Nate Silver says that Romney may win with a relatively small percentage of the vote:
The lowest winning percentage in previous caucuses belongs to Bob Dole, who won with 26 percent of the vote in the Republican caucuses in 1996. There’s a good chance that this year’s winner will poll less than that and break the record.
Larry Sabato, Kyle Kondik, and Geoffrey Skelley wonder how the media will react if Romney underperforms:
If Romney finishes even a close third in Iowa, even if that third-place finish is only a few percentage points short of first, he may lose the expectations game in Iowa and leave looking like a loser. Romney finished second in Iowa to Mike Huckabee in 2008, but given the resources he spent there, the chattering classes viewed him as a failure. The conventional wisdom stuck: Romney never won a truly significant contest during the 2008 nomination fight.
Jonathan Bernstein thinks Santorum will beat expectations:
If in fact Romney, Paul, and Santorum grab the top three spots, it probably doesn’t matter at all which order they’ll finish in. The big story out of Iowa will be Santorum, who has received practically zero media coverage until this week and even now not much. That’s going to be true whether the former Pennsylvania Senator finishes first, second, or third. He’ll certainly (assuming nothing else happens) zoom up to at least fourth in New Hampshire the following Tuesday, and I’d bet he winds up higher than that — perhaps a lot higher.
Amy Sullivan notes that Santorum has almost no cash to compete past Iowa:
Huckabee’s 2008 campaign looks like a well-funded behemoth compared with Santorum’s 2012 outfit. Though donations have likely picked up over the past week, as of Sept. 30, the Santorum campaign had less than $200,000 on hand and was more than $71,000 in debt.
Santorum is surging after spending 101 days in Iowa. Iowa has roughly 3 million people. To play out this retail campaign in Florida, with its 19 million people, Santorum would need to spend 639 days on the ground. I’m being silly, of course — Florida will play out after Santorum gets a ticket out of Iowa and at least one candidate, probably three, drop out. But on record, on economic conservative credibility, on ties to big donors, Santorum’s not the opponent Romney feared most.
Joe Klein reports that Gingrich and Perry will likely stick around:
The word today is that Iowa may not fulfill its only plausible function: winnowing the field. It seems that both Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich will stagger on. Neither candidate seems to have much hope in New Hampshire. Perry may wind up owing votes there. But they will hang on to test their mettle in South Carolina, a real southern state, the deepest crimson of red states.
Photo is screenshot from 538’s Iowa projections. Via The Daily Dish.