The results as to how the Iowa Caucuses were going to pan out shifted throughout the primary season. The front-runners happened to be Mitt Romney and somebody else. It began with Michele Bachmann up until the straw poll, which she won, Rick Perry upon his entry into the race, Herman Cain from the time Perry began flubbing in the debates until his many extramarital affairs put a bad taste into the voters mouths, Newt Gingrich followed as sharing the front running status from Cain's demise until too much information flubbed out about Gingrich. By December, Ron Paul garnered some strength and Rick Santorum and his hard work ultimately paid off with some form of recognition.
The Iowa Caucuses came down to Romney, Santorum, and Paul, who finished in this respective order when the night was through. Unlike the 2008 caucus, where Mike Huckabee was projected the winner at 8:35 PM, this race went down to the wire. All three of these candidates stuck around in the 20% range and anyone of them could have had a chance to win. Ultimately, Mitt Romney won by eight votes and 25% of the vote. Rick Santorum also happened to garner 25% of the vote. Ron Paul finished in a strong third with 21%. Santorum happened to capture the similar evangelical, born-again vote that Mike Huckabee carried back in 2008. He surprisingly happened to also garner the Tea Party vote that many would believe would go to Ron Paul. On the contrast, Ron Paul held a strong amount of evangelical, born-again votes. Romney holds the vote on those who are not evangelical, born-again, as well as those who are looking for someone to defeat Barack Obama in the general election. These three candidates indeed come out of the night as the big winners, as the race for them was neck and neck and neck.
As for the others, Newt Gingrich got 13%, Rick Perry got 10%, Michele Bachmann got 5%, Jon Huntsman got 1%, and Herman Cain (who suspended his campaign) and Buddy Roemer picked up under 1% (which were simply double digits in votes). It was no surprise that Huntsman would have low numbers, because he didn't put any time into Iowa, but instead concentrated on New Hampshire. If there's anyone that comes out as a huge loser in the caucus, it's Michele Bachmann. Gingrich did worse than expected, but at least got into double digits. Perry was slipping in support as well, but at least won a few counties and maintained 10%. He could still have some form of comeback in South Carolina and has the tools to do so. Bachmann, on the other hand, had Iowa in a strong threshold in the Ames Straw Poll. Maybe making the double digits would have been somewhat decent for her campaign, but 5% just doesn't make a strong statement. She will be suspending her campaign and rightfully so, as South Carolina would have been her final chance for redemption. Chances are that redemption won't be.
New Hampshire is the next state. It looks like Mitt Romney has this state wrapped up, but we'll have to see what the margin will be. Ron Paul, Jon Huntsman, and Newt Gingrich will be the only other candidates that really contend in this state. Perhaps, Rick Santorum could come in with some form of strong showing, but it is very unlikely that he will make this a race to the end with Romney. He may garner stronger numbers than he intended to, but not enough to win the state. He'll likely just start concentrating on making South Carolina a competitive fight with Romney, Gingrich, and Rick Perry, who will likely concentrate on that state. If Rick Perry is unable to come up with strong numbers in South Carolina, then his race is over. It is unlikely that Huntsman comes up with big numbers in New Hampshire and will likely end his campaign following at best a 10% finish.
Ron Paul is somebody that should be taken more seriously than he has. He has been ignored by the media and dismissed as being a candidate without a chance. Well he came close to winning the caucuses and clearly has strong support from young voters. It is the young voters who will be living throughout the majority of the future, so what they have to say is pretty meaningful. Paul will likely stick around throughout each of the primaries, regardless as to whether or not Romney has been named the nominee (that's to say IF he is the nominee). Paul could contend in New Hampshire and in a few other vague states of which he holds strong support. It's about time that he is taken just as serious as every other candidate that's in the race and he has just as much a chance of winning the nomination.
There will be two debates before the New Hampshire primary, which will likely feature the six top candidates that remain. Plus the second-tier candidates such as Buddy Roemer and Fred Karger will likely drop out after coming in with little support. Roemer may pass 1%, but that's about it. Gary Johnson has already left the Republican party to join the Libertarian party. As for the six that remain, New Hampshire will be something to seriously look at. I will surely have some say about that primary after it occurs on January 10th. The piece may be written the next day, though.