So Iowa voted? Who won?
Rick Santorum won, any idiot can see that. Romney got his 8-vote plurality, but it's tainted by the fact that Karl Rove announced it before official release of the alleged numbers. Romney really finished third in the expectations caucus, though number two Ron Paul looks poised to flame out in a bout of hobgoblinish consistent insanity. (Plus the media can't handle a three-way race - only a single, deeply buried mention of Paul in the CNN story and then only as the unrebutted subject of a Santorum accusation.)
I say alleged numbers because this was clearly a Republican voting process from the get-go. It was past 2:00 a.m. local time before the final precincts reported to the media. Iowa Republicans cast about 122,000 votes in 1774 precincts. How much time does it take for each local chair to count up 70 votes?
A caucus can't even be recounted. It's not a primary. The local professionals (Auditors there, Town Clerks here) who know how to safeguard vote records don't run caucuses. The media and even some of my liberal friends on Twitter tut-tutted about that. But the Massachusetts Democratic Party will caucus in February (go, Elizabeth Warren!), and those votes won't be recountable either.
Recounts can't explain the delay. Once the voters leave the caucus, it should be a matter of minutes before the results are posted, not hours and hours.
Voting integrity is supposed to be guaranteed by openness - there's no secret ballot at a caucus - but usually nobody disinterested is paying close attention. And the Republican Iowa caucuses looked very much manipulated by the party fathers. Fundies should view Romney's "win" as yet another illegitimate theft from them, the god-anointed true conservatives.
There may even be a schism between the Teabaggers and their plutocratic organizers. The point of Teabaggism, it seems to me in light of Iowa, was for the wealthies to co-opt fundie paleo-conservative outrage in service of - natch! - tax cuts for the wealthy funded by destruction of the social safety net (for all those undeserving urban brown people). The wealthies had previously done their co-option over and over again by making empty promises, but their economic agenda has become so feudal that it calls for more circus to cover the absence of bread.
Iowa proves that the culture of a forced choice between abstinence and pregnancy is not dead yet, even if the wealthies don't want to have to campaign on it. History suggests that the wealthies will win their perennial internecine war anyway and that they'll bring nearly all of the fundies along for the ride, but for now, Santorum and the bitter old anti-sex wing of GOP has had a shot of Viagra that they have no outlet for other than paranoia, delusion, and outrage.
There's blood in the water, Newt Gingrich's. Romney's slush fund pals put it there. But that blood is attracting other sharks, and no amount of Romney's friends' Citizens v. FEC funding can quell those other sharks' lust to take a bite out of Mitt. Oh, sure, Mitt's sharks will turn their teeth on Santorum. They'll do anything to win, but the connections are clear enough now, even for wingnuts to see, and Romney will suffer more and more for the help he gets from attack ad slush funds held by "independent" sole-purpose corporations.
Mitt has gone negative in the past. In 2004, armed with a hand-picked slate of Republican CEOs, then-Gov. Romney tried to make major inroads into Democratic dominance of the Massachusetts state legislature. My Senator was one of his targets, and the Republican Party, then a wholly owned subsidiary of Mitt, Inc., funded half a dozen direct mail hit pieces on her in the last week alone. Problem was, voters knew her, and they knew she wasn't evil even if they didn't always agree with her. They also knew Mitt, and the upshot was that we Democrats made net gains in both houses of the legislature. Mitt the chameleon is not convincingly principled, so it's hard for him to make attacks stick, given his own lack of credibility.
Romney's in a tough place. He has to go negative to win the nomination. In fact, he needs to smack Ron Paul immediately in New Hampshire, where the idiosyncratic Paul should be much more appealing to the local culture of iconoclasm and a bigger threat than Santorum's iconophilia.
Money is the greater of Romney's chief advantages, and it buys a lot of bile. But going negative - even if most of what he and his minions said about Newt Gingrich was accurate - is going to stain Romney again.
Deservedly so. He may look like a nice guy with his hair, his teeth, and his suit. But he's as mean and selfish as he needs to be. The more he rips chunks out of his opponents, the more he sacrifices electability, and that's all to the good.
Update (1/6): Not that it matters one whit to my political analysis, but it's completely obvious that an 8-vote margin in a process as sloppy as this is not statistically significant enough to distinguish a winner:
I had been downloading versions of the state’s vote tally at various points on Tuesday evening and early Wednesday morning. The first version I downloaded reflected the state’s count as of 11:14 p.m. Iowa time on Tuesday, at which point results from 1,723 of 1,774 precincts had been tabulated.
In 10 of these 1,723 precincts, the results in the spreadsheet changed between 11:14 p.m. and 2 a.m., reflecting additional verification and validation efforts. These changes added a net of 11 votes to Mr. Romney’s total while subtracting a net of 33 votes from Mr. Santorum’s count. If not for these changes, Mr. Santorum would still have led the vote count on Wednesday morning.