HUFFPOST HILL - JUST IN: A White Dude Will Be The Republican Nominee For President

What a night! CNN deployed so many newfangled technological doodads that we half-expected Anderson Cooper to be dunked into a vat of embryonic goo, hooked to a series of wires and declared a precog. Michele Bachmann warned voters that America is becoming a "third world banana republic" -- an implicit reference to America's first world banana republic heyday (our only export was HAPPINESS... oh, and guns). And Christopher Guest, we can only assume, started work on a movie script about an Iowa precinct -- Jane Lynch will play Callista Gingrich. It looks like Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney lured the most parka-clad Americans out of their natural gas-heated homes and into poorly-lit school auditoriums and well-lit megachurches... and isn't that what American politics is all about? This is a special Iowa caucuses edition of HUFFPOST HILL for Tuesday, January 3rd, 2012:

The Sugar Bowl is headed to OT

UGH, THIS THING WON'T END - Here are the numbers:

(96 percent reporting)

Santorum: 29,051 (25%)
Romney: 28,938 (25%)
Paul: 25,121 (21%)
Gingrich: 15,639 (13%)
Perry: 12,127 (10%)
Bachmann: 5,926 (5%)
Huntsman: Tears.

HuffPost Hill's (very expensive and holographic) gadgets project Romney and Santorum will finish with precisely the same number of votes. HuffPost Hill will deny this projection if it is false.


ReSADution: Ron Paul: "It won't be long before there's an election in New Hampshire and believe me this momentum will continue...I'm looking forward to the day when we can say 'we're all Austrians now.'" Anschluss with Austria is your newest campaign issue.

We give Gingrich's grumpy concession speech 4 1/2 frisbees on yards (out of five). A curmudgeon-y record!!!! "[Santorum] waged a great, positive campaign... I wish I could say that of all the candidates... [Ron Paul's] views on foreign policy are stunningly dangerous for the survival of the United States...I do deserve the right to tell the truth, and if the truth seems negative..."

"He was buying doggie sunglasses," Michele Bachmann on her husband, Marcus.

Cook Political Report's Dave Wasserman has been scrutinizing the numbers. Our polling guru Mark Blumenthal insists he knows his stuff. @Redistrict: "And it all comes down to Ames! Just 2% of Story Co. has reported in, biggest outstanding chunk. Will go Paul, but who's 2nd?... Telling: Romney running 13% ahead of Santorum in Dallas Co. (wealthier DM burbs), but 2% behind him in Polk Co. (more blue collar burbs)... Santorum's biggest ace in the hole: Sioux County & far NW. Romney still has Dubuque, Davenport, IA City Sioux City out. It's on." [@Redistrict]

@BuddyRoemer: BREAKING: Nobody in Iowa knows I exist. #LetBuddyDebate

@BuddyRoemer: Okay. That's it. I'm buying a sweater vest. #itworkedforsantorum

ENTRANCE POLLS, WE BESEECH YOU: TELL US OF THE ELECTORATE, SHARE WITH US YOUR WISDOM OF THE CAUCUSES - "The economy and the federal budget deficit were top issues, judged more important than abortion or health care, according to a survey of early caucus-goers. About a third of those surveyed said they most wanted a candidate who could defeat Obama, and they tended to favor Romney. Paul held a broad advantage among the nearly one in four who called the selection of a true conservative their top priority, and he also made a strong showing among younger and first-time caucus-goers. Supporters of the tea party made up about two-thirds of the electorate, and were nearly evenly split among Paul, Romney and Santorum." [AP]

OBAMA SMILING - Howard Fineman: "The dismal, nasty campaign here was not good for the Republican Party or the country. There was precious little debate on anything other than who literally was Holier than Thou; the dollars spent on attack ads were, vote for vote, enormous. One GOP top finisher is unpopular with the base; another is too far out of the mainstream to be nominated, let alone elected; the third lost his last Senate race, in Pennsylvania, by 17 points, and is far to the right of the country on social issues. All of which is good news for a president with a 40 percent job approval rating and a desperate need for a weak opponent next November." [HuffPost]

Sadly, no pundit pulled a Russert and held up a "Allamakee County! Allamakee County! Allamakee County!" sign. Disappointing.

CORRECTION: The headline of our first edition earlier today stated incorrectly that "0.00032 Percent Of Americans Prepare To Caucus." We forgot to multiply by 100. We meant to say that "0.032 Percent Of Americans Prepare To Caucus." We sincerely apologize. You nerds deserve better. As a token of our nerd contrition, please accept this Star Trek supercut. We apologize to all the nerds, geeks, techies, spazzes, dorks, dweebs and mouth-breathers who may have been offended. You deserve better.

@brianstetler: HuffPo's @howardfineman on MSNBC, re: last-placer Bachmann: "She is about to be told by her inner circle that she should call it quits."

GARY JOHNSON DROPS OUT, ENDORSES RON PAUL *JUST DOIN' HIS THANG* - Twitter's hive mind reported spewed forth news that former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson, who recently dropped out of the Republican primary to campaign for the Libertarian nomination, was quitting altogether and endorsing Ron Paul. That turned out to be bunk... nay, A RUSE. "Somebody is sending an email to news outlets concocted from me and that is absolutely not true," Joe Hunter, Gary Johnso's flack, told The Atlantic. "I have not even seen the email. I hope to soon." [The Atlantic]

@mcalderone: Romney filing center just flipped channel from CNN to Fox on the large screens reporters are watching for results.

NIGHT DOWNER! Extended unemployment benefits for the very long-term jobless are expiring this month in Minnesota, Michigan, Massachusetts, Maine, Oregon and Indiana, per agreement between congressional Republicans, Democrats and the Obama administration.



@TheFakeCNN: All the political and media people are in Iowa. If we could somehow fence it off, this is our chance to start a new society.

@dceiver: Remember that you can't spell "entrance poll" without the word "trance." (Also, "poll.")

@TeresaKopec: It looked like a funeral behind Perry. Almost felt sorry for him. Then I remembered he was an asshole.

Got something to add? Send tips/quotes/stories/photos/events/fundraisers/job movement/juicy miscellanea to Eliot Nelson (eliot@huffingtonpost.com), Ryan Grim (ryan@huffingtonpost.com) or Arthur Delaney (arthur@huffingtonpost.com). Follow us on Twitter @HuffPostHill (twitter.com/HuffPostHill). Sign up here: http://huff.to/an2k2e