I'm a little surprised at the results coming in. This is the first actual poll that counts. New Hampshire is next January 10th, followed by South Carolina on January 21st and Florida on January 31st.
The Iowa caucuses count. They count more for momentum than anything else, but unlike the phone polls, these are binding and have a larger sample size. These are the actual votes.
There IS no recount. The result with 99% in is a likely very narrow victory for Mitt Romney. I say likely, because who knows what that 1% does.
1st - Mitt Romney - 25% - 30,015
2nd - Rick Santorum - 25% - 30,007
3rd - Ron Paul - 22% - 26,219
4th - Newt Gingrich - 14% - 16,251
5th - Rick Perry - 11% - 12,604
6th - Michele Bachmann - 5% - 6,073
7th - Jon Huntsman - Less than 1% - 745
8th - Herman Cain - Less than 1% - 58
Rick Santorum's results surprised me, and I'll admit a major bias against his chances due to 2006. He had very little money, but he outworked most candidates in Iowa. He's legitimate now in this election. The question is if he can sustain it going into New Hampshire and South Carolina. Mitt Romney is going to go after him. That's what sunk Gingrich and dropped him to 4th. It may have an impact on Ron Paul as well.
1. Santorum - His late surge put him in the picture. He has a chance to be the "anti-Romney" candidate at the time it counts. He did this with almost no money. Eight votes away, and if there was a recount, could have made this even more interesting.
2. Romney - He wasn't contesting Iowa until late. He didn't bomb here. He didn't need to win here. New Hampshire is where he needs to win to stay around. His win here helps.
3. Paul - He's going to be a pain in the arse to the elites. Again. This year.
As for others, that doesn't mean they lost a chance for the nomination, but at best, they are going to have to fight against national momentum from Iowa with the next primary/caucuses. Some like Giuliani (2008) don't recover. At worst, they're done because of this. Those that lost here have added pressure in New Hampshire and South Carolina, as well as Florida.
The question is what happens next? Do the rest of them stay in, and if so, for how long? Perry said he's going to go back to Texas and think about the results and make a further decision.
Once again, Romney can't break that 30% barrier, although neither can anyone else. He wasn't expected to really in Iowa, but he's got nearly all of the establishment in his corner, Foxnews in his corner, the pundits in his corner, and most of all elite level of organization and monetary support. On paper, he should run away with this. This is the "strong" candidate. This is the guy who is supposed to supposedly beat Obama. He's now essentially tied another candidate out of nowhere, and was viewed as dead in the water. Every time a candidate implodes, another one rises in the polls against Romney. This time it is Santorum. Out of nowhere, he almost beats Romney. If your campaign is based on being "the electable" one, you better do what Bush did in 2000 after the early scare and not be John McCain in 2008.
This is going to possibly be a long primary season, especially if it narrows into a three way fight with three different bases. If Santorum can solidify himself as THE one single "anti-Romney" candidate who isn't Ron Paul, it will be an interesting primary, and there will be no "inevitable" nominee, regardless of the wishes of the establishment. Romney will have to at best, earn this. That's good. That's why we have primaries.
On the same note, for all the folks against Romney, nobody there has caught on. I wonder if Pawlenty wishes he did not drop out.
As for Santorum, my concern with him is that he got trounced in 2006 by 18% to Bob Casey Jr. He went too native and Virginia instead of Suburban Pittsburgh and it cost him. That's weakness, and a big one. However, he also won elections he had no business winning on paper. He won a Pittsburgh area district in 1990 which was democrat for 12 years, and survived redistricting. In 1994, his district went democrat by 10% to Mike Doyle (still in Congress) when he won a US Senate seat (easier than his congressional district) in an upset over an incumbent democrat. He won re-election in 2000. He's won tough elections in the past as well as lost. However, he's also an ex-senator, and we know how many US Senators have become presidents. Harding, Obama, Kennedy, Nixon, LBJ, Harrison, and Andrew Johnson are the only ones in the modern political system post 1860.
New Hampshire's next. Romney needs to probably run away with this one in his backyard. If not, he's in big trouble. Santorum needs to at least place here in less friendly territory for him as New Hampshire has a bit of a libertarian and paleo conservative streak. Ron Paul could surprise a lot of people here.
South Carolina is unfriendly to Romney in the primary so there isn't high expectations for him there. Santorum will have to do well there or Romney will probably win the entire thing Snyder style due to split votes. If Romney wins here, I think he's got it.
The actual race has begun. So far the official standings are:
Romney - 13 Delegates
Santorum - 12 Delegates
Rest - 0