US elections 2012: winners and losers in the Iowa Republican caucus
IT WAS a great night for Rick Santorum, Mitt Romney and Barack Obama, but Newt Gingrich, Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann will not be celebrating.
1) Rick Santorum
The night's clearest winner was Santorum. It was a remarkable bounce from the doldrums where he had spent most of the campaign. With Rick Perry all but out and Michele Bachmann dead in the water, there are more social conservative votes for him to pick up in coming contests and the right may now coalesce around him as the non-Romney candidate. And just as crucially, the money will now start rolling in.
2) Mitt Romney
The final count may have been wafer-thin, but this was a state that his campaign considered a lost cause until a few weeks ago. Not to mention that four years ago, it was in Iowa that the wheels came off for Romney, despite lavishing funds on the caucuses. He may still have struggled to get past 25 per cent of the vote, but aides were satisfied with his showing in what they long viewed as unfavourable terrain. He now goes on to New Hampshire, where the only question is the margin of his victory. He remains clear favourite to win the nomination.
3) Barack Obama
A near-three-way split in the GOP field can only be good for the man currently in the White House. Team Obama is still convinced that Romney will be the nominee, but a slugfest in the meantime will keep them happy at his re-election HQ in Chicago.
1) Ron Paul
He had briefly led in the polls and believed that the organisation that he put in place four years ago on the back of his fervent support would win the state for him. It's a strong third place and he has the money and support and conviction to remain in the race, but this was probably his high point.
2) Jon Huntsman
A split finish in Iowa is probably as good as he can have hoped for as he watched in splendid isolation from New Hampshire.
1) Newt Gingrich
Less than a month ago, he was riding high in the polls, nationally and in Iowa, so fourth place was a major disappointment. Even though he just about lives to fight another day, and will have his eyes on Perry and Bachmann votes, his hope of blazing a trail towards the nomination from Iowa were scuppered.
2) Rick Perry
He spent money like it was going out of fashion after entering the race with a CV that seemed a perfect match for the race, but a poor fifth place has forced him to cancel his flight plans for South Carolina. Instead, he's gone back to Texas to "reassess". Expect a withdrawal from his home turf soon.
3) Michele Bachmann
Despite a cloud cuckoo-land caucus night speech, in which she suggested she might still be the next Michelle in the White House, her only achievement was the title of the night's biggest loser, just five months after she won the Ames straw poll in her home state.