Even frontrunners know Republican nomination struggle is set to be long and tough

  • @dusborne

The circus that is the Republican nomination contest will already have decamped from Iowa by dawn this morning sending candidates, variously bruised and boosted by last night's caucus results, to prepare for the next rounds of battle, first in New Hampshire next Tuesday and then 10 days later in South Carolina.

For all the hullabaloo in Iowa, the reality will now set in, even for the strongest of the runners, that the road to one of them winning enough delegates to claim the nomination at the Republican convention this summer and thereafter to take on Barack Obama is still likely to be long and arduous.

"No one will have the required number of delegates until April or May," Eric Fernstrom, a top adviser to Mitt Romney, predicted on the sidelines of one of the former governor's last Iowa rallies yesterday. "We think we'll do well, but I'm not going to make predictions. At the end of the day, we think Mitt Romney will have the number of delegates he needs to be the nominee."

Rick Perry, the Governor of Texas, who held one of his last Iowa rallies in the namesake town of Perry northwest of Des Moines, was said last night to be flying directly to South Carolina in a sign that he has all but given up hope of effectively challenging Mr Romney in New Hampshire. With deep pockets, the governor used all the bells and whistles in his Perry rally to impress wavering Iowans. There was cowboy music, Texan veterans from Afghanistan and glowing introductions from the governors of Louisiana and Kansas. Most of the 200 or so who attended left seemingly impressed.

"This has helped me to make a decision a lot," said Tony Sweet, 53, a meatpacker. But as for Mr Perry's chances, he still had doubts. "I think one of the things working against him is just that he is another governor from Texas and the whole Bush legacy,"

Newt Gingrich vowed to fight aggressively in New Hampshire to distinguish himself as a true conservative. Even before Iowans gathered in homes, school gyms and public halls to make their choices, Mr Gingrich flatly accused Mr Romney of lying about his record.

After saying that Mr Romney need to "just level with the American people", Mr Gingrich added: "Let's have a debate between a Massachusetts moderate and a real conservative."