Some elections are themeless and some have themes. The Republican presidential nomination contest has had a theme from the outset: this is a two man race with Romney, or as I affectionately refer to him, the Weathervane, and one other candidate, identity to be determined. Last night the identity of the Not Romney candidate was determined: Rick Santorum.
Final Iowa Results:
Mitt Romney: 30,015
Rick Santorum: 30,007
Ron Paul: 26,219
Newt Gingrich: 16,251
Rick Perry: 12,604
Michele Bachmann: 6,073
Jon Huntsman: 745
Santorum was annointed by default: each of the earlier pretenders to the title having, in turn, stumbled and fallen away: Bachmann, for a nano-second, Perry, debating is an essential skill for Presidential candidates unless they have won a big war, Cain, the femmes were found, and Gingrich, a man can outrun anything except his own past. However, Santorum would not have been so annointed if he had also not been working the state assiduously for many months, visiting each county in Iowa, and holding over 375 townhall events. The caucus set up in Iowa rewards old fashioned shoe leather politics and Santorum did the endless hard work neccessary to succeed.
So today is Santorum’s day in the limelight and he has earned it. What happens next? Santorum is currently in single digits in all other states. That should change now, but in order to be taken as a serious challenger to Romney, he will quickly have to move into at least a close second place behind Romney in most of the upcoming primaries. Campaign funds will now start flowing to Santorum, and he will need to use it swiftly to build up a national organization.
Candidates will start dropping out: Bachmann soon and probably Gingrich soon after New Hampshire. I think Bachmann has been angling for a while for a job in a Romney administration, and I expect her to endorse Romney, although that is not probably important as her support is miniscule. Newt is boiling over from the fact that Romney negative advertising torpedoed his campaign, and he and Santorum have been close in the past, so I would not be surprised if Gingrich endorses him after he drops out.
Paul will stay in. This is Ron Paul’s Last Hurrah and I think he will stay in to the Convention. (Due to recent statements by Senator Rand Paul, I am beginning to doubt that Ron Paul will run third-party.) Perry has gone back to Texas to reassess his candidacy, and I believe that is a signal that he will be dropping out soon. I think that would be very good news for Santorum, as it would eliminate his only realistic competitor as the conservative champion in the primaries.
So a good night for Santorum indeed. Go here to watch his speech last night. This race is now effectively a two man fight, and Santorum is going to be one of the two. No one except Santorum believed that was possible even a week ago. Now he has one of the greatest opportunities in American political history for a political comeback and we will see what he does with it.