Nate Silver sizes up Romney's eight-vote victory:
[E]ven if Mr. Santorum catches fire, or even if Jon M. Huntsman Jr. surges in the polls, or even if (perhaps less plausibly) Newt Gingrich somehow resurrects himself yet again, Mr. Romney will have a lot of second and third chances. Mr. Romney could lose South Carolina but win Florida. He could lose South Carolina and Florida but rebound in the caucus states of February, or on Super Tuesday. He could be engaged in a more-or-less even delegate battle with someone like Mr. Santorum for a long while — but emerge with the most delegates at the end.
Peter Beinart thinks Romney did well:
Republican presidential history is littered with moderate frontrunners who got creamed in Iowa—George H.W. Bush in 1988, John McCain in 2008—and still won the nomination. In 2008, Mitt Romney invested heavily there and lost by 9 points. This year, he kept expectations low and managed a tie for first place with two candidates who almost certainly can’t beat him. That may be boring, but it’s pretty darn good.
Ramesh Ponnuru differs:
For weeks, the Romney campaign had tried not even to whisper that it could win Iowa. Then in the last days of the campaign Romney decided to indulge in bizarre bravado. His political instincts do not seem to be finely tuned. This tie is going to go to Santorum: When you have to explain a victory, you haven’t won one. (See Buchanan-Bush in the ‘92 New Hampshire primary.) It is only his lack of money and organization that has prevented Santorum’s political victory from being a fiasco for Romney.
Josh Marshall expects the GOP establishment to close ranks:
[T]he entire Republican establishment is going to be coming out in the next couple days to shut this down and say it’s Romney. … The avalanche of attempted GOP establishment coronation will be one of the big things to watch over the coming days. Can they pull it off? Probably so. But now it’s from a footing of relative weakness.
Ezra Klein wonders when Romney will become the center of attention:
Romney has arguably been the frontrunner through the entire election. But he's never gotten the sort of scrutiny a frontrunner tends to attract. … Soon enough, it's just going to be Romney out there. And he's going to start getting hammered with questions about why he won't release his tax returns and where exactly his claim to have created 100,000 jobs at Bain Capital comes from and why, when he was at Bain, he fired this nice-seeming guy being interviewed on the television.
Radley Balko praises Paul:
The GOP establishment wants none of [Ron Paul]. But now they have to deal with him, and they have to deal with his arguments. They can’t just assume perpetual war as a given. There’s a small but emerging faction in the party that finds the idea offensive. That’s largely because of Ron Paul. And that’s a healthy thing.
Brian Doherty talked to Paul voters:
I ran into a few people who were surprised, given how roundly Paul won their precinct, surprised enough to want to see the specific per-precinct figure breakdown before they were sure the results were legit. But that seemed more frustration than conspiracy theory. One Paul dude made the case–which I concur with–that the past 24 hours of Fox News amounted to a free half-million attack ad buy against Paul from his enemies.
Kevin Drum has a theory about Santorum's strong showing:
[H]e surged because there were no debates in the final three weeks before Iowa. Santorum is possibly the whiniest, least appealing debate candidate I've ever seen in my life, and I figure he lost a few thousand votes every time he went on the air. So the calendar helped him a lot. Unfortunately, there's a debate coming up this Saturday, which should be perfectly positioned to allow the voters of New Hampshire to remind themselves that they really don't want to see this guy on their TV for the next four years. That's bad luck for Santorum, but them's the breaks.
Grover Norquist doesn't sound like he has a whole lot of faith in either Santorum or Romney:
The candidate who wins the GOP nomination and then the presidency will be signing bills passed by Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Leadership will flow from the Hill, not the White House. I feel better about that every day.
Daniel Horowitz likewise isn't jumping on the Romney bandwagon:
It appears that Romney’s base of support is limited to rich secular voters. That’s not exactly the appeal you want to have going into this election. There is very little overlap between Romney’s 2008 voters and his current supporters. In other words, he is last cycle’s McCain.
Rich Galen is betting on Romney regardless:
The political reality is that none of the candidates who might win the nomination has the capacity to fully operate in more than one state at a time. They are essentially running a serial campaign. Romney is running a parallel campaign. In fact, his campaign announced a few hours before the caucuses began that it was buying advertising time in Florida. Florida? Hell, that’s four weeks away!
So is David Frum:
Here’s a contest that by all odds Romney should have lost. The question through the past year was: lose to whom? This was a state designed for Rick Perry to take away from Romney–and thereby launch a powerful national conservative challenge. Instead, Perry is heading home to Texas. Gingrich–another, less plausible, alternative–has collapsed into bitterness and sulk. Romney won by a narrow margin because the remaining conservative alternatives looked unconvincing even to Iowa social conservative voters. A Romney-Santorum contest is not much of a contest at all. If that’s not obvious today, it will be obvious a week from today, after New Hampshire reports.
Douthat wants the campaign to continue for awhile longer:
In an ideal world, Romney’s coronation would be postponed long enough to have a vigorous argument between Romney, Paul and Santorum (with Jon Huntsman getting in on the action as well, perhaps). They would debate foreign policy, domestic policy and the future of conservatism, with the also-rans and their gimmicks cleared off stage. In the real world, some of the also-rans will hang around, and last night’s results probably just set the stage for the swift Romney victory that’s been coming all along.
Dreher looks at Santorum's road ahead:
I believe Santorum, as an unabashed social and religious conservative, will do well in the South, if he can last long enough — and if he can get on enough ballots. The problem is, he’s got a long way to go. Florida is not till January 31. A good showing in South Carolina will boost him there. But after Florida, he has to wait till March 6, and the Georgia vote, to hit a state that should be strong for him. I don’t see how he pulls that off, but then again, nothing seems normal about this year.
And PM Carpenter watches as Republican pundits ignore the broad appeal of Ron Paul's non-interventionism and civil liberties positions:
If … you're a party hack, and a blind one at that, you'd likely respond to last night's observations by writing that, "in any event," Paul's "strength was largely based on independent voters," so, essentially, to hell with any complicating fuss about broadening the party at its promising roots; and that "With the two front-runners both forceful advocates for a strong national defense, talk of the Republican Party dabbling with isolationism should be muted."
You would, in other words, perpetuate among your fellow Republicans that very stagnation of mind which constrains your party's potential growth, while conserving, in any event, its less attractive features.