Cynicism dies hard after the Iowa caucuses, even though the press certainly seems to take them seriously. And so they become a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy – not in the sense that they accurately predict the ultimate Republican nominee (they don’t), but that they give an imprimatur to some candidates while turning the big losers into roadside litter. Michelle Bachmann and Rick Perry could come back from their dismal showings, but it seems pretty unlikely. Maybe they just want to be vice president. Meanwhile, Mitt Romney is seeking to turn his 8-vote victory over Rick Santorum into an indicator of his inevitability. I don’t think that less than a quarter of the 112,255 votes cast translates into a mandate for anything, but I do think Romney will be the candidate because everyone seems to think he is the one Republican who can beat Obama. But obviously he still doesn’t go down well with the hard right, and they are refusing to go down easily. Rick Santorum, who tells people over and over and over again, that he is the only candidate to have to visited all 99 of Iowa’s counties, moved in a few days from the far end of the debate podium to the new unRomney. He almost won, as he has been predicting for months. Ron Paul did, too, despite new disclosures about his unsettling past and unsavory fellow travelers. Newt Gingrich bore testimony to the power of well-funded, quasi-anonymous negative advertising, as Romney’s supporters spent millions bashing him from front-runner to also-ran. People complain about the coverage of the horse race instead of the issues, but the horse race is the only interesting thing about this primary. On to New Hampshire.