Iowa or bust? Last night's caucuses tell us so much and so little

Perry's out. Romney's embarrassed. Santorum won't follow through and Paul is now reaching. What now?

Iowa - where they pick corn, not presidents
On 4 January 2012 09:54

Barack Obama was able to send out a very honest email this morning, admitting faults and declaring that the race for the White House was truly underway.

The faults he chose to highlight and exploit however were not his, nor that of his fellow Democrats. Truthfully, the email stated that the Republican party is still unable to rally behind a candidate.

While not entirely unexpected at this stage in the race, it is a sticking point of concern for Mitt Romney that he's unable to vanquish his challengers for the GOP nomination despite a seven year head-start and a war chest that dwarfs that of even his closest rivals.

Last night, Iowa sent a message. It was garbled and incoherent, with about as much weight to it as an endorsement from Governor Buddy Roemer (who in case you were wondering, is still in the race and picked up thirty votes of a possible 122,000 last night).

In 2008, when Huckabee walked away with Iowa in his pocket and the McCain train was still in second gear, no one was quite as panicked. This is because of the nature of battling an incumbent Obama who can still out-fundraise the Republican nominee and who mathematically still has the upper hand.

Rick Santorum, the social conservative ex-Senator who gave Romney a run for his money last night, with only eight votes separating the two in first and second, is not an exemption that proves the rule that party base is ready to rally behind a candidate, but serves as an example to show that what kind of conservatism America wants is still anyone's guess.

Iowa is not particularly representative of wider America either. It is over 90 per cent white in population and focuses strongly on hogs and corn production. Something tells me Santorum won't be able to carry his Iowa 'victory' far beyond today.

Ron Paul on a similar note will find conversion of last night difficult, too. With so many of his fans dead set on a win in the Hawkeye state, he now has to claim to be 'part of the winning three' - a slightly reaching statement. While one in five voters in Iowa went Paul, it can be gleaned from the performance and entrance polling that these weren't the GOP faithful but rather first time voters and undecideds or floaters. Not a great look for Paul who is seeking to burnish his conservative credentials. 

New Hampshire is an entirely different animal and will come to a head next week in the first primary. Serious challenges have been mounted in the state by Romney and Huntsman. Don't believe me? Ask Karl Rove. Yesterday the former Bush advisor declared that the Granite state was a battle between the two Mormon candidates. He wasn't wrong.

I predicted last night on Twitter that we'd see another major drop out after Iowa. Much to the chagrin of my detractors... we have. Michele Bachmann, who went from winning the Iowa Ames Straw Poll last year, to finishing dead last of those competing last night might be assisted by Rick Perry's departure, or she may be convinced she's in the same boat. Time will tell. Though probably the latter.

In the meantime it's worth considering some wise words imparted to us last night by the only man not contesting the primary. "They pick corn in Iowa. They actually pick presidents here in New Hampshire."

Raheem Kassam is the Executive Editor of The Commentator and tweets at @RaheemJKassam

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