Santorum wins narrowly

We asked PostOpinions columnists, bloggers and editors who would win Tuesday night’s Iowa caucuses and why. Read all the PostOpinions predictions, as well as analysis of Iowa from Richard Cohen, Michael Gerson, Kathleen Parker, Jennifer Rubin and Marc Thiessen.


So I'm going out on a limb and predicting that the Rick Santorum wave will crest at just the right moment, giving him a narrow victory in the Iowa caucuses over Mitt Romney, with Ron Paul coming third. The only candidate who effectively gets eliminated by tomorrow's caucuses will be Michele Bachmann, finishing dead last. The battle for the nomination won't end here — nor will it end in New Hampshire next week.

I base this view on the fact that Santorum's support seems passionate and committed — 76 percent of his backers say they'll definitely brave the plunging temperatures to go out and caucus tomorrow night — while Romney's seems lukewarm. There's still a large Anybody-But-Mitt majority in the Republican Party, and while these committed conservatives may eventually settle for Romney, I don't think they're likely to do so before the first vote is cast. They've flirted with everyone else in the field (except Jon Huntsman) and now have turned to Santorum. Fortunately for him, there just a day left before the caucuses — not enough time for the infatuation to fade.

That we're even talking about Santorum is a miracle, given where he was just a couple of months ago. I remember chatting with him about how his campaign — with no money, no organization, no nothing — was living off the land by keeping costs to a minimum. Rather than crisscross the country by chartered or commercial jet, he said, often he would just get behind the wheel and drive.

I don't subscribe to the view that Romney somehow locks up the nomination even if he finishes second to Santorum or Paul. First, there's the obvious fact that you don't win by losing. Second, the primary schedule still offers the opportunity for Anybody-But-Mitt to coalesce behind a single strong challenger. A Romney victory in New Hampshire next week is already taken for granted. But then comes South Carolina, a state where it's easy to imagine Romney being beaten by Santorum, Newt Gingrich or even Rick Perry -- all of whom will still be in the race. Yes, it would be remarkable if this anti-Romney sentiment all came together behind one of those contenders in the space of a week and a half, but stranger things have happened. Remember Herman Cain?

Eugene Robinson writes a twice-a-week column on politics and culture, contributes to the PostPartisan blog, and hosts a weekly online chat with readers. In a three-decade career at The Post, Robinson has been city hall reporter, city editor, foreign correspondent in Buenos Aires and London, foreign editor, and assistant managing editor in charge of the paper’s Style section.

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