The Perry Plunge

Iowa nightmare for Gov. Goodhair, but he carries on

Thumbs up to South Carolina: Gov. Goodhair gets a little windblown after his drubbing in Iowa
Thumbs up to South Carolina: Gov. Goodhair gets a little windblown after his drubbing in Iowa (Courtesy of Rick Perry campaign)

If there wasn't enough fingerpointing going on in the Rick Perry presidential campaign already, last night's desperate rout in the Iowa Caucus must have sealed the deal. Losing to Mitt Romney? Bad. Losing to Ron Paul? Awkward. Losing to Newt Gingrich? Painful. But losing to Rick Santorum? Agonizing.

As Perry's star fell out of the skies over the last few weeks, the game plan options had become clear: Either he was hoping for a vice-presidential nod, or he was planning to wander into the Republican National Convention with enough pledged delegates to play kingmaker.

After his disastrous 10.3% showing last night, Perry may as well just sell that play book to the former Senator from Pennsylvania.

Late last night, an obviously shaken Perry told the press corps that "I've decided to return to Texas, assess the results of tonight's caucus, determine whether there is a path forward for myself in this race." Reading the tea leaves, that initially sounded a lot like a pre-concession speech, but this morning Perry said he had assessed (without the trip to Texas) during a morning jog. He then kvetched about Iowa and its caucuses, calling it "a quirky place and a quirky process" before saying he was heading to "places where they have actual primaries and there are going to be real Republicans voting."

And where would that be? Perry noted that he felt "very comfortable" about the values and the people of South Carolina, and that's where he's heading next.

Er, wait, which numbers was he looking at? If the latest numbers from the Palmetto State are any indicator, he'll be looking back fondly on that 10.3%. Mid-December polling still had favored son Gingrich steaming ahead on 37% and Romney on 21%. Perry was dawdling on 5.7%, a full point behind Michele Bachmann who has already dropped out after Iowa.

And now, let's drill down a little further into some of last night's numbers:

Total turnout: 122,255. That's up marginally from the 2008 turnout of 119,188, and holding steady on the increase in voter interest from the 87,666 ballots cast in 2000. However, there was no competitive Democratic caucus this year, so it may be hard to see what impact that had.

Mitt Romney: Who says history doesn't repeat itself? The former Massachusetts' governor polled 30,015 (24.6%) votes – down exactly six votes from his 30,021 (25.19%) total in 2008. He also may be worried about another bit of history: In a sign that Iowa is not always a perfect predictor, back in 2008 he got trounced by then-front runner Mike "Who he now?" Huckabee. Eventual nominee John McCain trailed in fourth.

Ron Paul: Because you can't say "Ron Paul Revolution" without "evol." Yup, the big winner may be the Texas congressman, who went from 11,841 (9.93%) in 2008 to 26,219 (21.4%) this year. Early exit polls show he performed strongly among younger voters (let's see how far the "legalize weed and end wars" mantra gets him once they start looking at his 'racist newsletter' scandal, his role is spreading the war on Christmas nonsense and other conservative classics.) However, it's an undoubted blow that he had to share the extremist vote with Santorum.

Rick Perry: Oh, dear. Remember when Herman Cain dropped out and Perry was going to be the big winner? Governor Moneybags is reported to have sunk $6 million into his Iowa campaign, including $4 million on TV buys, and now slinks to South Carolina with only 12,604 Iowa votes (10.3%) in his pocket. Now the jackals are turning, with even Paul Burka (a late-comer to this party) now calling for Perry's resignation.

The Democrats: How can they not be feeling good about themselves this morning? Sure, the turnout shows that overall Iowa GOP activity is still high, but then again the press has pretty much carpet bombed the state with coverage for months. On the other hand, the man that still looks like the top contender (Romney) is going to have to spend himself out of a hole come South Carolina, and he still has Santorum (evangelical homophobe) and Paul (fearlessly committed to pre-Enlightenment 18th century political theory) snapping at his heels. Add on that Newt Gingrich's statement that he will not go negative in his anti-Romney attack ads – but they will be attack ads.

The Texas Democratic Party: The TDP gleefully issued this statement: "No one paying attention is taking Perry’s campaign seriously, but at least he’ll let us watch him flounder on the national stage a bit longer. The longer Perry stays in the race taking increasingly extreme positions that his cronies back home will have to defend, the better it is for Texas Democrats."

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS POST

Rick Perry, The Perry Trap, Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney, Iowa Caucus, Rick Santorum, Michele Bachmann

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