Good morning. Went to bed last night before the final Iowa results. Eight votes! Mercy. Ramesh Ponnuru says you could make a case that Romney’s victory is fairly impressive, given that he didn’t devote a lot of time or money to the state (N.B., I was under the impression last night that he had spent a lot of cash in Iowa):

But that’s not going to be the prevailing interpretation of what happened a few hours ago, and that is because the Romney campaign completely lost control of expectations, in important part through its own–and especially the candidate’s own–mistakes. For weeks, the Romney campaign had tried not even to whisper that it could win Iowa. Then in the last days of the campaign Romney decided to indulge in bizarre bravado. His political instincts do not seem to be finely tuned. This tie is going to go to Santorum: When you have to explain a victory, you haven’t won one. (See Buchanan-Bush in the ‘92 New Hampshire primary.) It is only his lack of money and organization that has prevented Santorum’s political victory from being a fiasco for Romney.

Meanwhile, Ramesh’s NRO colleague Jim Geraghty points out that Rick Santorum didn’t even try to get onto the Virginia ballot. This is why Santorum’s post-Iowa campaign won’t last long: he doesn’t have the organization in place to capitalize on his victory there. He won Iowa by relentless retail campaigning. There’s just no time or opportunity for that sort of thing from here on out.

On the other hand, Mike Huckabee was similarly hobbled by a small campaign organization after his 2008 Iowa victory, yet he managed to fight on consequentially for some time. But he was a far more charismatic, telegenic figure than Santorum is — this matters when you’re relying mostly on free media. And the major consequence of his campaign was to wear Romney down for John McCain. If Romney faced a significant threat, Santorum could be a serious danger as a spoiler. But the only other candidate standing between Romney and the nomination is Ron Paul, who famously has a ceiling that he can’t break through; the passion of Paul’s supporters runs deep, but not terribly wide.

Still, I believe Santorum, as an unabashed social and religious conservative, will do well in the South, if he can last long enough — and if he can get on enough ballots. The problem is, he’s got a long way to go. Florida is not till January 31. A good showing in South Carolina will boost him there. But after Florida, he has to wait till March 6, and the Georgia vote, to hit a state that should be strong for him. I don’t see how he pulls that off, but then again, nothing seems normal about this year.

Romney is inevitable, but the fact that Republican voters act like they’re being forced into an arranged marriage does not bode well for him in the general election.

UPDATE: Perhaps the most truthful remark I can make about the Iowa result is also the most banal: I really don’t give a rip. I don’t think I’ve ever been able to say that the outcome of a Republican presidential primary doesn’t matter to me. But I have been trying to force myself to care about this one, and failing. Maybe that’s my fault. It probably is my fault.