The 2012 US presidential nomination race is up and running and for the Republican Party it is Mitt Romney who is leading the pack after voters in Iowa had their say on the choice of candidates.
"What we did see coming out of Iowa is that Mitt Romney met expectations and he's still the Republican presidential frontrunner."
- Ford O'Connell, a Republican strategist
In the end, it came down to just eight votes as Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, won in a nail-biting finish with Rick Santorum, the former Pennsylvania senator.
Santorum had campaigned hard to court the hard-right conservative vote and enjoyed a late surge.
On the other hand, it was a disastrous night for Michele Bachmann - who has now dropped out of the race - and also Rick Perry. Both had at one point led opinion polls.
"I think what you're going to see is Rick Santorum reach out to Mitt Romney's supporters and say 'hey listen, I'm a guy who is not just a social conservative but I'm also an economic conservative' and I think that's where this is going to play out."
- David Sirota, a political commentator
The revolving cast of characters challenging Romney is, perhaps, a sign that the party is still struggling to find a unified voice, although there is still time for another candidate to break through given that John McCain finished fourth in Iowa in 2008.
But what will Barack Obama, the US president, make of the divided Republican field as he prepares to face the eventual nominee?
And with an eye on the upcoming Republican primaries, what can we learn from the Iowa caucus?
Inside Story US 2012 discusses with guests: David Sirota, a journalist and political commentator; Ford O'Connell, a Republican strategist and former advisor to the McCain-Palin campaign in 2008; and Michelle Diggles of thinktank Third Way, who also studies the trend among independent US voters.
"Let's be clear. One of the things which became obvious in the last few weeks in Iowa is that there will be a great debate in the Republican Party, before we are prepared to have a great debate with Barack Obama."
Newt Gingrich, Republican candidate
Source: Al Jazeera