The Iowa Caucuses: Cold, Flat, and Crowded

Winners, losers, and drawers from last night’s caucuses, which have already claimed one candidate while leaving far more questions than answers.

Ron Paul

 

Winners

No one: 122,255 votes were cast, or slightly fewer than the number of votes cast in Chicago’s first ten wards in the 2011 mayoral election. Of those, four candidates can be said to have done reasonably well; the sixth-place finisher, Michele Bachmann, has already dropped out, and the fifth-place finisher, Rick Perry, either has or hasn’t suspended his campaign. As the great conservative-movement historian Rick Perlstein points out, the “plebiscite overseen by Gallup” usually amounts to mild entertainment preceding the eventual acceptance of the most acceptable candidate. The most recent exception was Barry Goldwater, which may have worked out well for the GOP in the long run, but was at the time a horrendous debacle.

Barack Obama: The Democratic Party put a lot of effort into the caucuses despite the fact that Obama is running unopposed (except for weak candidate Vermin Supreme and a couple others of less interest), and drew 25,000 supporters in what someone on Twitter called an “organizational test,” about 5,000 less than the essentially-tied GOP frontrunners. And as Steve Benen and Dave Weigel note, the final (Democrat-, independent-heavy) turnout barely exceeded their 2008 Bush hangover caucuses, not a great sign for the GOP.

Rick Santorum: I still don’t think that a candidate who promises to be the first president to come out against birth control will survive long in the primary season, much less one who has no money and no organization outside Iowa. Nonetheless, Santorum worked incredibly hard in the state on a shoestring budget, and ended up in a photo finish with the impossibly well-funded establishment candidate. My guess is that he gets pounded in New Hampshire, where he’s currently polling at Bachmann levels, but as a standalone achievement he should get due credit.

Mitt Romney: It’s his race to lose and… well, he didn’t lose.

Newt Gingrich: He won’t win, but he’ll continue to do well enough to get to keep speechifying, which makes him happy.

Buddy Roemer: I’m glad he has a sense of humor about the whole thing.

Push

The GOP: Still split between social conservatives, fiscal conservatives/libertarians/the rest of the heterogenous Paul constituency, and people who are willing to tolerate Mitt Romney for the purpose of avoiding a Barry Goldwateresque shellacking.

Mitt Romney: At least a few more rounds of trench warfare before the rest of the party declares surrender.

Jon Huntsman: Didn’t really try, finished with less than one percent of the vote, but he’s aiming to be the Rick Santorum of New Hampshire.

Losers

Ron Paul: If you believe Nate Silver’s primary projections, and they were impressively accurate yesterday, he projects as a second-or-third-place candidate from pole to post, about right for a candidate with a passionate constituency that has a very, very hard ceiling.

Michele Bachmann: Obviously.

Rick Perry: Shortly.

 

Photograph: Jeff Attaway (CC by 2.0)

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