Just a few quick reactions to last night's first in the nation honest to goodness voting, in terms of placement order:
Romney- A win is a win, even if only by 8 votes, and he's going on to New Hampshire, which he's overwhelmingly likely to win too. Double bonus! On the other hand, the fact that he just squeaked past Santorum, Paul was also in the 20s, another two candidates were at or above 10%, and he only barely got more votes in Iowa than in 2008 even after 4 years of campaigning is hardly a ringing endorsement. He's never going to win by ringing endorsement though, more by lack of credible alternative. Which probably will work for him in the end...
Santorum- I really think this is more like a flash in the pan. He just happened to get what every other anti-Romney missed by timing, a surge just before voting actually started. New Hampshire isn't going to be good territory for him though, which means he'll have a good two weeks of media scrutiny before getting to friendlier ground in South Carolina. And like Bachmann and Perry, he isn't especially well-suited to being in the spotlight. Even yesterday, past statements by him that will be a little too unpalatable to more centrist voters were starting to surface.
Paul- Doesn't get as much traction as first or second would have gotten him, but more than doubled his '08 vote. And he's going on to New Hampshire, where he can make a strong play for second as well. In any case, a candidacy like his can hang in there with less funds than any of the others. There's every chance he's positioned to remain some kind of presence up until the convention, which will be an interesting challenge for party leadership.
Gingrich- Coming in fourth isn't great, especially since he's poised to come in third or fourth in New Hampshire too. On the other hand, I wouldn't count him out. He's scrappy and wily. With Bachmann out and Perry possibly folding, if Santorum starts to shrivel over the next few weeks under media scrutiny, he could, by Super Tuesday, once again be the only credible anti-Romney. Of course, in the meantime, lack of funds and organization is preventing him from even getting on the ballot in some states, so he may not be able to capitalize on this turn of events even if it does occur.
Perry- Seems to be making contradictory statements about whether or not he's still in. It's hard to see how fifth in Iowa, and likely ending up there again in New Hampshire, is a prelude to a comeback. On the other hand, he's unique in having the funds to stay in as long as we wants, success or no. He can easily remain through South Carolina and even Florida. The only effect I can see that having though, is not positioning him for a breakout, but preventing Santorum or Gingrich from solidifying as viable alternatives to Romney.
Bachmann- Our first casualty of the actual election season. One thing I do like about her story is that she was never taken as a token candidate because of her gender. She was fully viable. Except for being batshit crazy. It shows how much room Hillary Clinton, and yes indeed, Sarah Palin too, opened up in 2008, which I think is good for the future of our republic no matter what party you're in.
Huntsman- I think it's actually remarkable he got votes at all, considering that he'd consciously abandoned the state. This shouldn't effect his decent shot at doing well in New Hampshire, but it's hard to see where he'd have to go from there.
And so, on to New Hampshire!