Let's face it: Winning Iowa doesn't matter anymore

In the Hawkeye State, Rick Santorum pulled off the most unlikely of upsets, presented a feel-good underdog story in the first major contest of the 2012 cycle, and . . . he saw a relatively small impact on his numbers in New Hampshire. (They were raised from about 3 percent to 9 percent.) Perhaps that can be explained historically: Iowa and New Hampshire rarely agree, and Granite State Republicans are usually extremely reluctant to confirm Iowa’s choice. But in South Carolina, Santorum jumped from 3 percent to 20 percent . . . and then slid down to around 12 percent in the final polls, finishing with an acceptable — but uninspiring — 17 percent on Saturday night.
Santorum seems to be repeating the experience of Mike Huckabee, who also couldn’t translate an Iowa win into many significant victories in the subsequent states. This cycle has given critics of Iowa’s prominence a great deal of ammunition, but even if the state’s turnout had been higher and the count had been clear and no ballots had been lost, a definite pattern would remain: The rest of the country just isn’t all that enamored with the candidates Iowa likes best. Perhaps the state’s love of retail politicking and lavish personal attention from candidates is to blame, since candidates obviously can’t duplicate their 99-county tours in subsequent states