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Whither Thou Goest, Iowa Caucus? Whither Thou Goest, Iowa Caucus?

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Whither Thou Goest, Iowa Caucus?

Tuesday's results are bound to revive the enduring debate over the oh-so-special role played by a state that's whiter, more rural and more evangelical than most of the country. Iowa's tradition of holding partisan caucuses instead of state-run primaries attracts only a fraction of the electorate but sets the tone for the entire nominating process. No fair?

At this moment, with the race between Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney too close to call and Ron Paul coming in third, two of top three 2012 finishers in Iowa are highly unlikely to win the nomination.

Iowa is known more for weeding out the losers than picking winners, and this campaign was no different. Tim Pawlenty dropped out after losing the state Republican Party's straw poll in August to Michele Bachmann (who came in sixth place on Tuesday!) Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry, who took their turns leading the polls in Iowa, are damaged goods after their second-tier finishes on Tuesday. Perry is so damaged that he's going back to Texas to "reassess'' his campaign.

Considering that Pawlenty, Gingrich and Perry were once viewed as the strongest challengers to Romney, Iowa's winnowing process will also be reassessed.

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