Mitt Romney is probably going to win the Iowa caucuses today, January 3, 2012, when normal people are so mad at Washington they dressed up in powdered wigs. Romney! The boring Mormon guy who created the model for Obamacare! Iowa offered the best chance that someone more interesting would break through -- someone who says more exciting things than lame jokes like "I fell on da butt in Dubuque." (For a while a guy was still leading the polls even after defending himself from sexual harassment allegations by breaking into song!) But no. The Huffington Post's poll average shows Romney winning with 22.2 percent, followed by Ron Paul with 19.4 percent, Rick Santorum with 17.1 percent, and Newt Gingrich with 12.9 percent. The New York Times' Nate Silver puts Romney's chances of winning at 42 percent. Real Clear Politics has Romney ahead, averaging 22.8 percent of the vote to Paul's 21.5 percent. Romney's so confident he said, "We're going to win this thing," before qualifying that a few hours later with a probably.
Politico's John F. Harris and Alexander Burns detailed their outrage at this all-socks-for-Christmas turn of events -- right now "politics is more fluid and radicalized and impatient with the status quo" and yet the frontronner is "an emphatically conventional politician." And, they protest, Republican politics is more conservative, yet Romney is moderate. Further, with a great opportunity to beat an incumbent president, "Republicans produced a field of dwarves." Now the most important thing to watch for in Iowa tonight is how much Romney wins by.
The New York Times' Michael D. Shear's "Iowa Caucus: 5 Things to Watch" is mostly a list of things that measure how much Romney will win by. A high evangelical turnout could shrink Romney's share of the vote, Romney's margin will show whether he's formidable or undefeatable, and the makeup of the top three could mean that the fourth place dude (Perry or Gingrich, perhaps) can challenge Romney. Shear also says a high turnout shows Republicans still have the energy of 2010 and a good Ron Paul showing means he's successfully argued that he's electable.
Politico's Maggie Haberman has her own "5 Things to Watch in Iowa," and they, too, are mostly about Mitt Romney - how much he can win by, where he performs best, how high turnout is (more people means more Romney voters.) The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza and Aaron Blake point to six key counties to watch. They're all about Mitt Romney too! The Post says to look out for returns in Dallas County (Romney won it in 2008, will he win again by a big margin?), Dubuque County (Romney won 42 percent last time, will he lose it to Santorum?), Johnson County (will Ron Paul should win the college kids here?), Polk County (will Romney lose this urban area as bad as he did in 2008?), Sioux County (will Santorum beat Romney in this evangelical area as bad as Huckabee beat McCain in 2008?), and Woodbury County (will Bachmann and Santorum steal many of Romney's votes here?).
Despite fantasies that Romney vs. Someone Else could last for months -- and maybe even lead to a brokered convention -- it looks like the guy who looked like he was going to win a year ago is actually going to win.