Last year was a busy year for the Republican candidates for president; it seemed as if they had a thousand debates. There was all the talk about who was running and who wasn’t. Polls began showing Governor Mitt Romney as the front runner, and then a series of other candidates rose up to Romney’s level only to eventually fall back ― with the last of those surging candidates has been Senator Rick Santorum. Despite all of this, the start of the presidential race didn’t officially occur until the January 3rd Iowa Causus.
The Iowa caucas started in 1972 when the Iowa Democratic Party moved its caucus to be the first in the nation. That year, George McGovern performed better than expected. Although he finished second in those caucases behind Edmund Muskie, the momentum slung him forward, and he went on to gain his party’s nomination. Four years later, in 1976, the Republican Party moved its caucus to the same date as the Democrats to join in the prominence that Iowa had gained. Candidates and media alike now view Iowa as the first real test of the presidential campaign.
This year’s caucus was extremely close with Romney barely winning. He finished eight votes ahead of Santorum with 122,255 voters having turned out. Unlike most elections where the winner is the person with the most votes, Iowa is more about expectations. Finishing first is less important than what people will read into it. Both Romney and Santorum finished strong and met or exceeded expectations.
Santorum worked hard and earned it. He personally visited all 99 counties in Iowa, and it paid off. This close second place finish has the media talking as much about him as the winner. Romney put less effort into Iowa this year, but still carried a lot support from four years ago when he ran for president and finished second in Iowa. Both candidates will receive massive media attention going into New Hampshire where Romney is expected to win easy. Having been the governor of Massachusetts and owning a home in New Hampshire, Romney has “home court advantage.”
Newt Gingrich finished fourth but faced heavy negative attacks along the way. After New Hampshire’s primary, the next primaries shift into the South where Gingrich is expected to be his strongest. He didn’t show well but can explain it away. Fourth place is where John McCain finished in these caucases four years ago before he went on to win the nomination. Expect Gingrich to stay in this race for awhile and also expect the negative campaigning to continue to attack him. He will throw a few elbows of his own.
Congressman Ron Paul showed very well finishing in third place but is still being questioned as a candidate that a majority of Republicans nationwide will support. Governor Rick Perry is rethinking his campaign after finishing in fifth place, and it is hard to see anything but disappointment with his showing. Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, who is a native of Iowa, finished in last place of the candidates who campaigned in Iowa. Governor John Huntsman did not put any effort into Iowa opting to go straight to New Hampshire.
So the final outcome of this year’s Iowa caucus is that we are back to where we were before they happened. Mitt Romney is at the front of the pack running neck and neck with Rick Santorum, who is the conservative alternative to Romney. If anything became clear, Iowa has probably knocked a candidate or two off of the bottom of the list, but it is still wide open for the top three or four candidates.
January 10th is the New Hampshire primary. Expect it to be an eventful week.
Iowa Caucus Results: