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The Election 2012 Weekly Report: Iowa and the aftermath

The Election 2012 Weekly Report: Iowa and the aftermath

Iowa fallout

After weeks of debate and fluctuating polls, we finally have some actual results from a GOP primary. Mitt Romney won the Iowa Caucasus with 24.6 percent, edging out surprise second-place finisher Rick Santorum by only eight votes. In his rambling victory speech, Romney took the opportunity to attack the president on national security. "Iran is about to have nuclear weaponry, just down the road here, and this president, what’s he done in that regard? He said he’d have a policy of engagement. How’s that worked out?"

The next day, Romney received an endorsement from Sen. John McCain, who said his former 2008 rival was committed, like Ronald Reagan, to a philosophy of , "Peace through strength."

Ron Paul came in third place in Iowa and promised to continue pushing his vision for a noninterventionist foreign policy. "Our foreign policy has been a mess and drains us both economically and our military forces," he said.

After a disappointing fourth-place finish, once frontrunner Newt Gingrich promised to continue to attack "Massachusetts moderate" Romney, (he also called Romney a "liar" in an interview) but took the opportunity to blast Paul’s foreign policy views as "stunningly dangerous for survival of the United States."

Rick Perry, who came in fifth with 10.3 percent of the vote, despite spending more money than any other candidate in Iowa, is apparently staying in the race for now.

After essentially finishing last (Jon Huntsman didn’t contest the caucuses) Michele Bachmann dropped out of the race, vowing to "continue fighting to defeat the president’s agenda of socialism."

Santorum in the spotlight

As the latest "non-Romney" to emerge in the race, Santorum’s foreign-policy views are beginning to receive more scrutiny. In particular, Santorum has staked out a position even more extreme than Gingrich on the legitimacy of Palestinian aspirations for statehood.  "All the people that live in the West Bank are Israelis, they’re not Palestinians… There is no ‘Palestinian,’" he told a questioner back in November. (Israel probably wouldn’t actually be thrilled with this position, as it would entail full Israeli political rights for Palestinians on the West Bank.)

Santorum has also recently vowed to bomb Iranian nuclear sites if they are not opened for inspections, saying that President Barack Obama‘s inaction against the Iranian nuclear program risks turning the United States into a paper tiger.

Huntsman’s last stand

Huntsman has essentially staked his campaign on Tuesday’s New Hampshire primary, opting out of Iowa entirely and campaigning non-stop in the Granite State. "We have to do well in New Hampshire," he told CBS news this week. The Boston Globe endorsed Huntsman this week, pointing specifically to his foreign policy experience. "While other candidates point toward Cold War-style rejection and isolation of China, Huntsman promises deeper engagement. But he had the courage as ambassador to walk among protesters, drawing the ire of repressive Chinese authorities," the editorial read.

Nonetheless, recent polls show that the majority of New Hampshire voters, particularly front-runner Mitt Romney’s supporters, which Huntsman was hoping to pick off — are unlikely to change their mind before Tuesday.

A new strategy for the Pentagon

On Thursday, the president announced a new military approach which aims to trim roughly $450 billion from the defense budget by shrinking the Army and Marines, focusing more heavily on Special Operations and drone forces, and making a strategic "pivot" from the Middle East and Central Asia to the Pacific.

With the exception of Paul and Huntsman, the Republican candidates all oppose large-scale defense cuts. Romney has ridiculed the idea of a strategic shift to Asia in the past, saying, "President Obama seems to think that we’re going to have a global century, an Asian century. I believe we have to have an American century, where America leads the free world and the free world leads the entire world."

What to watch for

The candidates will meet for two final televised debates in New Hampshire on Saturday night and Sunday morning before voters head to the polls on Tuesday. Real Clear Politics’ New Hampshire poll average shows Romney with a commanding 20 point lead over Paul, followed by Santorum, Huntsman, Gingrich, and Perry — in that order.

Then it’s on to South Carolina for the Jan. 21 primary, where Romney currently holds a 19 point lead over Santorum, his closest challenger.

The latest from FP

Scott Clement looks at why Huntsman’s experience as ambassador won’t help him win over skeptical GOP voters.

Joshua Keating says farewell, Michele and recounts Bachmann’s "greatest hits" on foreign policy. Also, what’s behind Santorum’s strange fixation with Honduras?

David Kenner says Santorum’s views on Israel could be "profoundly damaging to U.S. and Israeli interests."

Daniel Drezner argues that Paul would make an even worse president than Gingrich — and that’s saying something.

David Rothkopf wonders why Obama has been so modest as a communicator and lists some of the president’s underappreciated successes he should be crowing about.

Peter Feaver criticizes the Paul campaign for having a soldier in uniform speak at a campaign event and says the Iowa results prove there will not be a crack-up in the Republican Party over foreign policy.