Nonetheless, Romney is poised to do something no Republican has done in recent times: follow a contested Iowa caucus victory with a primary win in New Hampshire. New Hampshire voters have shown contrarian streaks before. But a Romney loss there would rank as a huge upset.
Even if he carries New Hampshire, Romney won't be home free. His Mormonism could hurt him in South Carolina, whose primary is Jan. 21. But with Perry and Gingrich wounded, it's unclear who can take full advantage.
Romney might be able to endure a poor finish in South Carolina and move on strongly to Florida, which votes on Jan. 31. It's a sprawling, diverse and expensive state for candidates. Romney has proven to be the best fundraiser, organizer and strategist thus far.
Democrats were hoping for a slow and difficult start for Romney. They want to see him battered, and bled of money, for as long as possible before the summer nominating conventions.
Iowa's results leave both parties with plenty of disappointments.
EDITOR'S NOTE - Charles Babington covers national politics for The Associated Press.
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