Well, after months and months and years of anticipation (not to mention debates), the Republican presidential race finally began in earnest tonight, with the caucuses in our neighbor to the south.* At this point we don't know for sure who the winner is, although it looks as if Santorum is having a good night. The pundits are suggesting that Romney is not breaking through his ceiling of support, and Paul may be unable to expand beyond his core.
* Sample Iowa joke: A man from Iowa runs up to the border with Minnesota, holding a stick of dynamite. "I've had it with Minnesota! I'm not going to take it anymore!" With that, he threw the dynamite across the border. It landed at the foot of a Minnesotan who bent down and picked it up, lit the fuse, and threw it back.
The big winner tonight just might be "none of the above." Should the winner wind up with less than 25%, it suggests to me that none of these candidates is really turning on the voters. What this means for the fall election, who knows. As for what the true influence of Iowa is, your guess is as good as mine. Whatever the influence is, it's probably more than it deserves.** Bachmann is probably out, Gingrich and Perry have been hurt but will likely stay in until South Carolina at least, and we won't know about Huntsman until New Hampshire.
** Another Iowa joke: The Universities of Iowa and Minnesota are playing football. A train running past the field blows its horn. Minnesota, thinking it means halftime, runs off the field. Iowa scores four plays later.
It's often said that the campaign is a marathon, not a sprint. Prepare for a long grind. Prepare also to ask yourself, more than once, "Is this the way to pick a president?" ◙