I don’t get obsessed with politics the way the 24 hour cable news media does. The end results will speak for themselves. Reading auguries and following every irrelevant twist and turn until game day seems a huge waste of mental energy.
Romney won Iowa, but just barely. Eight votes in fact. (Notice how in Republican primaries you don’t see anyone demanding recounts or complaining how they were too stupid to figure out the ballots.) Santorum, of all the anti-Romney candidates, made a last minute rally, beating out Bachman, Perry, Paul, and Newt who have all been switching places as the “conservative” candidate. Other than perhaps Bachman, he’s the best of that bunch. He’s weak on immigration and, like Bachman, a little too interventionist and fanatically pro-Israel for my taste, but overall he has had a good track record as a conservative. He seems more sober in tone and intelligent than the alternatives. Of course, folks seem to forget he got walloped in his home state of Pennsylvania a few years ago, which is not a rousing endorsement for national candidate potential. At least they were able to figure that out re: Newt.
One of the worst things in Iowa and a few other states are the “open” primaries. A political party is picking its candidates, when the other party has a candidate locked up. Nothing stops independents and in some places Democrats from coming along and purposely spoiling our races or simply voting their minds and picking a candidate highly unreprensentative of Republican views. CNN’s data showed that nearly half of Paul’s supporters in Iowa were a) 18-29 and b) registered Independents. The influence and confusion created by these various non-Republican voters in the Republican primary do much to dilute the quality of choices that would otherwise be much starker in the general election. Also, insofar as Romney is concerned, this is probably a net positive as he seems the most palatable to independents of an ordinary nonpartisan, moderate streak, whereas Paul appeals to those truly alienated with the mainstream.