From NBC's Ron Allen
"Well, we won the silver." That was Mitt Romney putting a good face on what has to be a disappointing and very, very expensive night.
Romney was drawing on his experience running the Salt Lake City Olympic Games of 2002. He rescued that grand event from a corruption scandal. But he couldn't save his Iowa campaign from a once little known Baptist minister who's burst onto the national stage in recent weeks.
Romney congratulated Mike Huckabee, who probably sees this as a David and Goliath story, while Romney's aides pointed out that Huckabee was a "unique fit," with Iowa's Christian Conservative community. Some 60 percent of GOP caucusers said they belonged to the religious right, a group Romney courted, but apparently didn't connect with, perhaps because of his Mormon faith, perhaps because of the enduring charge that Romney's a flip-flopper on some hugely significant issues, or for other reasons Romney will probably roll around in his head as the race moves to New Hampshire.
For Romney, its a night to look on the bright side. They way he sees it, he's come a long way the past year from obscurity, an unknown governor from a blue state up against big-name competitors like McCain, Thompson and Giuliani. "We beat them all," he said.
The way Romney sees it, Washington outsiders won in Iowa, wrapping himself with Obama and of course tonite's nemisis Huckabee. Romney vowed to fight on. He certainly has the money to continue, despite spending as estimated $9 million here, while the winner invested a little over $1 million.
Down the road, McCain lays in wait. The senator, who spoke kindly of Huckabee now ties or leads Romney in the Granite State. He said Iowa proved money doesn't win elections, that negative ads, which Romney directed at his opponents, don't win either. He's already questioned Romney's relatively weak foreign policy background. That where things are headed as campaign 2008 moves East.
Here at Romney headquarters, the song, "It's a Beautiful Day" rang out before Romney and his family took the stage. However, most people outside looking at what happened here would probably agree, that millions and millions of dollars later, Romney had a rather costly night.