Ron Paul came in third last night, and found all the “upstart winner” buzz swarming around Rick Santorum. Given Paul’s vaunted organizational prowess in Iowa, and his confidence heading into the caucuses that he would win or take a close second, this is a disappointing start to his campaign narrative.
An interesting article at Business Insider notes that Paul may have actually won Iowa after the caucuses were over:
That’s because Paul’s massive organizational push in Iowa focused on both winning votes, and also on making sure that Paul supporters stuck around after the vote to make sure they were selected as county delegates — the first step towards being elected as a delegate to the Republican National Convention.
That’s because Iowa’s Republican caucuses are non-binding — they are technically just a straw poll, so once selected, delegates are free to vote for whichever presidential candidate they choose.
“Part of what we’ve been training the Ron Paul people to do is not to leave after the vote,” Dan Godzich, a senior campaign advisor, told BI. “Stay and get elected to the conventions and get us those delegates.”
The crowning irony of the increasingly bizarre Iowa caucuses is that no actual delegates are committed. The part that really counts happens after the cameras are switched off, and the talking head panels have commenced their post-mortems. The much-ballyhooed caucus votes matter – it looks like they’ve already finished off both the Perry and Bachmann campaigns. Iowa caucus-goers have already wished Rick Perry away to the “campaign re-assessment” cornfield, while this morning we have Michele Bachmann’s somewhat surprising announcement that she will cancel her South Carolina activities and hold a press conference at 10AM that will probably be a campaign resignation. Media coverage coming out of Iowa influences the next few primaries, and that coverage is shaped by the caucuses.
But it’s possible a lot of those caucuses might end up producing delegates who vote differently than the people who trudged out to the big circus on Tuesday night. That might be the shock ending people are talking about long after they stop marveling at the razor-thin vote margin that separated Mitt Romney, for whom 25% of the vote is a hell he cannot escape, and Rick Santorum, who worked the soles off his shoes getting to 25% heaven.