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There are political campaigns and there is Iowa. For the past six plus months the state of Iowa has been inundated with political operatives, political ads, and candidate robo-calls all leading up to tonight’s caucus vote.

People in Iowa did not go into voting booths to cast their ballots. In each Iowa voting precinct registered Republicans gathered in local schools, churches and community centers hear a representative from each candidate make a little speech. That is followed by discussion, arguments, cajoling (kind of like my house during Thanksgiving dinner. They are electing delegates to their county conventions, and each of the 99 county conventions will select delegates for both Iowa’s Congressional District Convention and the State Convention, which eventually choose the delegates for the National Convention in August. By time the state convention happens in mid-June the nominee is usually selected so the delegates usually rally behind the winner. In other words the Iowa caucus means very little.

So why have the candidates spent so much time in Iowa? There is an old political saying “there are only three tickets out of Iowa” In other words, usually after Iowa all but three candidates drop out. That will not happen this year. Usually after Iowa the focus is on New Hampshire as the first “real” primary, don’t look for that to happen. Mitt Romney has a huge lead in New Hampshire and the other candidates (except for Jon Huntsman) will give only cursory attention to the Granite state. This year it is more likely that the South Carolina primary will whittle the field down.

The expectation going into tonight was a three-way split between Romney, Paul and Santorum and the vote went almost as planned, a Romney/Santorum tie with Ron Paul coming in third.

The race came down to this, traditional conservatives leaned toward former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, Tea Party Republicans were split between Santorum and Ron Paul (the man who put they “Aryan” in Libertarian) and people whose first issue was electability favored Romney. In Iowa voters are allowed to declare their party affiliation the day of the caucus those voters went for Ron Paul. According to exit polls he only got 14% of the votes of people who were Republicans before tonight. Most of the next big state primaries are “closed” meaning they do not allow for last minute party switching—another reason why Paul will not be as successful in future states.

Romney got about a quarter of the vote in 2008 and about the same this time. On one hand it is a success for Romney because he barely spent any time in Iowa, only beginning to seriously campaign in the state two weeks ago, but on other hand it could also be seen as a failure as he wasn’t able to grow his percentage from 2008.

Paul’s strong showing does not translate to other states; Iowa is all about retail politics and organizations the Texas congressman excels at that, but in other states where the voting takes the more traditional form Ron Paul will not be able to be successful. Ron Paul spent millions of dollars in this state but was not able to expand his base especially amongst traditional Republicans another indication of his lack of appeal. Of course that will not deter Ron Paul, he will continue all the way to the convention which in the end will help Mitt Romney. With Paul and Santorum both going after the “not-Mitt Romney vote it allows Romney to slip through and win more primaries. Santorum was able to accomplish what he set out to do, not having anywhere near the money of the other candidates he waged a grass roots campaign hoping to be the “last not-Romney” standing, generating the momentum to take him into future states. As the old saying goes “be careful what you wish for..,” now that he has officially moved into the top tier his record will be placed under a microscope. When it comes to foreign policy, many of the former Senator’s positions seems to be a clumsy “shoot first ask questions later,” not very popular but not very well known as of now.

What’s next? Even though she claims she is staying in the race, I cannot see Michele Bachmann staying in the race. She is out of money and her weak showing will not allow her to raise more. Newt Gingrich will stay in at least through South Carolina, not because he thinks he will win, but because of revenge. It was the barrage of negative ads by the Romney super-PAC that drove Gingrich down from the top tier. In old-school politics as Joe Kennedy once said, “You don’t get mad—you get even.” And the former speaker is a big believer in old-school politics. For those who thought Iowa was nasty…fasten your seat-belts. its going to get worse.

Early in the evening I would have projected that even with a fifth place finish Governor Perry would have kept his campaign going at least through South Carolina testing his southern charm in the first major southern state primary. But late in the evening when he made his speech, he announced that he was going back to Texas to “think about next steps.” An indication that he may be ready to pull out.

When all is said and done the big winner in the Iowa caucus is Rick Santorum, coming out of nowhere over the last two weeks to come out basically tied for the lead. The question will be can he translate this win into momentum. The big loser is Ron Paul he had to win Iowa big to be seen as a legitimate candidate, third place doesn’t cut the mustard. The prediction here is after South Carolina the Texas Congressman will be back in his rightful place as a fringe candidate.

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