THERE’S NOTHING like the strange design and random outcome of the Iowa caucuses to break up the clean, fresh slate of the New Year. If you’re in the Ron Paul camp, polling well and running an excellent grassroots operation in the Hawkeye state, everything is going according to plan. If you are anyone else in the Iowa Republican establishment, you’ve been in a low-grade panic for weeks. High-ranking talking heads like Governor Terry Branstad, conservative activist Bob Vander Plaats, and members of Congress have gone to the airwaves to explain that Iowa isn’t as strange — or irrelevant — as it looks.
The only bad news in this isn’t really news at all: Iowa has never been a good indicator of the eventual Republican nominee. For candidates like Pat Robertson and Mike Huckabee, the shine from their caucus successes faded fast, but for the political media, the predictable unpredictability of Iowa is good for business. The weird outcome creates an opportunity to carry on with two conventional — but meaningless — narratives of the campaign season: who is or isn’t “electable’’ and why no one can “break out of the pack.’’