Mitt Romney won by eight votes in Iowa. His nearest competitor was Rick Santorum, who can no longer be called Rick II. Ron Paul finished in a virtual tie with the two virtual winners but still gets credit only for third place. The others start now to fade, with Rick Perry on his way back to Texas and out of the race. Michelle Bachmann says she will stay in the race, though no one can actually tell she is in it. Jon Huntsman finished dead last.
Rick Santorum will now get the kind of media scrutiny he has not yet faced as an afterthought in the campaign. Here is what I hear from my well-placed GOP friends. Romney does not excite anyone outside Utah, his Mormonism hurts him with evangelicals and his speaking ability barely enables him to hold his own with Rick Perry. Newt Gingrich has too much baggage and not enough money. Ron Paul is still viewed as an isolationist in a thoroughly connected world.
Santorum, then, is the default choice of many voters on the right. He will now have to show what he can do when people actually get to vote. A caucus is not an election. New Hampshire and South Carolina will tell the tale for Mitt Romney and Ron Paul. If Romney does not win convincingly, the nomination may not mean much if he even gets it.
For Santorum, the virtual tie with Romney means he may be able to raise the cash necessary to get his message out. In Iowa, his message was mostly anti-gay marriage, anti-abortion and pro-gun ownership. He will have to hone his economic message for the states where he is going now. South Carolina is very conservative. Santorum's social-issues wil play well there. New Hampshire may be another story.
As ever, early on, the candidates for nomination play to their base. Romney has been running for four years, Paul for eight and they know how to play to the ultra-right in the caucus and primary crowds. That will not play in the national election or on the national scene. Santorum has fewer fleas than any of the other dogs in this race, so far. Sarah Palin had some glowing remarks about him just prior to the Iowa caucus. Her comments, to say the least, did not hurt Santorum one little bit.
Now, out of Iowa, on to New Hampshire and South Carolina. The race is heating up. This is a vitally important election year for this country. Read about it here at aintsobad.
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