Paul's got legs, Romney feet of clay, and Santorum grew wings

Summary:This is why I love the sport of politics. To see something completely unexpected, to see a triumph of hard work and retail politics, is just incredibly cool -- whether or not you like the candidate.

Winning is winning is winning. That'll be the mantra of the Romney campaign -- at least until the players take to the field again in New Hampshire next Tuesday.

See also: CBS News election results

Romney "won" Iowa, if you think winning by eight votes is winning. That's less people than stood in line at the local Publix deli counter last week, while I waited for my thinly sliced prosciutto. Even so, to the Romney camp, winning is winning, even if it's by a nose.

See also: Are these really the best America has to offer? (Campaign 2012)

The real surprise was Rick Santorum. Most of us pundits had written of former Pennsylvania senator quite some time ago, and we were right -- until last Friday or so. That's when he started to surge, pulling out ahead of all the other conservatives, blasting by Bachmann, passing by Perry, galloping past Gingrich, and pole-vaulting over Paul.

If those eight people had voted differently, Santorum would have won.

This, by the way, is why I love the sport of politics. We'll discuss Santorum as a leader later, but for now I want you to understand just how cool it is, after months of studying stats and patterns, to see something completely unexpected, a triumph of hard work and the most retail of retail politics.

See also: Campaign 2012: Once every four years, I wish I lived in Iowa

Santorum doesn't have anywhere near the campaign warchest of his rivals. Instead, he just drove himself around Iowa and pretty much met everyone in the state, met them in person, heard their stories, and told them his. That's actually what politics is supposed to be about. Like his positions or not (and I'm not a fan, frankly), you have to respect the process and the effort.

Santorum pulled off quite the upset and he has every right to crow about it.

While Romney and Santorum each got 25% of the vote, Paul came in a more distant third, with only 21%. Almost 4,000 fewer people voted for Ron Paul than Romney and Santorum.

While Iowa's only one state in 50, it's the first state with elections and we're going to start to see drop-offs if the other candidates don't make the leaderboard pretty darn soon.

So what does this mean for each candidate? Let's take a visit to our rogue's gallery yet one more time.

Mitt Romney

Mitt Romney comes out of very conservative Iowa with a win (barely). Even so, it's enough to keep up his momentum as he heads into New Hampshire next week. New Hampshire, where he has a home, and next to Massachusetts, is most likely a lock for the wealthy New Englander.

If Romney falters in New Hampshire, then he's in trouble. But that's actually highly unlikely and if he leaves New Hampshire with two wins under his belt, he's going to be very hard to unseat, especially as the other candidates start losing monetary support.

This is my first call of the 2012 election, but it's looking increasingly likely that Romney will be at the head of the 2012 ticket. That's not going to make a lot of conservatives happy, but given that a resounding 48% of those polled in Iowa think he can defeat President Obama, even the arch-conservatives will probably rally around him.

See also: What was Mitt Romney trying to hide by destroying hard drives?

Rick Santorum

Rick Santorum was yesterday's complete surprise. He resonated strongly with Iowa's Christian conservative voters. According to CBS polling data, a full 56% of Iowans identify themselves as White evangelical/born-again Christians. A full 33% of these people voted for Santorum.

This is actually quite odd. Although Santorum has come out strongly conservative, advocating teaching both "intelligent design" and "teaching the controversy," he's actually a Catholic, not a born-again evangelical. Many evangelicals are somewhat uncomfortable with Catholics, and given that Perry and Bachmann are evangelicals and Ron Paul is a Baptist, you would have thought that the evangelicals would have sided with one of those three.

Santorum is now on the map, and expect him to raise more money now that he's actually shown such an impressive game. That said, he's unlikely to score well in New Hampshire. The following week is South Carolina, and after that Florida, and if putting theology before science resonates anywhere, it's in the deep south.

Here's another early prediction: the GOP ticket will be Romney/Santorum.

Ron Paul

Ron Paul proved he has legs. He scored almost as well as Romney and Santorum and, statistically at least, it's a three-way race. Paul appeals to young libertarians and stands a fair chance of doing well next Tuesday in New Hampshire.

This is hammer time for Ron Paul. He has to show strong in New Hampshire to keep going. Most GOP strategists have already counted Paul out as unsustainable, but his showing in Iowa shows he's got some legs. He has a broader appeal than Romney, and so has a chance of a good showing in South Carolina and Florida.

Romney and Paul do not get along. Don't expect there to be a Romney/Paul ticket. If Ron Paul is going to make it to Pennsylvania Avenue, he's going to have to make it happen in the next three weeks. The good news is the Tea Party likes Ron Paul (a lot) and doesn't like Romney (a lot). So, if they can mobilize, there may be a game here.

Newt Gingrich

Newt did not show as well as he could have. Newt came in fourth in a three-man race. He pulled in 13% of the vote, half of each of the front-runners.

Professor Gingrich has a bit of a retail politics problem. The more people get to know him in person, the less they like him. He's brash and egotistical (and yes, that means he has an open party invitation here at Camp David), but that doesn't go over well in polite company.

While I don't think there's much chance he'll nab the nomination unless Romney does something extremely, Herman Cain/John Edwards-level stupid (and that's not Romney), there's a pretty good chance Gingrich will continue to play Candidates-R-Us, at least for the next few months. Gingrich is powered, not as much by outside money, as by an internal fire and love of the stage, and the former Speaker is likely to hang onto that stage for as long as possible.

Gingrich and Romney do not like each other, and Gingrich wouldn't do anything to enhance the Romney ticket, so don't expect him on the Veep short list.

Rick Perry

Rick Perry scored 10% in Iowa. He's done. He screwed up in the debates. In a white, conservative, highly evangelical state, he scored below a Catholic and a Mormon from the Northeast. That's not good.

He may be a walking corpse in New Hampshire, but unless he takes it all in South Carolina, it's time to pack him and whatever that crap is that he puts in his hair, and send him back to Texas.

Noon update: According to CBS News, Perry is "reassessing". He need to reassess this fact: He's done. Put a fork in him.

Michelle Bachmann

There's no good news this morning for Michelle Bachmann. She was born in Iowa, has put a tremendous level of effort into Iowa, and scored all of 6% of the vote. She's already running a shoe-string election, and this won't help.

She may have enough money left for plane fare to New Hampshire, and it's not a bad car ride down to South Carolina and Florida, but unless she gets some sort of divine intervention, she's toast.

If Romney calculates he wants to go with a woman veep, there's a chance it might be Bachmann. But there's also a good chance he'd go with a woman who's a little less out there.

Frankly, I think Bachmann's dead and she knows it.

Noon update: That was quick. She's out. CBS News has the details.

Jon Huntsman

Jon Huntsman made a deep tactical mistake. Because he knew he wouldn't really appeal to Iowa voters, and because he has a limited war chest, he decided to devote it all to New Hampshire.

Bad. Bad move.

All night, Jon Huntsman showed up on the Iowa results at about 1%, bottom of the charts, bottom of the barrel. Yes, the case could be made that he didn't campaign in Iowa, but that's tilting at windmills. He's running for the presidency and in the first election, he didn't show up to play.

Once you score at the 1% level, voters in other states aren't going to resurrect you. I'd be surprised if he makes it out of single digits in New Hampshire. Huntsman will be gone by February first.

He and Romney might make for a good ticket if Romney wanted someone qualified to be president in the number two slot. But when you're running against an incumbent president, you don't want that. You want someone who'll compensate for your weaknesses, and two billionaires aren't how you compete against a guy raised by a single mom and comes from Detroit. Huntsman will not be Romney's Number 2.

On to New Hampshire

So there you go. The field is already shaking out. There's another debate this weekend, so there's yet another chance for Rick Perry to say or do something stupid.

Don't say I didn't warn you!

Topics: Telcos

About

In addition to hosting the ZDNet Government and ZDNet DIY-IT blogs, CBS Interactive's Distinguished Lecturer David Gewirtz is an author, U.S. policy advisor and computer scientist. He is featured in The History Channel special The President's Book of Secrets, is one of America's foremost cyber-security experts, and is a top expert on savi... Full Bio

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