Caucus night in Iowa

In about 15 minutes, roughly 150,000 Republicans in Iowa will gather for the 2012 Republican presidential caucuses. I’ll update this post with results as they’re available, but in the meantime, I thought I’d open the floor to some discussion.

Any predictions on the results? Eager for the Iowa-focused discussion to end? Planning to watch the Sugar Bowl tonight instead?

Let’s hear it.

8:15 update: CNN posted the results of entrance polls tonight, with Paul, Romney, and Santorum, as expected, making up the top three. It’s worth keeping in mind, though, that in 2008, Romney appeared to have the advantage in the entrance polls, but finished second.

8:48 update: Several of the news networks are projecting that Bachmann will finish last tonight (which is to say, sixth, since Huntsman isn’t trying to compete in Iowa and will actually finish last). Remember when Bachmann won the Ames Straw Poll? Well, August was a long time ago.

9:27 update: With about 22% of the results in, Paul is running first with 23.9%, followed by Santorum with 23.6%, and Romney with 22.3%. In the arguably-more-interesting race for fourth, Gingrich appears to have the edge over Perry, 13.3% to 10%. Of course, with 22% of the results in, we’re really only talking about 22,000 Iowans.

9:45 update: With about 31% of the results in, Romney is running first with 23.4%, followed by Santorum with 23%, and Paul with 22.8%. In the arguably-more-interesting race for fourth, Gingrich still leads Perry, 13.2% to 10.2%. Only 189 votes separate the top three candidates.

9:51 update: Going back over the last 36 years of Republican caucuses in Iowa, Bob Dole’s 26% in 1996 was the lowest vote percentage of any winner (it was in a seven-candidate field). Tonight’s winner, in a six-candidate field, will probably not meet that threshold, making one of these guys the weakest winner to date.

10:08 update: With about 47% of the results in, Santorum is running first with 24.1%, followed by Romney with 23.9%, and Paul with 21.9%. Gingrich still leads Perry in the race for fourth, 13.2% to 10%. Only about 1,100 votes separate the top three candidates.

10:32 update: Fox News is reporting that Gingrich will, in fact, come in fourth, with Perry fifth. Expect a whole lot of talk later this week about whether (how soon?) Perry quits.

10:38 update: With about 52% of the results in, Santorum is running first with 24.3%, followed by Romney with 23.7%, and Paul with 21.6%. Gingrich leads Perry in the race for fourth, 13.3% to 10.2%. Santorum’s lead over Romney is only 354 votes, and Romney’s lead over Paul is only 1,218 votes.

10:50 update: With about 79% of the results in, there’s been another shake-up. Romney is running first with 24.9%, followed by Santorum with 24.4%, and Paul with 21.2%. Romney’s lead over Santorum is only 492 votes.

10:52 update: NBC News is reporting that Paul will end up finishing third.

10:55 update: With 88% of the results in, Santorum leads Romney, 24.6% to 24.5%. Just 45 votes separate them.

11:20 update: With 92% of the results in, Romney leads Santorum by just 13 votes.

11:33 update: With 93% of the results in, Santorum leads Romney by 134 votes.

11:49 update: With 96% of the results in, Santorum leads Romney by 113 votes.

11:58 update: It sure sounds like Perry is going to quit.

Midnight: In the immortal words of the Black Knight from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, “All right, we’ll call it a draw.” Whichever one of these two manage to come out on top, the results are effectively the same: Romney spent well over $4 million in Iowa, only to discover (a) three-quarters of Republicans still don’t like him; and (b) he tied a guy who spent about one-eighth the amount of money and was polling in single digits as recently as a few weeks ago.

Tonight’s big winner is obvious: his name is Barack Obama.

And with that, I’m calling it a night. I’ll have plenty more in the morning.

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