Let me wrap up my early morning post-Iowa ramblings by analyzing the upsides and downsides for each Republican candidate in light of the results. All observations may be superseded by the next primary or caucus.
Mike Huckabee Upside: Despite having everything but the kitchen sink thrown at you by members of your own party, you won the caucuses by a convincing margin. Downside: This campaign has chewed up every frontrunner and spit them out. It’s your turn now, chuckles.
Mitt Romney Upside: You’ve still got lots of money, and tradition is on your side in New Hampshire even if the polls increasingly aren’t. It’s not too late to right the ship. Downside: Money didn’t buy you love in Iowa. The other thing it can’t buy is time, which you are running out of.
Fred Thompson Upside: You appear to have come in third when everyone said you couldn’t. The quick brown fox didn’t jump over the lazy dog, who is still in the hunt. Downside: Your margin over John McCain is so thin that I hesitate to proclaim you the third-place finisher even with 95 percent of precincts reporting. This result keeps you in the running, but it is hard to see it providing much of a boost.
John McCain Upside: That was an awfully strong showing, given that you barely campaigned in Iowa. And you still oppose ethanol subsidies. Downside: Your showing probably wasn’t strong enough to convince all those conservatives you have irritated for the last eight years to forgive and forget. See you in New Hampshire.
Ron Paul Upside: Just six months ago, if you had told us you would break into the double digits in Iowa, finish six points ahead of Rudy Giuliani, and probably scoop up a couple delegates in the process, no one would have believed you. Downside: You only needed three more points to become a big part of the Iowa story. Those unconventional Paul supporters who the polls are supposedly not picking up didn’t materialize to provide those extra three points.
Rudy Giuliani Upside: You more or less bypassed Iowa, so your pitiful performance might not hurt you in the big states where you still lead. And given the state of the race, your path to the nomination isn’t much less plausible than anybody else’s. Downside: You are supposed to be the national frontrunner and you can’t even get a solid 5 percent of the vote. McCain did that well in Iowa in 2000, and he had even less of a presence there in that race than you had this time around.
Duncan Hunter Upside: You are still a respected conservative congressman. The only thing small about you is your vote totals. Downside: It is really getting difficult to keep pretending that this is a serious presidential effort.
Alan Keyes Upside: At least we’ll always have the Des Moines Register debate. Downside: I can’t find any evidence that you got any votes. Were you even on the ballot?