Odd that media legs are repeating "tie" spin in Iowa, since the only reason that's being said is to avoid embarrassing the assumed nominee.And adds that if they called the old results a Romney win, then they should now be talking about a Santorum win. I agree -- although better, in both cases, to call it a tie. Remember, nothing tangible is at stake in the question of who had a few more votes, so I don't see any need for the press to pretend to know more than they actually do. It's a tie.
I think this actually demonstrates that I was correct in saying, before Iowa, that it didn't really matter how the votes fell as long as Romney, Santorum, and Ron Paul were 1-2-3 in some order. What mattered was the spin, especially within the partisan press. And that spin was largely independent of the exact order of finish. As it happened, Santorum seems to have received a lot less positive media attention than some previous strong finishers in Iowa, although I'll be interested to hear of any studies about what Fox News actually looked like in the days after Iowa.
Could things have been different had Santorum had this tiny lead on the night of the caucuses? There's no way to prove it one way or another, but again: lots of second place finishers have received plenty of great press. Some of this may actually have been Santorum's own fault, since he inexplicably waited until most people had gone to bed before giving a victory speech that night. But my assumption is that if GOP party actors really had wanted to derail Mitt Romney that they would have spun the results heavily for Santorum, and as far as I could see that never happened. It's hard to believe they would have acted differently had the tie gone the other way back then.