George H.W. Bush in 1980, Bob Dole in 1988, Mike Huckabee in 2008. The common thread between those men in those years—all three were winners of the Iowa caucuses and did not become the Republican nominee for president.
Iowa has a very mixed record in predicting the GOP standard bearer.
It seems that the Iowa results will again not be representative this year as it is tough to imagine that former Gov. Mitt Romney and former Sen. Rick Santorum will be essentially tied for the GOP nomination at the end of the primary process.
Moreover, the inevitable talk of the Iowa vote being evidence of a weak and divided GOP is a false narrative. Both in 1980 and 1988 the candidate who lost Iowa, Reagan in 1980 and the senior Bush in 1988 went on to very decisive victories in the general election over Jimmy Carter and Michael Dukakis, respectively.
With history in mind, GOP candidates and voters have to remember that the goal is to beat President Obama in November. The way to do so is to focus on the economy and not give speeches about campaign inside baseball.
Which bring me to the biggest disappointment of the night—former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. And not the fact that Newt came in fourth, that's what the polls predicted. It was the tone of Speaker Gingrich's concession. Newt was full of anger at Mitt Romney, he did everything but ask Mitt to "step outside." Just like Americans did not care when Newt complained about moderators during the debates, his anger over negative ads and Super PACs does not resonate.
More importantly, public displays of antagonism pointed at another Republican candidate are counterproductive in terms of having a Republican (Romney, Gingrich, or anyone else) winning the White House.
The primaries in New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Florida loom large in the weeks ahead as their track record in choosing the nominee is stronger than Iowa's. However, it is vital for the candidates to realize that the election on Nov. 6, 2012 is what matters the most.