The 2012 US Presidential Election is officially underway. Much has been written about the state of the permanent campaign, and since November 5, 2008, there has been speculation about what would happen four years later. And after much media speculation and polling and several debates and youtube viral videos, we now have something official. Or almost do, I am writing this close to 2 AM Eastern Time, and the results may not be what they think we are right now.

Personally, I just rode across four states on a Greyhound bus, and am a little too flustered to try to figure out what I should leave in and leave out when describing the entire run-up to the election, which involves such key moments as the formation of the Tea Party Movement and the 2010 Midterm Elections, as well as a series of personalities from Sarah Palin to Donald Trump. It would take the late, great Hunter S. Thompson to describe the series of ups and downs that took the Republican Party to this night (and subsequent morning) in Iowa.

Basically though, both in the run up to the election and the night of the caucus, it was a competition between three factions of the Republican Party, or three parties in the Republican coalition. Mitt Romney, represents the moderate, business oriented Republican world. Ron Paul represents the Libertarian wing of the party, and a number of people represented the Tea Party wing of the party, including Michelle Bachmann, Herman Cain, Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich. But right before the night of the caucus, a previous third-tier candidate, former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, emerged as the new pick of the conservative/Tea Party Republicans. But was his resurgence strong enough to make a showing in Iowa?

As of write now, the answer appears to be yes. Not only did he make a showing, but Santorum is leading Romney by a. whole. four. votes. Santorum currently has 29,968 votes, Romney has 29,964 and Ron Paul is a (relatively) distant third with 26,186. Gingrich also got 13.3% of the vote, Perry 10.3% and Bachmann 5%.

It is now midnight, and a week until New Hampshire votes, in a primary instead of a caucus. Between now and then, the candidates and the pundits will try to make sense of the results and create strategies around them. However, the fact that three candidates are all tied for slightly under 25% and that two of those candidates have a gap of only four votes between them means that nothing about this election was at all decisive or clear.

So ironically, after three years of theorizing and armchair strategy, the first night of the year's political process does very little to dampen down the flood of confusion and speculation.

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