Santorum (Still) Takes the Cake in Iowa

“Game on.”  That was the opening statement from a somewhat vindicated and jubilant Rick Santorum.  Santorum found himself at the end of an incredible journey; a journey that included all of Iowa’s ninety-nine counties, three hundred and eighty-one town hall meetings.  The finish line showed Santorum losing Iowa by a mere eight votes but most would conclude that Rick Santorum was the big winner.

There may be more than three tickets leaving Iowa but quite a few are going to miss the plane.  Rick Perry finished in a disappointing fifth place behind Newt Gingrich, who also experienced some difficulties in the Hawkeye State.  Gingrich finished fourth, pulling just fourteen percent of the vote.  Also taking their place in the loser column is Michele Bachmann, who had a surprisingly disappointing showing in her former home state, capturing only five percent of the vote.

Although all the candidates put on their positive face while under the lights, the rumors are already flying.  Rick Perry is said to be returning to Austin to review his candidacy and most believe that Michele Bachmann could potentially drop her bid in the coming weeks and almost certainly after New Hampshire where she isn’t expected to have much of a showing.

Some other notable mentions go to Huntsman and Cain.  Surprisingly, write-in Herman Cain received fifty-eight votes and Huntsman, who forwent Iowa in favor of campaigning in New Hampshire, grabbed less than one percent with seven hundred and forty-five votes.

Mitt Romney was the official winner in Iowa.  While Mitt Romney dumped a truckload of money into the state, he still somehow only managed to beat Rick Santorum by a measly eight votes.  Keep in mind that Rick Santorum spent a total of just $30,000 on television ads in the state of Iowa.  Now Romney must deal with a surging Santorum, who just last week was sat in the low single digits in the polls.

The other winner tonight was Ron Paul who pulled out a third place finish with twenty-two percent of the vote.  While watching the returns tonight, I noticed an interesting statistic that I think many people missed.  At the beginning of the caucus coverage, entrance polls showed Ron Paul in the lead with over forty percent.  His disappointing finish shows an interesting development that I have noticed for a long time: people are apprehensive about selecting him.  This apprehension led to Ron Paul’s third place finish as his campaign picked up only half the support they expected.

A development worth looking at as well is that Newt Gingrich appears to be taking the gloves off with Mitt Romney.  The days of civil politics have ended in the Gingrich camp and he was repeatedly dubbed “the angry politician,” and with good reason.  His post-Caucus speech in Iowa referred several times to the “avalanche” of negative ads brought against him by the Romney camp.  Gingrich also gave mention to Rick Santorum and the positive campaign that he waged through Iowa, adding at the end that he wished he “could say that for all the candidates.”  The Gingrich camp wasn’t the only team being hit with mudslinging in Iowa.  Gingrich took out a full-page ad calling Romney a “timid Massachusetts moderate.”  Romney and Santorum weren’t the only ones to get a shout-out from Gingrich during his speech.  Gingrich also hit Ron Paul on his weak stance on Iran.  Personally, I think we are going to see a whole new Newt Gingrich in the coming days, as he brought forth a new pledge that “we are not going to go out and run nasty ads, we are not going to run thirty second gotchas”, while adding that he does “reserve the right to tell the truth.”

The end of the evening came with what only could be described as a moving speech made by Rick Santorum.  Santorum discussed his candidacy, family, reform plans, and his grandfather.  He told of how his grandfather essentially bought his freedom with his hard work when he moved to the United States.  Rick Santorum captivated the state of Iowa but more importantly he may have captivated the entire country.

In the coming days, Newt is certain to bring “the truth” about Mitt and Santorum is sure to get some much-needed financial support.  This perfect storm could potentially sink the S.S. Romney yet again.  The modern-day David and Goliath story that played out in Iowa was no doubt entertaining and riveting, but what does it mean?  Mitt Romney should be very afraid.  With Ron Paul still sure to pick up steam in the near future and Michele Bachmann, Jon Huntsman, and Rick Perry almost certainly sure to drop their bids, Romney, Santorum, Paul, and Gingrich will remain to vie for the nomination.

Look to New Hampshire to be a hard-fought, week-long battle; who will come out on top is anyone’s guess.

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Mark Mayberry // University of Tennessee at Chattanooga // @MarkMayberry85

For more coverage and commentary on Election 2012 go to Truth About Bills and TheCollegeConservative.  You can also find me on Twitter and Facebook.

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