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After Iowa

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Power Rankings,David Freddoso

Rick Santorum: He's the new anti-Romney, and unlike all the others, he has a virtual election victory to prove it (his actual eight-vote loss is essentially irrelevant). Santorum proved in his victory speech that he had earned Iowa. Here was someone quite capable of moving a crowd and of persuading. It was a very different glimpse of Santorum than the one that had come through in the debates.

Even if he can raise a lot of money quickly, Santorum doesn't have much time. He has spent some time in New Hampshire, but he'll have to catch fire there spontaneously if he is to avoid the fate of Mike Huckabee, who decisively won Iowa and went downhill from there.

Santorum has the advantage of being a non-evangelical and business-friendly candidate, in contrast to Huckabee. New Hampshire's GOP primary electorate is nearly 40 percent Catholic, and he has potential.

Mitt Romney: His acceptance stump speech was dreadful, especially compared to Santorum's. But this outcome was acceptable for him. Romney spent relatively little time in Iowa before his last-minute push, and has put most his eggs in the New Hampshire baskey.

At first, it looked like Romney might have sacrificed an advantage to get his narrow Iowa victory -- the divided conservative field that allowed him to prevail. This might have left him vulnerable in South Carolina. But the decision by both Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry to stay in the race has provided him victory without a sacrifice. Romney would open a bottle of champagne...if he drank.

Ron Paul: He will not be the GOP nominee. Even if his broader influence is real and more lasting than the other candidates, his third place finish is a bit of a disappointment. He has clearly suffered from the stories about his old newsletters, and just enough to keep him away from the Iowa victory he craved.

Still, Paul will likely remain in the race and at least semi-relevant through Super Tuesday, if not beyond.

Newt Gingrich: Having fallen badly in Iowa, Gingrich will limp on nonetheless. If his petulant concession speech is any indication, his sole mission in life will be Mitt Romney's destruction. But angry Newt is a very unattractive candidate -- his appeal in debates (before the last one, anyway) has depended on his ability to remain above the fray.

Gingrich will soon discover that spoilers cannot raise money, motivate volunteers, or receive positive press. He may also realize, too late, that his presence in the race actually helps rather than hurts Romney.

Rick Perry: His decision to remain in the race took several advisors by surprise. And it should have. Perry can accomplish little at this point besides helping split the anti-Romney vote. The race was his to lose a few months ago, and lose it he did.

Michele Bachmann: She barely won more votes in the caucuses than she did in the Ames straw poll. Little surprise she has bowed out.

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