Rick Santorum – From single digits in the polls to a close second place finish when it counted. He may not be able to duplicate this performance in New Hampshire, but he’s done a good job in establishing himself as the conservative alternative to Mitt Romney.
Newt Gingrich – This one may seem to be a surprise, given where he finished in the standings, but he managed to weather a media storm in the month before the Iowa Caucuses and still managed a respectable middle-of-the-pack performance. Having said that, he’ll have a major test leading up to Super Tuesday to get back on track and show the Republicans he is a viable candidate.
Jon Huntsman – He actually got votes in Iowa after pretty much ignoring it! A small victory to be certain, but a victory nonetheless.
Mitt Romney – He won in Iowa by 8 votes after taking a somewhat schizophrenic approach to the state. At first, he echoed Huntsman’s approach, but as other candidates surpassed him on the national level, Romney came out and was doing his best to appear to be Iowa’s best friend. Considering the amount of money and organization he had in Iowa, barely squeaking out a victory over Rick Santorum snatches defeat from the jaws of victory.
Michelle Bachmann – One of the early front-runners in the GOP field, Bachmann’s campaign was marred by missteps and controversy that took the campaign’s focus away from her becoming the nominee. Even though she’s originally from Iowa, that wasn’t enough to propel her into even the middle of the field.
Rick Perry – Perry spent a lot of money and time in Iowa, but didn’t get much in return for his investments. Although I don’t think it’s over for him yet, I see a campaign on life support needing something to break their way to get past Super Tuesday.
Barack Obama – Although he pretty much has the Democrat nomination in the bag, Obama had a video conference with Iowa Democrats at caucus sites. Judging from the news coverage of the event, the conference was rife with technical difficulties, sparse turnout, and a lack of excitement. Just like the Obama Administration!
Astroturf the Caucuses – For all the talk of the Astroturf Wall Street movement crashing the Republican caucuses, there really wasn’t much action on their part. Maybe their activities were more bravado than anything else, but there is another possibility: they’re not the media darlings they were a few months ago. In either case, they look foolish for suggesting they would try to pull something at the caucuses, not following through, or following through and being utterly inept at making the news.
The media – In the past, reporters have done their best to explore the state to find the pulse of the people. This year, there were more reporters knocking Iowa as “too white” or “insignificant” than in previous years. Whether it’s because the media have dropped their pretense of civility or they are repeating the Leftist meme about “flyover country” the media have shown their bitter side. That doesn’t bode well for them, as Iowans are seen as some of the nicest people in the country. That’s like mocking Mother Teresa.
Too Close to Call
Ron Paul – Paul has been a force in Iowa since 2007, and his organization is breathtaking. He certainly improved on his 2008 performance at the Iowa Caucuses, but one has to wonder whether it’s because he’s attracting more people or if he was able to mobilize his supporters to go to the caucuses this year. In either case, Paul’s performance should make him a winner, but his responses to recent controversial statements he’s made or that have been uncovered have left him looking less like a contender and more like someone who doesn’t understand politics well enough to be a contender.
The Democratic Party – Normally, I’d throw this group into the Losers category, but something happened that made me think there might be hope for them yet. DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz appeared in Iowa and said during a television interview she wasn’t sure if she would have time to meet with the members of the Astroturf Iowa movement. Although some consider this to be a snub (and I’m not saying it’s not), I see it as a parting of the ways between the Astroturf Wall Street movement and the major political party that has given them visibility and credibility. It’s going to be interesting to see how that dynamic plays out, but for now, I’m going to be optimistic for the Democrats for a change.