These results can mean anything you want them to mean.
"Thank you Iowa": Those were the first three words of Mitt Romney's planned speech on Tuesday night after the caucuses, according to a photographer who saw the text queued up in the candidate's teleprompter. Minutes before Romney took the stage, his staff took the teleprompter away.
He wanted to claim victory, but couldn't because the outcome was still in doubt (at 11:30 p.m. CT). Mitt eventually did win, however -- by 8 votes out of just over 119,000 cast. Iowa, it turns out, has about three-fourths the electorate of the city of Houston's mayoral contest two months ago.
Considerably less diversity, of course. To say nothing of giving Mayor Parker bragging rights in her own landslide. But back to Cornpocalypse; the media dutifully reported the caucus results with all of the horse race aspects intact ... and as if the results actually meant something of significance.
But Tuesday's close call undermined (Romney's) rise. Even as he earned back much of the vote he won four years ago, Romney failed to grow his base of support, or to elicit much passion from a Republican electorate that has spent much of the last year searching for an alternative candidate.
Perhaps most nerve-wracking for the Romney campaign is that his close finish came even as his GOP rivals largely ignored him in the state, instead training their fire on one another. That free pass won't exist starting Wednesday, as Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum and Ron Paul have all announced plans to aggressively go after Romney's candidacy.
Ah, there he is: Mr. Frothy Mixture, surging from behind.
"Game on," Santorum said as he took the stage at his victory night celebration in Johnston, Iowa.
"What wins in America are bold ideas, sharp contrasts, and a plan that includes everyone," he said. "A plan that includes everyone across the economic spectrum."
Yes, and it nearly won in Iowa also. Too bad the eight Hawkeyes who had the Santorum Salad at the Pizza Ranch in Boone had a bad taste in their mouths and switched their votes to Romney at the last minute. We'll never know for sure.
Ron Paul's close third continues the dilemma for the Greedy Old Pharts.
"This momentum is going to continue. This movement is going to continue, and we're going to continue scoring, just as we did tonight," Paul told cheering supporters at a hotel in a northern suburb of Des Moines. "We will go on. We will raise the money. And I have no doubt about the volunteers. They will be here."
The libertarian-leaning Paul challenged Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum for the top slot in the leadoff nominating contest, cobbling together an enthusiastic and diverse coalition of college students, veterans and tea party activists in a sign of the divided GOP's struggles ahead.
"There were essentially three winners," Paul told the crowd as it chanted "Doctor Paul, Doctor Paul."
At some point Fox is going to have to start mentioning his name. Maybe have him on a show or two. Ask him some questions. You know, acknowledge his existence.
Meanwhile, Newt plots his comeback. And revenge.
Bruised, battered and defiant, Newt Gingrich limped out of Iowa after a fourth-place finish in the state's Republican presidential contest on Tuesday. But he is still alive.
Hit by plummeting poll numbers in recent days, Gingrich is likely now to hold on until the South Carolina primary on January 21 and hope for the backing of conservatives there.
Gingrich lashed out at Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, who has been linked to some of the toughest attack ads that toppled the former House of Representatives speaker from the top place in the Iowa polls. (He also) blamed SuperPAC fundraising groups linked to Romney and libertarian Ron Paul for the negative TV ads.
"Together I think we survived the biggest onslaught in the history of the Iowa primary," Gingrich said.
"We aren't going to go out and run nasty ads," Gingrich told supporters after it became clear he had won just 13 percent of the Iowa vote.
"But I do reserve the right to tell the truth. And if the truth seems negative, that may be more a comment on (Romney's) record than it is on politics," he said.
"We will have one other great debate and that is whether this party wants a Reagan conservative who helped change Washington in the 1980s ..." Gingrich said.
"Somebody who is into changing Washington or we want a Massachusetts moderate who in fact would be pretty good at managing the decay but has given no evidence in his years in Massachusetts of any ability to change the culture, or change the political structure, or change the government."
One thing is clear; that's more manly talk than than Rick Perry is mumbling.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry said Tuesday that he would head home "to determine whether there is a path forward" for his White House bid after he finished a distant fifth in the Iowa caucuses.
At times pausing to collect his emotions, Perry told supporters that he appreciated their work but that he needed to consider whether there was a viable strategy for him to restart his campaign in South Carolina.
"With the voters' decision tonight in Iowa, I decided to return to Texas, assess the results of tonight's caucus, determine whether there is a path forward for myself in this race," Perry said, his family standing behind him.
Oh come on, Governor Oops. Have Anita whip you up some fresh brains and you'll be alive and stumbling like a zombie again in no time. I hear South Carolina and Florida actually have weather as nice as Galveston this time of year.
Why even Michele Bachmann has bigger balls than you.
"I believe that I am that true conservative who can and who will defeat Barack Obama in 2012," she said. "What we need is a fearless conservative, one with no compromises on their record on spending on health care, on crony capitalism, on defending America, on standing with our ally Israel."
Shortly before Bachmann spoke, her campaign manager suggested she might leave the race. Asked if he could say with certainty whether she would go forward with her candidacy, Bachmann campaign manager Keith Nahigian told The Associated Press in a telephone interview, "I don't know yet."
You may not know yet, Keith, but The Iron Lady does.
"Over the next few days, just be prepared," Bachmann said. "The pundits and the press will again try to pick the nominee based on tonight's results but there are many more chapters to be written on the path to our party's nomination."
Bachmann, it seems, is surrounded by pussies, some current advisers and some former.
“I feel badly for Michele and her team because she has worked very, very hard,” (former campaign manager Ed Rollins) said. “Unfortunately she may have peaked too soon and at the end of the day she didn’t pass the muster that you need to be seen as a credible candidate. I think if she goes on she will go into debt.”
Rollins said that after the Iowa caucuses, Bachmann’s prospects will grow even dimmer.
“I think to a certain extent, there is no way — she has no organization in New Hampshire,” he said. “South Carolina is toughest politics that we play. And you’re going to have Perry and Gingrich and others fight. She would be better to endorse somebody today. She won’t take my counsel but at the end of the day, don’t go in debt.”
Fight on, Crazy Eyes! Fight on! Show Rick Perry and the rest of those liberal rat bastards what "man up" looks like!
I really don't want it to be over. It's been such a thrill ride, these madcap Republicans and their campaign follies. By this time next week we may only have three or four of 'em to kick around some more.
Update: Alas, the Warrior Queen lays down her sword ... but the Head Figure Head Tweets that it's still on for him.
Update II: Transmogrification of Rick Perry into Farouk Shami is complete.
About (10:30 a.m), after Gov. Rick Perry tweeted, "Here we come South Carolina!!!" my editor asked me to try to confirm the Texas governor's apparent reversal of his plans.
I called Perry spokesman Mark Miner. No answer. I then called Perry press person Catherine Frazier. This time, I somehow was connected, though she didn't say hello. I heard Miner telling her, "He tweeted we're going on to South Carolina. Every reporter in the world is calling."
The line then went dead, and in further calling, I could reach neither spokesperson nor Perry adviser Ray Sullivan.