DES MOINES- Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney closed out his caucus eve campaign with an impressive show of strength at a late night rally held in a promotional product warehouse inre no worse than thi a Des Moines suburb.
Romney has been the stalking horse for a parade of one time frontrunners who have either fallen out of favor with Republican voters or fallen out the presidential race altogether.
On Tuesday, Romney can help shorter the primary season with a big win in Iowa or resume his maid of honor position behind a new social conservative favorite.
Ex- Pennsylvania US Senator Rick Santorum is poised to emerge as THE social conservative candidate as will likely fare no worse than a competitive third. A win would transform Santorum's candidacy from one hit wonder to national candidate overnight though if Mike Huckabee's 2008 campaign proved anything, Iowa's coattails stretch southeast to South Carolina not northeast to New Hampshire.
A fourth place finish by Newt Gingrich cannot help but serve as a moral victory for the battered former Speaker of the US House of Representatives. Fourth is a ticket out of Iowa and back to the debate circuit where Gingrich can utilize free media to not only rebut the attacks against him by his opponents and so-called third parties but also go after the sources.
Fifth for Texas Governor Rick Perry would be a major setback for a candidate who entered the race by storm only to see his campaign fizzle in a number of bad debate performances. Perry is looking to go straight to South Carolina though with Santorum and Gingrich remaining, Perry will have a difficult time getting the wind back in his sails and money back in his treasury. A surprise third place finish by Perry would shake the race up, sweeping several candidates out with one blow but that seems highly unlikely.
US Representative Michele Bachmann has been coasting knowing that the end is near. Like Santorum she bet the house on Iowa though unlike the Pennsylvanian, Bachmann has a native angle that should have made her the heavy favorite. Instead she will finish only above ex-Utah governor Jon Huntsman who made a decidedly unstatesman-like crack about Iowa, declaring that they pick corn, not presidents.
Finally there is the wild card in every sense of the term, Texas US Representative Ron Paul. After taking a brief break from the camapaign, Paul hit the trail again, this time being joined by his US Senator son. Paul has made a substantial financial and organizational investment I Iowa and after experiencing some heady poll numbers, cannot afford to place below expectations.
A poor third place showing in Iowa could bode badly in New Hampshire and the libertarian might not have another top three placing until Nevada votes in February. Iowa might both be the high water point for Paul and where his bubble bursts.
Predictions - 1 Romney (due to the cities) 2 Paul (due to the money and manpower) 3 Santorum (thanks to evangelicals and no thanks to Perry and Bachmann) 4 Newt (credit fond memories of 1994 and strong debates, debit the establishment's jihad against him) 5 Perry ( Bobby Jindal maybe what keeps him above Bachmann) 6 Bachmann (someone should do a dissertation on this implosion 7 Huntsman ( pick this!)