NEW YORK TIMES
The errors, absurd misstatements and unrelenting extremism [leading up to Iowa] were not the result of some “gotcha” moment in which a candidate was cornered in an interview or debate by a tricky (or maybe not so tricky) question. The Republicans have had months, millions of dollars and the advantage of there being no competing Democratic contest, to present the images of their own choosing — and they are dark and disturbing. … Primaries bring out the extremism in candidates, but this year seems much worse because the “center” of the Republican Party has lurched so far to the right.
INDECISION 2012: IN IOWA AND THE GOP
BY DANA MILIBANK
Much of the political world has come to regard Iowans as a bit flaky. … I disagree: The Iowa Republicans’ indecision captures perfectly the existential struggle within the GOP nationally and within conservatism. They don’t know what they want — or even who they are. Are they Tea Partyers? Isolationists? Pro-business? Populists? Moralists? Worried workers? Do they want the corporate caretaker (Romney), the oddball isolationist (Paul) or the cultural warrior (Santorum)? Tuesday night’s returns indicated that Iowans never did make up their mind, as the three men carved up the vote almost evenly.
A VIRTUAL TIE AND SOME BIG LOSERS
BY JENNIFER RUBIN
The talking heads, most especially the pro-Obama spinners and the anti-Romney conservatives, tried to spin this as a loss for Romney. But that fact that he got fewer votes this time than in 2008 (in a smaller field, when he spent millions more and camped out for months in the state) is indicative of, well, of nothing. He survived multiple challenges and effectively tied in a state that was not essential to his success. He remains the front-runner and will have to be toppled by one of the existing candidates, who will need to overcome Romney’s considerable advantages in funding and organization.
HUNTSMAN ON IOWA: ‘NOBODY CARES’
BY E.J. DIONNE
A voter gave [Jon Huntsman] the opening he wanted [at his New Hampshire town hall meeting Tuesday night] by asking Huntsman if he had a message for the winner of the Iowa caucuses. “A message for the winner of the Iowa caucuses?” Huntsman asked with a smile. “Welcome to the winner. Nobody cares.” … Huntsman hopes to be the Rick Santorum of New Hampshire — hard work for months combined with a surge at the end. After the Iowa result, it’s a hope that seems a trifle more realistic. Even if nobody cares about Iowa.
MARCO RUBIO HAS WHAT MITT ROMNEY NEEDS IN A VICE PRESIDENT
BY KATHLEEN PARKER
Obama inherited a bad economy, Rubio conceded, but, mathematically speaking, the country now is in worse shape with higher debt, unemployment and poverty. Rubio said that clearing these obstacles and creating a realistic plan to reduce the debt and deficit would lead to greater prosperity, which would lead to more jobs, which would mean more taxpayers and therefore more revenue for, among other things, Medicare funding and infrastructure repairs. You won’t find a Republican who doesn’t agree with this assessment, but you also won’t find any who can deliver the argument with greater passion or less-divisive rhetoric. This is the Rubio that Democrats should fear, and to whom Romney no doubt is well attuned.
THREE VERY DIFFERENT GOPS IN IOWA
BY E.J. DIONNE
The split in the Republican Party is no longer between conservatives and moderates, but between members of the party who are very conservative and those who are only somewhat conservative. … Romney’s constituency is Republican Classic. He was the candidate of the “somewhat conservatives” and did well with the moderates, particularly moderate Republicans. … Rick Santorum, as he hoped to, won a lot of the same vote that Mike Huckabee carried four years ago. Santorum is clearly the right-to-life candidate…[and] he was definitely the surge candidate. … Ron Paul’s vote was something altogether different. He won overwhelmingly among the young, and brought young voters into the caucuses.
THE HUNTSMAN BUZZ IN IOWA
BY ERICK ERICKSON
I think it was a big mistake for Huntsman to write off Iowa. Today I am convinced of it. Every time the subject come up with Iowans I encounter, not to mention other conservatives here for the Hawkeye Caucii, they lament what might have been Jon Huntsman. While I have issues with his record as Governor, it is much more conservative than Mitt Romney’s and he has a much, much greater cross-party and independent appeal than Mitt Romney. … But everyone closes their lament feeling Huntsman made a strategic decision to not ignore conservatives like Romney, but to give them the middle finger. … We have nearly reached the Rubicon when the ‘not Romney’ crowd is pining for Jon Huntsman.
GINGRICH COMMITS POLITICAL MALPRACTICE
BY MAJOR GARRETT
Gingrich must earn media attention he cannot buy. The only way to earn it is to roast Romney as a phony conservative and a poll-driven flip-flopper. The great risk for Gingrich here is that these lines of attack are already part of the Obama re-election playbook and may do nothing more than soften Romney up if, as many expect and the contours of the race suggest, he becomes the GOP nominee. … Now, as Gingrich faces a disappointing loss in Iowa, he’s attacking Romney as harshly as any Democrat. If Gingrich keeps it up, he may do little to improve his chances but add considerably to Obama’s anti-Romney highlight reel. Gingrich never intended this to be his legacy. Oops.