachmann (5%) was given an exit visa by Iowa caucus voters, finishing an ignominious 6th after having won last August's straw poll, despite being an Iowa native. Bachmann's House seat has been altered by redistricting. Politico reports that to date she has no challengers for her House seat, in either party. MB has until June to file to seek re-election to her House seat.
Rick Perry's 5th (10%) looks like he is nearing the end; he said he is going back to Texas to decide "whether there is a path forward for myself in this race." But he has SC ad buy, so may stay at least to the end of January (t/h Jennifer Rubin). Chris Stirewalt's Fox PowePlay blog sees Perry also gone, noting that Iowa's role is not picking nominees but winnowing the primary field. (Perry tweeted a few minutes after 11 AM EST that he will resume his campaign in SC, skipping NH. Added 11:42 AM EST.)
Here is an NRO Symposium assessing the Iowa results. AEI VP Henry Olsen notes therein one nugget for Mitt: he beat Santorum 33 - 18 among moderately conservative voters, the largest GOP voter group.
Carl Cameron noted: If any GOP candidate were to run the table--garnering 100 percent of votes in every caucus & primary state, the winner could not clinch the nomination until April 24. This, as "Campaign Carl" perfectly well knows, will not happen. So the clincher will not come early, unless everyone drops out before then, save the front-runner--less likely after Iowa.
Michael Barone notes that Democrats fielded a weaker set of candidates in ... 1932--yes, the year FDR won.
Spring or September Surprise? Might Ron Paul run as a Libertarian candidate? Might President Obama have SecState Hillary swap jobs with VP Joe Biden? A look at the 2012 primary & convention schedule offers clues. As to Paul, Karl Rove thinks it unlikely, because RP's son Rand is a GOP senator (KY); Rand Paul fudged when asked, but said that the Tea Party is better off within the GOP & unified. The Libertarians hold their Party convention May 4-6; this gives RP precious little time to seek the nomination, which requires winning state delegations in primaries over the next few months. Unless his support plummets precipitously he will be contending in GOP contests for much of the primary season.
The GOP Convention is Aug. 27-30 & the Democratic is Sept. 3-6. This order gives President Obama a chance to look at the GOP ticket that emerges, and decide if he needs a more potent vote-getter than VP Joe is likely to be. Hill disclaims interest, but naturally she will say so beforehand in any event. If polls show the President starting off trailing badly, after the GOP convention, The Big Swap may come to pass.
Bottom Line. Because of the intensity of the 2012 contest, outlier possibilities are unusually salient prospects. Ask Rick Santorum.
Letter from the Capitol, LFTC, Conservative Politics