What Iowa Means
Our experts weigh in on the result, and the road ahead.

Rick Santorum at his victory celebration following the Iowa caucuses, Jan. 3, 2012


Kellyanne Conway
The Iowa caucuses provide four big takeaways:

1) Mitt Romney’s ceiling is real.

2) Rick Santorum’s combination of family, focus, and shoe leather is a winning combination.

3) Rick Perry will drop out of the race before the “staff infection” that has ruined his campaign goes from toxic to fatal.

4) Newt (my client), who absorbed an avalanche of negative ads, will fight back with deeper, more direct contrasts and an exposé of distortions and flip-flops.

The night belongs to Santorum. The victory was richly deserved and it will be fun watching some journalists having to brush up on the Bible to cover so amiable a “Jesus freak.” He may be the first Italian to win the Iowa caucuses, which means both of our immigrant grandfathers are smiling.

But the big story ought to be Romney. He has all the king’s horses and all the king’s men supporting him, the print MSM and most segments on Fox News Channel in his favor, yet for the second time in four years, 75 percent of Iowa caucus-goers rejected him. Frontrunner? Sure. Electable? Maybe. Inevitable? Not so fast.

The race now will be fought in equal parts in New Hampshire, in South Carolina, and in Florida. The states are measurably different — in terms of demography and geography, education and unemployment rates, ideology and issues concerns. There will not be a sweep of these four early states so much as a struggle to coalesce conservatives and a scrum to prove which of the candidates is this millennium’s Ronald Reagan and this movement’s best hope to change Barack Obama’s day job.

— Kellyanne Conway is president of the polling company, inc. and a pollster/senior adviser to Newt 2012.

Jim Geraghty
To continue my anti-Iowa-caucus “jihad,” as Jonah called it . . . 

The Hawkeye State killed off the chances of a perfectly good candidate, Tim Pawlenty, in favor of his Minnesota rival Michele Bachmann, only to drop her like seventh-period Spanish by the time the actual caucuses rolled around. The caucuses weren’t even over when the Fox News Decision Desk could project, with confidence, that she would finish sixth out of six major candidates in the caucus. As of this writing, she is set to finish 5 percentage points ahead of Jon Huntsman, who effectively conceded the state. Put another way, she finished 6 percentage points ahead of you and me, and we didn’t even run.

With no seriously contested Democratic caucus to compete for the votes of independents, the caucus turned into yet another sales pitch for closed primaries. According to the entrance polls, 38 percent of caucus-goers had never voted in a GOP caucus before; of those, by far the largest share, 37 percent, voted for Ron Paul. Among the registered so-called independents who took part in the caucus, 48 percent voted for Ron Paul, way ahead of anyone else. Next highest was Romney with 16 percent.

Otherwise, it was a great night for Santorum, a slightly disappointing night for Romney (soon to be rendered moot by a big win in New Hampshire). The quality of the night for Ron Paul is hard to evaluate because he does not operate on the same laws of time and space as most on this earth. Tough night for Gingrich, really tough night for Perry, brutal night for Bachmann, and we’ll see if Huntsman has any life in him next week.

So . . . how about the Geraghty Plan to revise the order of the states in upcoming presidential cycles?

— Jim Geraghty writes the Campaign Spot blog on NRO.