With 100% of the Iowa Caucus vote in, Mitt Romney edges out Rick Santorum by 8 votes.  Romney said in his remarks tonight that he considered this a victory for Santorum.  It would seem that Santorum emerges from Iowa as the clear conservative alternative to Mitt Romney, and in his speech said, “Game on.”

iowacaucusmap

Final results, well I was right… kind of… the winner had less than 25%.  Mitt Romney leaped (barely) over Santorum and Paul, so my top three was off.  I nailed Ron Paul’s percentage at 21%.  Gingrich, Perry and Bachmann all performed slightly worse than I expected.

  1. Mitt Romney – 24.5% 30,015
  2. Rick Santorum – 24.5% 30,007
  3. Ron Paul – 21.4%
  4. Newt Gingrich – 13.3%
  5. Rick Perry – 10.3%
  6. Michele Bachmann – 5%
  7. Jon Huntsman – 0.6%

Looking at the map above, the obvious story is that Santorum wins the rural vote, and was incredibly strong in Northwest Iowa and as you can see, he dominated the western two-thirds of Iowa.  He won the conservative counties.  For instance, Santorum won Marion County by 14%, Woodbury County by 5%, and Sioux County by 32%.  Mitt Romney won the counties that he needed to; he won by a large margin in Dallas County, just west of Des Moines and the fastest growing county in the state.  He also won Polk County, Pottawattamie County and Linn County.  Ron Paul, even with the tremendous support we saw  in Ames and Iowa City, failed to win Story and Johnson Counties.

Two things were Paul’s undoing:

1. He banked on younger voters and they did not come out for him like the campaign thought they would.  That could largely be due to the Iowa Caucus being held over Christmas break.

2.  He didn’t get the crossover vote like he expected.  While we don’t know the exact breakdown of caucus goers, and I’m sure this will be picked apart for some time, I believe an indicator of a crossover vote would be a huge turnout.  Turnout was good, a little more than 122,000, but I thought we would have needed to see more than that to really indicate a large crossover vote turnout.

Santorum won the pockets of rural voting, and he did it by running a text book campaign.  He also likely peeled evangelical voters away from both Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann.  Gingrich underperformed polling; some of his support may have gone to Romney.  He simply did not have the organization to get people out to vote.

Both Romney and Santorum have their tickets punched out of Iowa.  Paul does too, but even though his campaign is claiming victory tonight, the results in Iowa have to truly be disappointing for his supporters.  They thought they had a shot, and they fell convincingly short.

Though Bachmann she says she’s going on to South Carolina, she is finished.  There is no way she could salvage her campaign.  Perry has said he is going back to Texas to reassess his campaign, which is code for dropping out of the race.  Why would he want to continue after dropping over $3 Million and only getting 10%?  Gingrich said that since there is a virtual tie, he’s really in third place and got his ticket punched.  Nice spin, and I’m sure he’ll go on, but it will be difficult for him to prove that he is a viable candidate with a distant fourth place finish at 13% and zero money.

A week ago, Mitt Romney thought he had this wrapped up, and while yes, it was a win, it was hardly decisive considering just two weeks ago Rick Santorum was at 5% in the polls.  Should he win the nomination this illustrates that he has a problem with the base.  He needs to start communicating with them.

What to look for going forward:

1.  Conservative coalescing: If Bachmann and Perry get behind Santorum as the “anti-Romney” that will make him even more competitive in South Carolina.  South Carolina is a pretty conservative state, and while their Governor, Nikki Haley, has endorsed Romney her approval ratings right now are in the tank.  She may not be as influential with South Carolinian voters as many may think.

2.  A tightened race in New Hampshire: Skip Murphy, founder of the conservative New Hampshire blog GraniteGrok.com, told me tonight while we were both on Tony Katz’ radio program on All Patriots Media, that Santorum has the ability to make a dent in New Hampshire.  He’s visited the state a lot; his national campaign manager is from New Hampshire, and his manufacturing jobs plan has started to resonate in a state known for its manufacturing sector.  He has picked up some key social conservative endorsements such as the founder of Cornerstone Action, Karen Testerman; and Rev. Paul Berube of Grace Fellowship in Nashua, NH.

The dynamics of the race has shifted.

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