Now that was an interesting Iowa caucus! On the Republican side, Ted Cruz came in first (8 delegates), Donald Trump second (7 delegates), with Marco Rubio nipping at his heels for third (7 delegates).
On the Democratic side, it appears that Hillary Clinton eked out a historically narrow victory over Bernie Sanders. I say “appears” since last night it was reported that results from 90 precincts had gone missing. Given her serial history of lawbreaking, and the entire weight of the DNC all-in on dragging her over the finish line, would anyone put it past Hillary to monkey-wrench the process to avoid a narrow loss?
Let’s take a look at last night’s biggest winners and losers:
Winner: Ted Cruz: Given no chance at the beginning of the cycle, or even a few months ago, Cruz pulled out a clear victory against a candidate given eight months of unprecedented free media coverage. As I noted while following his 2012 senate race, Cruz is a smart, disciplined and indefatigable campaigner, a true conservative, and will make a great President.
Loser: Donald Trump: See above. A novice politician pulling 24% and second place in the Iowa caucuses would normally be cause for celebration, but Trump roared into Iowa like a juggernaut on a wave of unbelievable media interest and limped out like a hobbled mule. For all the talk about Trump’s money making a difference, there are few signs any of it was spent on an effective ground game. And for once he wasn’t bragging after the results came in.
Loser: Jeb Bush: Remember a year ago how everyone was predicting Bush’s fundraising machine and organizational muscle would bulldoze his rivals aside? Not so much. Bush ended up spending $2,884 per Iowa vote to come in sixth.
Winner: Marco Rubio: A strong third keeps him in the game, and he’s well situated to pick up deep-pocketed Bush backers who aren’t turned off by the huge amounts of money they’ve already thrown away.
Losers: Governors running for President. It used to be that Governor was seen as the idle perquisite for running for President (Reagan, Bush43, Clinton, Carter, etc.), but not only did Jeb Bush come in sixth, John Kaisch, Mike Huckabee, Chris Christie, and Jim Gilmore (who we’ll mention only because he was a governor, since he got a whopping 12 votes in all of Iowa) all did even worse, Martin O’Malley came in an exceptionally distant third on the Democratic side, and Rick Perry, Bobby Jindal and George Pataki didn’t even make it to Iowa. Huckabee and O’Mally have suspended their campaigns, and the other governors should follow suit.
Loser: Rand Paul: Few expected Paul to win, but few expected him to do markedly worse than his father. He should drop out
Losers: The remaining Republican candidates. At this point there’s no path to victory for Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina or Rick Santorum. They should drop out as well.
Winner: Bernie Sanders: He went from being a crazy old socialist with no chance of winning to a crazy old socialist who fought the Clinton machine to a virtual tie.
Loser: Hillary Clinton: She desperately needed to win Iowa and got it, maybe (the Iowa Democratic Party is refusing to release actual vote totals, as opposed to precinct results), with the help of some missing ballots and unlikely coin flips, by the skin of her teeth, but she vastly underperformed in a race that was supposed to be cakewalk for her a year ago. “Her inability to ride a first-class ground organization to a decisive triumph underscores the candidate’s weakness and the lack of a message that resonates with primary voters.” And there were accusations that Hillary was using paid staffers as precinct chairmen.
It’s now a three man race on the Republican side, and a dog fight on the Democratic side.