Talk about a photo finish. Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney ended up with a mere
1 8 (!) votes separating them as of 1:20 3:00 a.m. EST. After a see-saw night, Romney prevailed, but the story is Santorum.
Santorum’s historic comeback can be attributed to three key factors: he slogged his way through every Iowa city, town and, hamlet over the last few months – something no one else did; the super PAC supporting Santorum peaked at exactly the right time, with the necessary air support; and the Romney super PAC did a very good job of undercutting Newt Gingrich. (It also helped that Santorum’s opponents all but ignored him, allowing him to escape the Negative Ad Holiday Spectacular with few bruises.)
No single factor made the absolute difference; his near-victory required this perfect trifecta (plus one).
New Hampshire will be interesting. Romney almost certainly will win, but Gingrich will be looking to avenge his thrashing at the hands of the Romney super PAC. Santorum will get a bounce, but it’s going to be very muted. Ron Paul will manage a 2nd or 3rd place win.
Then there’s South Carolina, and it could determine the nomination. Gingrich is polling strong there, and Romney will struggle. If Santorum uses his win in Iowa to leverage a big push in South Carolina (again at Newt’s expense), we could end up with a
Santorum-Romney-Romney-Santorum result after the first three contests and that makes Florida a complete wild card.
This certainly won’t be boring.