orry, Mitt: Looks like you didn't win the Iowa caucuses, after all. According to the state GOP's final count, released Thursday, Rick Santorum came out 34 votes ahead of Mitt Romney, instead of eight votes behind as originally reported. (One caveat: The ballots from eight precincts are missing, so the party is technically calling it a Romney-Santorum tie.) If Santorum had been declared the winner on election night, could he have parlayed the victory into even more momentum and become the consensus non-Romney — preventing Mitt from taking such a commanding early lead?
This proves Romney isn't inevitable: Pundits were "singing the inevitability of Mitt Romney because for the first time in history a single candidate won both Iowa and New Hampshire in an open race," says William A. Jacobson in Legal Insurrection. Now we have proof that "the narrative was stupid." The news of Santorum's apparent victory deprives Romney of an "effective tool" he used to win over reluctant voters — and proves he isn't the inevitable GOP nominee.
"So now Romney is not historic (or inevitable?)"
Still, Iowa's news comes too late to matter: This affects the record books, but it doesn't change the race, says Aaron Blake at The Washington Post. "President campaigns are about momentum," and all of Iowa's momentum has been used up already. In the public's eye, Romney won Iowa, albeit narrowly, and that, together with his subsequent win in New Hampshire, made him "the undefeated likely nominee." Unfortunately for Santorum, "you can't unring a bell."
"Rick Santorum may have won Iowa, but does it even matter?"
Santorum was already Iowa's big winner: Little would have changed if Santorum had been declared victorious on Jan. 3, says Aaron Goldstein at The American Prospect. Santorum was always the big winner in Iowa, "regardless of the result." His surge there made him a legitimate conservative alternative to Romney — his problem is that in New Hampshire and now South Carolina his "sails have stilled," and Newt Gingrich has become the dominant conservative.
"Does Santorum winning Iowa matter?"
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