Big win for Rick Santorum, the latest "not-Romney." Not so good for Romney who may not be as "electable" as he claims!
While it looks like Romney may eke out a win in Iowa by the slimmest margin on record the real winner in the contest was former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum. Few thought Santorum stood a chance. He had no money, rode around Iowa in an old pick up truck and spent what amounted to approximately $1.65 for each vote he received. By comparison, Romney and his Super Pac spent hundreds per vote.
Speaking of money and votes, Rick Perry spent as much in Iowa as Mitt Romney only to come in fifth. He's decided to go back to Texas and evaluate whether to continue his campaign. Perry's strategy of using mass media over more conventional tactics didn't work in Iowa as well as it has in Texas.
Most of Romney's money went to attack Newt Gingrich and that only forced would be Gingrich voters to switch to Santorum. It seems that no matter what Mitt does, he can't break above 25%. Four years after his second place finish in Iowa in 2008, Romney only gained about 100 more votes in the 2012 Caucus despite years of organization, planning and spending. Not exactly a good sign when it comes to claiming he is more electable than other GOP candidates.
Will Santorum have staying power when it comes to New Hampshire and South Carolina? Money will be pouring in to help Santorum in both states but much of the air time available has already been reserved by other candidates. Santorum will do well with evangelical voters in South Carolina but here the conservative vote may be split with Gingrich even if Perry drops out.
Santorum is reported to have some good organization in both states but it's hard to imagine that with all the time he has spent in Iowa (nearly 400 events) he has devoted the time required to build an organization that can compete with Romney who is much better funded.
South Carolina may be the final shakeout for the eventual conservative challenger to Romney in the remaining contests. That is unless Romney sweeps the board so decisively in the next few weeks that all other challengers fall by the wayside.
UPDATE: Michelle Bachmann drops out! That leaves Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich as the Romney alternative.
UPDATE 2: Rick Perry remains in the race? That might complicate the coalescing of strength around one conservative anti-Romney.