The first votes of the 2012 Presidential election were cast last night but don’t get too excited, no delegates were awarded. In keeping with the independent spirit of Iowans, they voted last night at over 1700 caucus locations but will not actually begin awarding their 28 delegates until April and will award their at-large delegates in June. In other words, Iowa gets to go first and they also can’t be accused of picking some loser who drops out. But don’t let any of this fool you, last night’s results were important. Just ask Rick Perry who returned to Texas to “assess the results” of last night and Michelle Bachmann who apparently will suspend her campaign this morning.
UPDATE: Bachmann is out but Perry sent out this tweet:
And the next leg of the marathon is the Palmetto State…Here we come South Carolina!!!
If there are losers last night there are also winners. Officially Mitt Romney won Iowa by a mere 8 votes, but perhaps Rick Santorum was the biggest winner last night, surpassing expectations in a big way and delivering one heck of a speech late last night, making the most of the national media spotlight. Maybe there’s something to those sweater vests. Ron Paul finished third (21%), and Georgia’s own Newt Gingrich finished fourth with 13%.
Paul and Gingrich both performed as expected (according to the final RCP Iowa average) but given the pounding Gingrich took from Paul and Romney, his fourth place finish doesn’t seem so bad. It should be pointed out that John McCain finished fourth in 2008 and of course went on to become the nominee.
The immediate problem for Gingrich is New Hampshire where he once held second place and seemed to be gaining ground on Romney. According to a Suffolk University poll Gingrich has fallen to 9%, behind Paul and Hunstman.
This is the second consecutive poll release showing Gingrich in fourth place after polling second to Romney in mid-December.
“Newt Gingrich is struggling to revive his campaign in New Hampshire” said David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center. “But Rick Santorum now trails Gingrich by only 4 points, and if he surpasses Gingrich and knocks him into fifth place, it would be fatal for Gingrich.”
Newt last night vowed to go after Romney and made good on his threat with a full page ad in the Manchester Union-Leader contrasting the two GOP hopefuls.
Jon Hunstman skipped Iowa and in fact took a shot at the State by saying “They pick corn in Iowa, they actually pick Presidents here in New Hampshire.” Hunstman received about 1% of the vote last night and Paul campaign had a little fun with this tweeting:
“We found your one Iowa voter, he’s in Linn precinct 5 you might want to call him and say thanks.”
I’m always skeptical of campaigns who skip States and “build a firewall” in some other State later in the process. It seems to me if you want to be President you ought to at least try to compete everywhere.
This race has always been about Romney vs Not-Romney. Various candidates have auditioned for the role of Not-Romney and Rick Santorum made a strong case last night. Will he carry his momentum into New Hampshire and beyond? Will Gingrich turn it around? Will Paul climb out of third into second place? This race still has a long way to go but despite all the criticism of Iowa and it’s caucus, it did it’s job and winnowed the field.
Here’s a breakdown of how each State allots it’s delegates, courtesy of the RNC.
Not much movement in the RCP averages but some in the Intrade numbers.
Finally, much was made of the evangelical Christian makeup of Iowa caucus-goers. However as Andy Sere tweeted:
so two Catholics, a Mormon & a libertarian walk into an evangelical-dominated Republican caucus…and they finish 1-4
Iowa’s Evangelicals and Tea Partiers spread their votes around in ways you might find surprising. You cannot say those two groups (to the extent they are different) are all in for Santorum/Paul/Gingrich or solidly opposed to Romney. Ralph Reed has more.