There’s little reason to doubt that Cruz could compete for Iowa in the GOP presidential sweepstakes. But he’s not a shoo-in. And one factor that could well determine how far he goes is what Santorum decides to do.

The eventual winner of 2012 Iowa caucuses, Santorum hasn’t ruled out another run. And in a swing through Ames in August, the former Pennsylvania senator was received very warmly at a Christian conservative confab. In his speech there, he even name-checked local establishments just in case anyone forgot how much time he spent stumping there last cycle.

In short, Iowa conservatives really like Cruz. And they really like Santorum. And that’s where it gets complicated.

Santorum caters to the far-right wing of the Iowa GOP caucusgoers. So does Cruz. If he runs for president again, Santorum would face very, very long odds. The potential 2016 GOP field looks much, much stronger than 2012′s offerings.