Iowa doesn’t necessarily pick winners, but it sure can make a loser. There is no plausible case to make to a contributor or GOP activist who wants their vote to count to continue to support Michele Bachmann or Rick Perry. All the other candidates have a license to keep going.

As this Insider always says, in American politics, good gets better; bad gets worse. Rick Santorum’s surge will bring cherished celebration and visibility along with withering questions and scrutiny.

There is no spinning for Rick Perry. Unless he has a check-writer with millions for his super PAC, he has no rationale for going forward; ditto for Bachmann.

Santorum’s surge was perfectly timed, and he is the lead story. But, if you think Mitt Romney is too moderate, wait until you hear about former Sen. Santorum’s willingness to get along and go along while he was in Washington.

By Thursday afternoon, Santorum’s record will no longer offer a vivid contrast with Romney’s. Voters will truly be introduced to the former senator for the first time this week. Romney will be well-served by the lack of true contrast.

I say nothing about Ron Paul because there is little to say. He has a committed core of support, but it is limited, and its limits will be exposed as the voter turnout in the next few primaries becomes larger.

Newt Gingrich is probably going from being a prophet to a pretender as he goes through the motions of staying in the race.

Jon Huntsman planned on finishing last and facing a weakened Romney. Instead, he is just finishing last.

Santorum is a good-natured, well-adjusted person. He is not a an exploding cigar like Herman Cain, an extreme personality like Gingrich, or a bewildered soul like Perry. He is credible, but he is Romney-lite. Bet on the real thing.