Let’s look at each GOP candidate after Iowa caucuses

Few comments by David McCuan, Assistant Professor of Political Science, Sonoma State University.

The results of tonight’s first in the nation, Iowa caucus has one large element of surprise – the strong showing of former US Senator Rick Santorum and a smaller element of intrigue – what did we learn about who will surface as the real challenger for the GOP to former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney.

Let’s look at each in turn.

First, Santorum’s victory is important, if temporary and raises a number of important questions.  There is no question that tonight’s real winner out of Iowa is Santorum.  But questions begin now, fresh from the raucous caucus that is Iowa about what comes next for him and his campaign?  He has little in the way of a national or even regional operation in many other states, save South Carolina where evangelical voters can help him.  Romney has Money (M), national Organization (O), Resources (R), and Endorsements (E – continuing with John McCain on Wednesday who will endorse Romney).  That all equals M.O.R.E  But Santorum has Momentum and Spirit.  Big Mo’ is not to be underestimated for someone who has run a campaign on a shoestring budget for months.

Second, while New Hampshire presents strong ground for Mitt Romney – he should win there next week – several additional, more minor but still important storylines of the GOP nomination emerged.  Former Utah Governor Huntsman has a week to do well – he needs to do well in The Granite State (New Hampshire) as he put all his resources there.  Newt Gingrich declared war on Romney today and will Newt go negative and attack?  He has little to lose.  Will “movement conservatives,” social conservatives of national stature and fundraising prowess come to the aid of the Santorum campaign or sit it out a bit longer?  And, finally, what will happen with  independent expenditure campaign spending by ‘independent groups’ as we move towards the other primaries (NH, SC, NV, FL) through the rest of January?

It is possible that Santorum gets a ‘pass’ on the fights between Gingrich-Romney and the Huntsman moves, but just for a week or so.  He’s likely to get hit by the IE (Independent Expenditure) ads as we move past NH if he does well next week there.

Santorum will ride high – at least through South Carolina…then things get even more interesting.  Romney has almost his complete operation in Nevada from 2008 and Florida presents some real challenges.

Ron Paul can stay in this thing until May or June.  He is a thorn in everyone’s side, nothing more. Iowa was or is his ‘high water’ mark.

Bachmann, Perry, are out with Gingrich nipping on their heels.  Hunstman may be beat Gingrich out the door, but just barely so.

We learned all this from just about 120,000 GOP voters voting tonight in Iowa.  In one sense, this is but a tiny snapshot of what it takes to win the GOP nomination.  In another sense, it gets the ball rolling downhill for some (Big Mo’) and uphill for most of the candidates. Onto New Hampshire!

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