I originally intended to write this last night after the results came out....and then that turned out to be at almost 2 in the morning. Added to the late finish, the results were kind of a mixed bag and so I decided to sleep on them. So with the benefit of a few hours sleep, here's what I think:
Perry is Done and That's Bad for Romney
Which is probably a good thing, because I thought Rick Perry suspending his campaign and essentially dropping out of the race was actually one of the biggest things to happen last night....and then this morning he announced he was back in the race. Last night I would have told you that Perry dropping out of the race was going to help consolidate the Not Romney vote much earlier than expected and that can't be good for Mitt Romney. While Perry's announcement this morning that he's back in the race obviously dilutes that, he'll still be out after South Carolina and I can't imagine he doesn't take a hit in the polls from supporters who moved on to their second choice last night.
Newt Gingrich is on a Suicide Mission
Mitt Romney spent $4 million attacking Gingrich in Iowa and probably cost him a win there. In his speech last night, it's pretty clear that Gingrich took that personally. He basically admitted that he can't win the nomination anymore, but he's staying in to destroy Mitt Romney. Which is bad for Romney in at least two ways. First, it gives Santorum some breathing room to establish and introduce himself to the nation without having to worry about going negative against Romney right out of the gate. And second, Newt Gingrich is a man who shut down the Federal government because he felt slighted by the seat Bill Clinton gave him on Air Force One, and he pretty much invented the modern conception of scorched earth politics. Candidate Gingrich was probably a mild annoyance to Romney, Crazy Dude with a Blood Feud Gingrich could actually be a threat.
Ron Paul will Never Leave Us
Coming in 3rd and breaking 20% were a big deal for Ron Paul. Not actually for the rest of us, but he was positively euphoric last night. While his performance in Iowa is not going to cause the media to give him a second (or even really first look), it's pretty clearly cemented in his own mind that he's a contender. It was already likely that he wasn't going to drop out of the race until the convention, now it's a certainty. And while I've predicted that he wouldn't run Third Party to protect his son's aspirations, the Republican Party needs to be careful of how they transition him out of the race because after last night's high, if Ron Paul feels that the nomination is 'unfairly stolen from him' he just might be crazy enough to screw over Rand.
I Still Have a Career
I absolutely loathe Rick Santorum as a human being. That said, he's the only candidate that ran a traditional grassroots Iowa campaign and he tied a guy who spent literally 10x as much in the state as he did. There's been a lot of talk of how this Primary may prove that traditional organizing is unnecessary and you can win by just running a national campaign. And Rick Santorum proved that wrong, and that every single vote matters. So that's pretty cool.