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James Carville kept saying, over and over again on CNN, that Iowa doesn’t matter, that Ron Paul will not be the Republican nominee, and Mitt Romney will be, even if a lot of GOP primary voters don’t like him.

I think he’s probably right. So why did we — and especially the cable-news networks — spend hours and hours on this again, other than for the sheer sport of it?

For the past hour I’ve been flipping among Fox News Channel, CNN and MSNBC, and I feel confident in saying it really doesn’t mean a damn thing which way a “very close race” in Iowa — separated by something like 18 votes — ultimately goes, in terms of the bigger picture. For starters, it’s pretty clear anybody who “wins” will do so with only about a quarter of the vote, and that’s just in the GOP column.

Mostly, the whole evening gave networks a chance to do a dress rehearsal for future coverage. All the silly technology — with the even sillier Erin Burnett manning it — on CNN. The “kids” sitting around kibbitzing after midnight Eastern time on MSNBC. William Kristol showing off how pompous he can sound on Fox News.

In the time I’ve been writing this, the margin has shrunk to four votes. Frankly, the BCS polls are better managed than this.

In fact, if Iowa is any indication, I predict Romney will play LSU for the Republican nomination, and/or national championship. And Alabama and Rick Santorum will be shit out of luck.

UPDATE, 11:33 p.m. PT: As Howard Cosell would say, “It’s over! Down goes Santorum! Down goes Santorum! By a mere margin of eight votes!”

For God’s sake, someone send Wolf Blitzer to bed.

Carville: “Folks, this has been one weird race so far. … Two bad football teams playing can be a pretty good game.”

And you ain’t seen nothing yet.