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Super PACs, vests and the start of 2012

There really wasn't enough time to recover from the holidays with the 2012 election officially kicking off at the Iowa caucuses on Tuesday.
Rick Santorum (and his sweater vest) campaigning in Manchester, New Hampshire on Friday.
Rick Santorum (and his sweater vest) campaigning in Manchester, New Hampshire on Friday.

There really wasn't enough time to recover from the holidays with the 2012 election officially kicking off at the Iowa caucuses on Tuesday. Here's a look back at that close vote, the super PAC controversy, endorsements and sweater vests we talked about over the past few days.

Super PAC's come out of the shadowsAttack ads. Campaign contributions. Dark alleys. Controversy!

Mitt Romney Finishes First In Iowa...BarelyEight votes....that's all that separated Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum on Tuesday night after the nail-biter Iowa caucuses finally came to an end.

Rick Santorum's sweater vest phenomenonNot since Doug Funnie has someone rocked the sweater vest the way Rick Santorum has. In the final weeks leading up to Iowa, Santorum became the first candidate to hit all 99 counties in the state. While most would agree it was the candidate's old-school campaign style that helped propel him to within eight votes of Mitt Romney on Tuesday night, there are some out there who credit  his preference for sweater vests.

Michele Bachmann withdrawsIt didn't take long for Michele Bachmann, the most recent winner of the Iowa straw poll, to drop out of the race after her poor showing during the caucuses.

Gingrich Launches AttacksWhat a difference a month makes. With the help of negative advertisements, Newt Gingrich went from 33% to 19% in the polls in under four weeks. The under-funded former Speaker of the House just couldn't recover from an onslaught of negative ads launched by the pro-Mitt Romney super PAC Restore Our Future. In his speech following a 4th place finish in Iowa, Gingrich made it clear that he was going to do all he could to prevent Mitt Romney from becoming the Republican nominee. Newt's latest attack ad on Romney can be found here.

The McCain's Endorse Mitt RomneySenator John McCain came out in support of his former rival during the 2008 Republican primary. According to his daughter, msnbc contributor Meghan McCain, everyone in their family supports Mittens.

THE WEEK AHEAD...

DebatesThere will be two Republican presidential debates this weekend, including the NBC News-Facebook debate, moderated by Meet the Press' David Gregory and will be broadcast on NBC and msnbc. We like.

New Hampshire primaryIowa was just the beginning. msnbc's coverage of the New Hampshire primary starts this Tuesday at 6pm ET.