Yes, he only defeated former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum by a mere eight votes in Iowa, but a win is still supposed to be a win… That is, unless your name is Mitt Romney.
There are as many questions now of whether Republicans will coalesce around Romney as before the Iowa caucuses.
Part of the problem in more ways than one is that Mitt Romney is running against himself.
The game of expectations where Iowa reinforced the negatives for the former Massachusetts governor: One, that Romney has not been able to maneuver around a 25 percent glass ceiling of Republican support (not good if you're supposed to be the eventual nominee); and two, the returns gave Democrats their key talking point of Romney receiving less votes this time in Iowa than he did four years ago.
The doubts linger. Despite polls showing he can beat President Obama, conservatives either don't trust Romney or like him. Iowa did little to dispel that notion.
Will Romney be a consensus candidate? Perhaps… Maybe… Don't rule it out… Just don't count on it anytime soon.
You know it's a tough road ahead when you don't receive the traditional bounce from winning Iowa. One narrative that vanished overnight is that Romney won a state where, until recently, he wasn't even competitive in. Remember Romney shunned Iowa for most of 2011 as a result, placing his chips elsewhere.
Here is the plus side though. It's all about momentum. Who knows? Possible victories in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. Maybe Romney could start a sense of inevitability towards the nomination and silence the critics. One could argue the establishment support coming Romney's way could also help towards the sense of inevitability — like Wednesday's endorsement from one-time foe Senator John McCain (R-AZ).
Four years ago, I was in Iowa for NY1 News. Remember on the Democratic side — Obama won Iowa and never looked back. Hillary Clinton — while she made it competitive, coming as close as only a few hundred delegates away — was never able to catch Obama from Iowa. Maybe the same fate is ahead for Romney.
At least one candidate is out of the way with Michele Bachmann suspending her campaign, but Romney now has a new thorn in his side.
You know it's not good when Newt Gingrich indicates he'd like a truce with Santorum in New Hampshire.
"I admire the courage, the discipline, the way he focused. I also admire how positive [Santorum] was," Gingrich told his Iowa volunteers. Referring to Romney: "I wish I could say that for all the candidates."
Gingrich then made it clear he's going to throw Molotov cocktails Romney's way.
He called Romney the "Massachusetts moderate," and said Romney is incapable of doing what's necessary to fix the country. Gingrich promised no negative ads, but added: "I do reserve the right to tell the truth." This from the man who was known as a short-tempered bomb thrower during his days as House speaker.
Romney has to face Gingrich in New Hampshire debates not only Saturday, but Sunday as well.
Romney has to beat expectations from this day forward.