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The Brief: Jan. 4, 2012

The first defeat of Rick Perry's electoral career has likely marked the end of one of the most extraordinary flame-outs in modern political history.

Gov. Rick Perry while leaving the Republican presidential debate at Dartmouth College on Oct. 11, 2011.

The Big Conversation:

The first defeat of Rick Perry's electoral career has likely marked the end of one of the most extraordinary flame-outs in modern political history.

After a crushing fifth-place finish in Tuesday night's Iowa caucuses, Perry — the onetime front-runner for the Republican nomination — announced that he'd be suspending his campaign.

"I decided to return to Texas to assess the results of tonight’s caucus, to determine whether there is a path forward for myself in this race," Perry said in an emotional speech Tuesday night.

Only hours earlier, Perry and campaign aides had said he would keep fighting for the nomination, at least through the South Carolina primary, no matter the Iowa results. 

But in finishing with just 10 percent of the vote, ahead of only Michele Bachmann and Jon Huntsman, Perry — undone since August by a string of gaffes and a series of poor debate performances — faced insurmountable odds in mounting a comeback, even with more than $3 million left in his campaign accounts, as Politico reported. Rather, momentum has shifted toward Rick Santorum, who finished just 8 votes behind Mitt Romney, claiming 24.5 percent to Romney's 24.6 percent. Santorum's near win represented an astounding reversal of fortune for the former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania, who languished in the polls for months until last week, when several surveys began to show him headed toward a top-three finish. (Find full caucus results here.)

The other Texan in the race, Ron Paul, whom recent polls indicated would likely finish near the top, placed a respectable third, with 21.4 percent of the vote. His campaign now hopes to wield its considerable fundraising prowess while amassing delegates in smaller caucus states. Momentum, many of his supporters hope, will at least help Paul influence the conversation on the Republican side and the party's eventual nominee.

"This is the conviction that freedom is popular," Paul told a crowd of supporters Tuesday night. "This movement is going to continue and we are going to keep scoring. We will go on, we will raise the money, and I have no doubt about the volunteers."

Culled:

  • Craig James, the former ESPN analyst, heaps praise upon Rick Perry in his first U.S. Senate campaign ad. "Rick Perry changed Texas, cut waste, reduced taxes, put people back to work — and that's just what I'll do in Washington," James says in the spot, which the campaign released Tuesday. "Like Rick Perry, and like you, I know that America can get back on track by getting back to the values that made us great." In a bit of awkward timing, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst's U.S. Senate campaign earlier in the day posted a new online ad promoting comments Perry made Monday signaling support for Dewhurst's candidacy.
  • John McCain today plans to endorse Mitt Romney, BuzzFeed reported Tuesday night. Though the two fought each other for the Republican nomination in 2008, McCain's nod signals that he hopes Republicans will unite behind the former Massachusetts governor, who now faces a newly formidable rival in Rick Santorum
  • As the Tribune's Ross Ramsey reports, a San Antonio court is still waiting on the U.S. Supreme Court and a panel of Washington, D.C., federal judges to decide which maps the state can use to hold its coming elections. And with the primaries now less than three months away, the clock is ticking.

"There will be a great debate in the Republican Party before we are prepared to have a great debate with Barack Obama."Newt Gingrich, who finished fourth place Tuesday night in Iowa, to a crowd of supporters

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