Well... we're finally underway... the 2012 Presidential Election cycle has officially started with the holding of the Iowa caucuses this past Tuesday (3 January).
This is the fourth Presidential Election cycle of the life of The Green Papers and, in three of these four (all except the first one , perhaps: back when things were new to us and we were just learning how to go about collecting and providing the kinds of information we have since posted to our website), it seems always the same: one cannot wait for the first of the presidential nomination contests (for the pre-Primary/caucus period- taking up much of the year immediately preceding that of the Presidential Election itself- seems to just about drag on forever) and then- seemingly rather suddenly- the first National Convention delegate selection events are actually upon us and we are all "off to the races" (and it matters not whether the presidential nomination races be wide open in both Major Parties [as was the case back in 2008] or in just the Democratic Party  or the Republican Party only [as is the case now, in 2012]).
But, nonetheless, here we are and it is now time for me to (yet once again) look back at the results of the Iowa caucuses and, from them, ahead to the New Hampshire Primary and even at least a little beyond!
For Mitt Romney, the good news is that he won the Iowa caucuses (well-- uh-- sort of!): for he is clearly (despite Iowa being a virtual tie between himself and Rick Santorum) now the "front runner" (if we now factor in the expectation that he will, indeed, win the New Hampshire Primary next week [Romney has been leading in the polls there, plus he still has obvious 'name recognition' from his service as Governor of neighboring Massachusetts within the past decade])...
the bad news, however, is that Governor Romney didn't win the caucuses outright (in the sense of not putting significant distance between himself and the immediate trailing candidate, Senator Santorum)-- for, not only is there that "virtual tie", but gaining some 25% of the caucus vote also means that three out of every four caucus-goers did not prefer him as the potential Republican presidential nominee! This, in turn, implies a significant "ABR" [Anyone But Romney] stream within the Republican Party- not just in Iowa, but generally throughout the Grand Old Party nationwide. Romney's winning New Hampshire (as is expected as I type this) will only more whet the appetites of the 'ABR' crowd-- and being the "front runner" often means that, at least early on in the pre-Convention Primary/caucus "season", you're the first one to have eggs and rotten tomatoes thrown at you by that crowd as you now lead the "parade"!
Therefore, and despite Romney's very narrow victory in Iowa, the biggest winner coming out of the caucuses is Rick Santorum.
At the very end of my previous Commentary, I wrote the following:
Having said all this, just watch Senator Santorum win the Iowa caucuses next week! ;-)
While I'd like to take credit for so closely accurate a prediction (and I did note Senator Santorum's surge in the Iowa polls leading up to the caucuses where, in an addendum to that piece acknowledging the latest polling data so soon after that Commentary had been posted, I wrote- in boldface:
Hmmmm... perhaps Senator Santorum can win the Iowa caucuses, after all! )...
it is altogether obvious that my tongue was very much in cheek (a "winky" emoticon being something of the proverbial "dead giveaway", one would think)- although I was attempting, in something of a humorous way, to indicate just how volatile the whole Republican presidential nomination race actually is, at least early on.
So, despite the former Pennsylvania Senator doing so well, the question yet begs: does Santorum, indeed, really have a chance?; or is he, in fact, merely still advancing a (mostly sociocultural) conservative agenda that has... become lost in the hands of the other Republican presidential hopefuls? It is probably this last that so propelled him to (near) victory in Iowa but does his doing so (in an election cycle in which economic- and not sociocultural- considerations are more to the fore in general political discourse) have real staying power (that is: to bring Santorum even the possibility- let alone a probability- of winning his Party's presidential nomination)?... or is Santorum simply now playing the role of "Mike Huckabee" (the Iowa victor four years ago) to Mitt Romney playing "eventual GOP nominee John McCain" in this particular 2012 version of the "GOP presidential nomination movie"?
Santorum is clearly, at the very least, today's "non-Mitt Romney" du jour- the latest in a long line going back through Newt Gingrich- Herman Cain- Rick Perry- Michelle Bachmann throughout at least the second half of 2011 now into earliest 2012... but is he at all much more than this? Or will I only end up, yet once more, writing- sometime during this coming Spring (later, if not sooner)- of Senator Santorum: why is he even running?
New Hampshire- along with South Carolina and Florida soon beyond- will go a long way to determining the answer to that question (even before the new "Super Tuesday" come 6 March)!
At least we all know why Ron Paul is running! For he represents an ever-noteworthy (yet, at the same time, always minority) libertarian faction within the Republican Party, a faction that has never ever found favor with either most of the Republican Party elite nor, for that matter, the majority of the GOP rank-and-file across the Nation as a whole (largely because Libertarianism is not Conservatism [but to well explain this would require a whole other Commentary... hmmmm... maybe next week or so! ;-)]).
The good news for Ron Paul is that he came in a solid third behind Romney and Santorum... the bad news for Ron Paul is that he came in a solid third behind Romney and Santorum: that is, he didn't win (or even share in that "virtual tie" atop the Iowa "standings"). All Congressman Paul did was show he can do really, really well... in a caucus State.
Ron Paul winning Iowa would've truly "shocked the world" (though he would then still have had to go on to show he could win- or at least do well- in a Primary State [starting with New Hampshire], in any event); instead, Paul's third-place finish in Iowa well engenders the phrase "well... what did you expect?"
In the battle for a Major Party presidential nomination, the worst thing you can do is to not make any real news!
Newt Gingrich sure made news... though surely not of a kind he would prefer!: this via his slipping so badly, where not also so publicly, in the pre-Iowa polling day after day after day and, in the end, finishing but fourth in the caucuses... but at least the former House Speaker was not the biggest loser coming out of Iowa, for which he can be rather grateful (and so we will have to come back to Mr. Gingrich later on in this piece)!
No, the biggest loser coming out of Iowa this time round was, obviously, Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann- for she got knocked right out of the GOP nomination race: a race she- truth be told- should not even still have been in by the recent change in year in any event (given the way she handled herself- as well as her presidential campaign- in the months since she topped the Ames Presidential Straw Poll in Iowa back in mid-August). The worst you can say about Mrs. Bachmann's campaign of late that she well became the "poster child" for "Believing the Truth of your own Press Releases"; the best you can say about her finishing the poorest amongst the top tier Republican presidential contenders (Jon Huntsman here excepted, since it is- as I've noted in my previous Commentary- clear he has been working New Hampshire to the detriment of any real chance for him to have done well in Iowa [again, former Ambassador Huntsman has to win in New Hampshire or he's likely out!]) is that it seems now, in hindsight, to have been so inevitable!
The demise of Bachmann's presidential aspirations was, obviously, all good news for Rick Perry. Governor Perry at least can make something of a "last stand"- assuming it comes to being such a thing- in South Carolina (where there is still no little opposition to Mitt Romney, opposition that might even get at least a little more vociferous now that Romney has gained the mantle of "front runner" [and keeps it, assuming- again- a Romney victory in New Hampshire]); South Carolina is going to end up being a battle between Perry and Santorum (and even Newt Gingrich, provided that Gingrich's presidential campaign even survives the Granite State [of which more shortly]) over who the real "anti-Romney" in what might remain of a competitive Republican presidential nomination race actually is...
simply put: Perry's campaign yet lives to fight another day (as well as in an arena of his own choosing: South Carolina, a State presumably far more friendly to Governor Perry's Texas-style conservatism).
Now back to former Speaker Gingrich who is now in the best of positions (considering his political "free fall" re: Iowa), yet also- at the very same time- in the worst of positions-- for he is, for the time being, well "caught in the middle" (he now has to do well in New Hampshire, finish second outright in the Granite State [and a strong second at that!: close enough to Romney (again, if only for sake of this particular argument, assuming a Romney victory next week), yet distant enough ahead of all the other trailing candidates (Gingrich can't merely the first among a bunched-up "back of the pack")] simply in order to well survive the vagaries of the archetypal "Live Free or Die!" New Hampshire Republican voter [and keep in mind that independents can vote in either Major Party's Primary in New Hampshire, something that further aids Mitt Romney-- the question here being: can this little variant in the Granite State's Presidential Primary law also aid Gingrich to the detriment of hard-core conservative Rick Santorum [or even Rick Perry!] and hard-core libertarian Ron Paul [the general rule being that independent voters tend to be less attracted to ideology than Party supporters]?).
Here assuming, once more, a Mitt Romney victory in New Hampshire this coming Tuesday, the Presidential Primary on the Republican side now boils down to these simple questions: who finishes second? and how close a second? As the candidate who does so is the real "winner" (if only for purposes of being able to fight on as the principal "Anyone But Romney" contender, if only pending the outcome in South Carolina) in New Hampshire this time round...
and, as for the fate of the candidate who might finish third up there?--- well--- the answer to that one will simply make the potential content of my next Commentary that much more intriguing, won't it?...
unless, of course, the polls of likely GOP voters in the Granite State are all wrong and Governor Romney actually loses next Tuesday!
After all, the 2012 Republican presidential nomination has not been decided... that is: yet!!