Eleven developed posts across nine consecutive days. I earned last night. I earned it good. More on Presidential Politics for America‘s successful night in a bit. For now, I need a post-caucus gimmick to carry me after a night of little sleep.
Iowa Caucuses Winners & Losers
(Evolving Iowa percentages here.)
Top Five Winners
5. The New Hampshire Primary: If Donald Trump won Iowa, we would have known the winners of both parties’ New Hampshire primaries. Now the Republican side is up for grabs. We’ll also see just how thoroughly Bernie Sanders can demolish Hillary Clinton in an effort to secure a big win after coming up painfully short in Iowa.
4. Hillary Clinton: I’m seeing a lot of Sanders spin that his potential less-than-one-percent loss, where he may have earned an equal amount of delegates as Clinton, was a great night for him, but don’t kid yourselves. He needed a victory. We’re going to get so sick of Sanders saying “basically a tie” in the next month. Clinton has a much clearer “Iowa” notch on her belt to reference the rest of the way for those keeping score at home. Moreover, while Sanders without question beat expectations as of last summer, we can’t forget that Sanders led seven different Iowa polls in the month of January. It was a winnable state for him. Remember, Iowa is the Democrats’ third most liberal/white state in the country.
Right in his wheel house. If he couldn’t win Iowa — a state with a high percentage of white, liberal activist Democrats — what makes us think he can win anything outside of New England? Whether this ends up being a narrow loss or tie, it hurts. While he might be able to pull off a Nevada win after a big New Hampshire result, we might be looking at just a couple victories for him in the Democratic Primary. I know it looks bad that Clinton won by less than a point, but she would have signed for that in a heartbeat if she were offered it on Monday morning.
3. Ted Cruz: Weird, the two technical winners last night did not qualify for the top two spots of PPFA’s winners. Hey, I don’t make the rules. Clinton didn’t qualify because it was such a narrow victory and potentially a delegate tie. Cruz didn’t because even though he certainly cleared expectations, it wasn’t by enough to earn a huge “Iowa bump.” Iowa was always Cruz Country, and he spent a lot time, money, and effort in order to win it. A three-point victory is nice, but he still only hit 27.7 percent of the vote. Furthermore, I don’t like some of the tactics his campaign used to win it, including the “voting violation” mailer and apparently starting the rumor that Ben Carson was suspending his campaign in order to poach the good doctor’s voters. As a result of all this, I don’t think Cruz plays well, despite his win, in most areas of the country. Still, he did further his case in South Carolina and across the SEC Primary states. If I were him, while Trump and Rubio spend the next week duking it out in New Hampshire, Cruz should get a head start in South Carolina, where he can try to get the leg up before it hosts a bruising three-way brawl between them.
That was Sunday morning. On Monday afternoon, I made my long-term Republican Primary predictions, where I pointed out that Rubio would be the Republican nominee after a strong third place finish in Iowa set up the rest of his run. And now, after landing just one point behind Trump’s second place finish (with an equal amount of projected delegates, no less), his chances at the nomination look fantastic.
So yeah, I’m feeling pretty, pretty good right now, which is a long ways away from how I felt on Sunday morning.
1. Marco Rubio: In one night, the most likely “runaway nominee” baton was passed from Donald Trump to Marco Rubio. I’m still holding out hope for a brokered convention, but now a much more likely scenario is that Rubio runs away with this thing. This strong third in Iowa sets up a top two with Trump in New Hampshire. He’ll then continue his “candidate on the rise” narrative into South Carolina, where he was already third before this success and just received the endorsement of its popular junior senator, Tim Scott. By then, Rubio’s establishment rivals might drop out after finishing behind Rubio in New Hampshire, meaning Rubio will consolidate the establishment vote as Cruz, thanks to his Iowa win, can split the anti-establishment vote with Trump. Third in Iowa, second in New Hampshire, and then maybe first in South Carolina. This is Rubio’s “3-2-1” strategy, and last night it got off to the perfect start.
Top Five Losers
5. Iowa GOP Polls: See #2 above. Swing and a miss, even from the oft-accurate Des Moines Register. They also failed to fully capture Rubio’s surge; while the polls did suggest third place was realistic for him, a close third was not. As I suspected, there were many late deciders, and many of them broke toward Rubio.
4. Non-Rubio Establishment candidates/New Hampshire Hopefuls: Poor Bush, Kasich, Christie, and Fiorina! I don’t see how they get their New Hampshire surprise now. After this Iowa result, a plurality of late establishment undecideds will surely turn to Rubio. It looks like Rubio and Trump in some order in the top two. That third ticket out of New Hampshire will be tough to get as the lot of them will split votes and Cruz’s momentum will need to be reckoned with as well. They’ll probably all unload on Rubio in the next week, but we’ll see if it matters. Even if one of them does finish third, could it really be with a healthy percentage?
3. Mike Huckabee: His political career ended last night. He never recaptured his 2008 magic. Happy trails, Huck. While we’re here, why is Rick Santorum still in the race? After winning the caucuses four years ago, he finished 11th last night, only beating out the hapless Jim Gilmore. His campaign had no pulse even before last night; now he has a negative pulse, which I didn’t think was biologically possible. His response, though? A 46-county tour of South Carolina! Someone’s afraid of being alone.
2. Martin O’Malley: With Huckabee, Martin O’Malley was the other presidential candidate to drop out. Methinks the only reason he stayed in the race through last night was because he was hoping to earn a favor from one of the candidates in exchange for his endorsement in Iowa to push one of them over the top in the caucuses. That never happened, so all that remained was the embarrassment of finishing somewhere between 0 and 1 percent.
1. Donald Trump: Time for a **Bias Alert!**: Rarely in my entire life have I experienced so much schadenfreude than I did last night. Wait, I take that back. Never in my entire life have I experienced so much schadenfreude than I did last night. We came into the Iowa caucuses wondering if a Trump win would set up a 50-state sweep. I was terrified of it; not only did Trump rival Carson as my least favorite presidential candidate, but I really, really wanted a competitive process on both sides. I hated Trump’s arrogance, his circular, “braggadocios” speeches that pointed to polling as more relevant than policy. I wanted to see Cruz show him that he’s not an infallible winner. Moreover, I had my Cruz prediction to worry about! And then, after all these months of Trump’s bloviating and my prognosticating, not only did Cruz do me a solid, but Trump almost third! That was flippin’ sweet. **End of bias** I don’t think a loss leads to a Trump collapse in New Hampshire or South Carolina. He’ll get his base pumped up again and be competitive in both. In later and moderate states, however, I expect a Trump dip. His chances at the nomination took a big hit.
Kissing His Sister
1. Bernie Sanders: At best, he can call this a virtual tie, but with no margin for error in Iowa, New Hampshire, and Nevada, a virtual tie was not good enough. As I said above, it’s to the immense credit of he and his supporters that he went toe to toe with the heaviest non-incumbent favorite we’ve seen since Eisenhower ’52. Still, after seven January polls showed him ahead in Iowa, this was a lost opportunity, even if it was a tie. He’ll take the overall lead in New Hampshire, and might even extend it a tad in Nevada, but it’ll be wiped away in South Carolina, setting up a big Super Tuesday for Hillary Clinton.