Every four years it's the same in Iowa. Stand in the court square of any small town and throw a tennis ball into the air. It will bounce off the skull of a journalist or anchor person. Iowa's privileged position as the first state to hold a nominating event is relatively recent (as are nominating events, if you mean by that primary elections and caucuses). Sooner or later we'll adopt a more rational calendar for the presidential election year, but for now Iowa gets its moment in the pale sun.
The MSM loves the Iowa caucus. It's a small state with cheap hotels that might determine the next occupant of a very expensive 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue address. That is a very big might, but also a very potent one. The 2008 Iowa caucus was the moment that Barack Obama emerged as a real alternative to Hillary Clinton on his way to the White House and Mike Huckabee emerged as a possible alternative to John McCain on his way to a talk show gig.
This year the MSM has gone off the rails about Iowa. Tune the TV to any cable news show and toss a tennis ball at the screen. You'll hit poll numbers for Rick Santorum. The designated non-Romney has been the story for months. Rick Perry, Herman Cain, and Newt Gingrich all got to try on their uniforms only to be put back on the bench. Just right now Rick Santorum and Ron Paul are hoping to be the neo-Huckabees.
This is nonsense. If Mitt Romney wins or comes in a close second in Iowa, he is well on his way to a dance on the floor of the Republican National Convention. Yesterday I drove along I-29 through the Western edge of Iowa and I noticed a tiny Ron Paul sign in the grass at the edge of every underpass. Clever, but unconvincing. Ron Paul has no chance of being the nominee. Santorum has less of a chance. Gingrich is falling faster than pork bellies.
Mitt Romney is going to be the Republican candidate in the 2012 presidential election. Republicans have a habit of nominating the next guy in line, and he's that guy. He also did what none of the other hopefuls did: he spent the last four years preparing for the next one. No Republican who might have given him a run for his money was willing to lay his money down.
If I am right, the next eight months are likely to be unusually boring for a presidential year, which is good for Mitt. Most Republicans will never love Mitt, but they will fall in line behind him. Things will only get interesting after the conventions. It may turn on the public perceptions of the economy next summer.
Meanwhile, I can't help noticing that President Obama's surge in the polls seems to have subsided, short of ever being more popular than not. Next year's campaign may be a race to the bottom.