The results from the Iowa caucus reflect how well established the divisions are on the right. As the NYT described the outcome:
Republicans entered the campaign divided into three strains that are now personified by the three men who led in the last polls before the caucuses: Mr. Romney representing the moneyed, establishment chamber of commerce wing; Mr. Santorum representing the classic social conservative bloc and Mr. Paul the libertarian, noninterventionist, small-government wing.
Of course, these divisions are nothing new. As detailed in George Nash’s opus The Intellectual Conservative Movement in America, these factions were vying for influence in the immediate postwar decades. There was something of a peace treaty (fusionism), but it was always quite fragile. Absent the existential threat of communism (no, terrorism could not take its place) or, alternatively, a leader who can forge a message that appeals equally to the various factions on the right (e.g., Ronald Reagan), fusionism seems to be an ever more elusive goal.
Each of the top contenders in Iowa represent a distinct faction. None seemed capable of constructing the foundations of a new fusionism. Republicans have to hope that disdain for Obama is sufficient to forge a working alliance in 2012.
I am not confident that Obama will (or should) serve this purpose nor am I confident that it would be in the national interest that he did, given that two of the top contenders and the factions they represent offer no principled opposition to the ongoing expansion of the state or genuine support for the kinds of reforms that would be necessary to return the nation to a path of fiscal sanity.