Day two after the increasingly irrelevant, non-binding Iowa caucus and much has happened in the intervening hours. But first let’s unpack the actual vote. That part was at least interesting, if for nothing else, because the media punditry was forced to wait until the very last vote was counted before they could call the race and tell us all what it really means. Not that they really know what it all means, but they do love to hear themselves tell it.
I fell asleep thinking my silly prediction was going to come true. Only missed by the paltry eight votes that put Romney in first place. Close enough to call it a tie with Santorum. Indeed, I’m giving Santorum the technical win. For one thing, he only spent dollars per vote as opposed to Romney who spent hundreds. And Santorum comes out of Iowa with the “It” factor, having risen out of literally nowhere while Romney, who has effectively been campaigning for the nomination for years, didn’t even meet the same total of votes he made in his last failed attempt.
Nonetheless, establishment Republicans are nervously proclaiming Mitt the heir apparent as he heads into his friendliest territory of New Hampshire. But it seems like wishful thinking to me. For one thing, the real winner in practical terms may have been Ron Paul, who has been at this rodeo before. He appears to be the only one who coached his team to hang around the caucuses for the delegate voting and got a strong contingent of his supporters elected to the convention for the real vote that will matter. Ron Paul also has a strong base of support in New Hampshire and a big bucket of money to take him all the way to the very end of the race.
Mitt’s other problem is, while the media pundits are mostly on his side, the hard core conservative faction of the GOP is still very much in “Anyone but Romney” mode. Much angst and shirt rending on the fringes over how to stop his momentum. And after a romp through the friendly ranks in New Hampshire, Mitt still has to head south to the strongholds of the Tea Party cons.
That no doubt explains why Rick Perry, after taking a day off to sulk over his poor showing, announced yesterday on twitter, he’s still in it to win it and he’s heading to South Carolina where they might just still show some love for a swaggering Texan. And it helps him that Santorum has no organization and no money outside of Iowa. By they time they get there, that Rick might find himself on the downhill side of the GOP primary rollercoaster ride. Personally I think it’s likely Santorum will wilt quickly under the hot lights of media spotlight that shines on any frontrunner of the month.
So in the end, all Iowa accomplished was to weed out one candidate, poor Michele Bachmann whose star rose too high, too soon and fizzled out so fast. Meanwhile, no matter what the pundits are telling you, I saw three different media website polls, in three distinctly different areas of the country this morning asking if Romney has a lock on the nomination. The answer was a resounding no, by margins of about two to one. 2012 is going to be a very long year in politics. [graphic credit]