Just when you might think you have seen everything in this Republican presidential primary process, there is something new.
On Thursday it was the disclosure that it was Rick Santorum who prevailed in the Iowa caucuses. Though it was by only a handful of votes, he was believed to have finished second by a comparable margin — still giving Mitt Romney the winner's edge headed into New Hampshire.
Also on Thursday — two days before the South Carolina primary — Rick Perry dropped from the contest and endorsed Newt Gingrich.
No wonder there is a school of thought that says the way the GOP primaries are going, President Barack Obama may not have to campaign for re-election. The Republican presidential candidates are doing it for him.
Republicans approached the start of the primary and caucus season with a field of second-string candidates, except for Mitt Romney. For widely varying reasons, the GOP's political stars declined to enter the race, even though Obama appeared clearly vulnerable.
At one time or another, the past and present candidates have taken turns as rising or falling stars.
Perry now joins Herman Cain, Michelle Bachmann and Jon Huntsman on the sidelines.
Perry, from whom political handicappers expected great things, saw his poll numbers tank after a series of gaffes. In what seems to be becoming a tradition in this race, he left the stage with a backhanded endorsement of a competitor: "Newt Gingrich is not perfect, but who among us is?"
Obama's biggest political weakness is the economy, particularly joblessness. Romney is best poised to exploit that weakness by pledging to energize the private sector, but his fellow Republicans seem to be doing their best to see that he doesn't.
Stay tuned. We never know what comes next in this story turned saga, which will still have life when the road show moves to Florida and the votes are counted here on Jan. 31.