The Caucus Within the Caucuses
Having first declared that the 2012 Iowa Caucuses had become a "global wingnut magnet" with the arrival on the campaign trail of Judge Roy Moore, I've now got a more measured assessment, which I've written up for The Atlantic.
You can read it all, but the basic theory is that the Christian Right is holding something of a Caucus-Within-the-Caucuses to determine which of their champions will carry the cross into the main battle with "moderate" infidels like Mitt Romney. It's sort of what happened in 2008 when Mike Huckabee became the Iowa alternative to Romney among Christian conservatives only after he out-organized Sen. Sam Brownback at the state party straw poll in the summer of 2007.
So Republicans who are hoping that the freak show of far-right candidates crowding Iowa will give more oxygen to "moderates" may be missing the point. Within the context of the Christian Right, Roy Moore is not a madman, but just, well, a rather passionate man of distinctive Dominionist views. He'll get his audition, along with Herman Cain and Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum and maybe T-Paw (if he keeps evolving in the radical direction he seems to have chosen) for the Christian Right nod, but The Faithful will probably go into the Caucuses themselves more or less united.
There's one other thing that strikes me as fascinating about Moore's invasion of Iowa. His political act in Alabama has pretty much worn itself out after two very poor showings in GOP gubernatorial primaries. It could very well be that the Judge feels more at "home" in Iowa, one of the few places in the country where conservatives are obsessed with the issue of same-sex marriage. He wouldn't be the first Alabama demagogue to find a surprisingly receptive audience Up North, would he?