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Iowa's Mixed Me$$age

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Although we now have a winner in Iowa - Mitt Romney beat Rick Santorum by eight votes and Ron Paul came in a very close third place - we may also have a real loser in this Iowa quadrennial contest, the American voter.

Romney came into the Hawkeye State with tons of money, organisational talent and did what he could not do in 2008 - he won Iowa.

By doing so he is possibly set to make Republican history as the only non-incumbent Republican nominee who will have won both Iowa and New Hampshire.

He may also have done something else - proved that retail politics may be a few short breaths from being completely dead in the future in Iowa and beyond - totally silenced by cash and ads.

To his credit Rick Santorum did it the old fashioned way by pounding the pavement, shaking hands and kissing babies in community centers, churches and every Pizza Ranch Restaurant in the state.

In addition to the tons of cash Romney's campaign spent in Iowa, he also had some help from some very well funded like minded friends.

Although not legally connected, Romney garnered help from Restore Our Future, a well funded SuperPac staffed with former Romney aides, focusing unlimited amounts of money on ad buys just outside the scrutiny of campaign finance regulations but within the limits of the law.

Restore Our Future is just one example of the SuperPac phenomenon that has sprung up since the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision - in essence establishing 'free speech rights for corporations and wealthy individuals who associate in a legal entity called a political action committee - PAC.

Money is said to be the mother's milk of campaign politics and this first in the nation contest proves there will be unlimited amounts of it pouring in from these SuperPacs.

In fact, in this race the campaigns so far are calculated to have spent the following amounts per vote: Perry spent $468 per vote and placed fifth, Gingrich spent $77 per vote and came in fourth place, Paul spent $107 per vote and placed third, Rick Santorum spent $19 per vote and came in second and Romney spent $143 per vote and placed first.

This Iowa Caucus will be remembered for a few things - the razor thin Romney victory and the surprise second place finish by Santorum and how candidate Michele Bachmann can win the Iowa Straw Poll in the heat of the Iowa summer, but must leave vanquished in the chilling reality of January.

It will also be remembered as the first time we see the impact of the Citizens United Supreme Court decision in the first real political contest.

As every candidate has had their rather rare moment in the sun as the leader, this time one of the decisive factors in this contest has been outside money from SuperPacs who have been created as a result of the Citizens United decision.

The Citizens United Supreme Court decision allows corporations and wealthy individuals to give unlimited amounts of money to SuperPacs who can support or attack candidates without any disclosure about where the money is coming from or what their real motivation is in the election process.

Perhaps even more importantly these technically un-affiliated entities can do a candidate's dirty work without leaving their candidate's fingerprints on the dirty deeds as they and their families stay well above the fray.

This decision was possible because of the conservative members of the Supreme Court -Kennedy, Roberts, Scalia, Alito and Thomas - who thought this was indeed a fair interpretation of the US Constitution to hold that this was a free speech issue - and that basically 'corporations are people too.'

The decision was a pet project of the top Republican establishment who wanted it to 'level the playing field' for the Republicans.

This Republican goal was designed to allow their party to create SuperPacs of their wealthiest donors to defeat the Democrats and their organised Labour bedfellows.

So it is perhaps one of the greatest ironies that Newt Gingrich, who was a firm supporter of the Citizens United decision, was its first political casualty.

The result here is that one SuperPac came to Iowa and blanketed the airwaves with many of the ads aired.

These came from the same guy who was responsible for creating the infamous Willie Horton ad which crippled Mike Dukaksis presidential campaign in 1988.

As a result this SuperPac completely deflated Gingrich's balloon moving his numbers from 25 to 13 on caucus night and is arguably responsible for the good fortune of both Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum.

£17 million were spent in advertising in Iowa and of those 1,746 ads that ran 1,746 were considered negative.

Many of these ads targeted Gingrich, who the Romney team perceived as his only real challenger and were purchased ironically by the SuperPac Restore Our Future.

Although some attribute Santorum's rise to his old fashioned 'pressing of the flesh' in all 99 counties in Iowa, there is another theory.

Once Newt sunk, Republicans who did not want Romney went looking for the last man left standing - who in this contest was Rick Santorum.

Although Santorum was not the obvious charismatic choice, he is a true conservative and shares the values of the important Christian Evangelical base here in Iowa - even though he is Roman Catholic.

Santorum shares their values, holds their core beliefs and they can relate to him. Perhaps even more important, he had great timing.

Luckily for him he peaked just before the caucuses and was not really vetted by the media or attacked by the other candidates so there was little or no obvious negative information that the voters could chew on as they went to the causes.

Showing additional humility Santorum, himself acknowledged the unlikely nature of his meteoric raise.

On Tuesday night in his concession-like speech, Gingrich laid down the gauntlet for Romney and Paul and gave Santorum the tip of a hat - all but an outright endorsement.

Santorum now has momentum and a gift from Gingrich - a foil who has his sights set on Romney.

On 3 January , we saw what could be the end of what remains of democracy as we know it, the equivalent of a corporate take over of the election process - where the chosen candidate of big business will ultimately win.

Although Santorum almost pulled off a David against Goliath feat, this could be the last time.

After all, these SuperPacs are just getting their political feet wet - just wait till the general election begins.

If any apathetic voter needs some motivation this is proof positive that elections have consequences.

Since the results of the presidential election of 2000 the composition of the Supreme Court has been altered dramatically - the Citizens United decision is just one example of those consequences.

There is a reason why the average US Citizen is concerned about the state of American Democracy.

Both the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street are different but equally powerful expressions of that concern.

The question is - with all that 'mother's milk' floating around, might it be too late?

This blog can also be read on Sky News

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