Posted at 5:09 PM on December 31, 2011
by Emily Kaiser
Filed under: Iowa
The National Journal's Ronald Brownstein takes a look at what Iowa's results mean for Mitt Romney's competition going forward:
The biggest issue is not who wins -- but whether the results create an alternative to Romney capable of competing seriously against him in other states. If the caucuses fail to do that, the results will solidify the advantage that Romney has reestablished in the race, no matter the order of win, place and show.
The two Iowa surveys released this week (from CNN/Time/ORC and NBC/Marist) have each shown Romney, Ron Paul and Rick Santorum in the top three. Senior Romney advisers argue, convincingly, that if those three ultimately constitute Iowa's top tier the order in which they finish won't matter much: any of those combinations would benefit Romney. The reason is that such a finish would deny an Iowa boost to Newt Gingrich or Rick Perry.
Each man, for all of his struggles in the race, still probably has more residual potential to attract a broad coalition against Romney in other states than Paul or Santorum. But given the wounds Gingrich and Perry have accumulated (many self-inflicted), neither is likely to revive enough to present such a threat without a strong injection of momentum from Iowa. Even that might not be enough to really earn them a second look in other states, but without such a boost their odds of making a last stand against Romney could dwindle toward the microscopic.