The American Singularity – Pre-Caucus Special: Seven Questions Before Iowa’s Big Night.
Monday, February 1, 2016
By Reed Galen
1. Conventional Wisdom says that if Donald Trump wins the Iowa Caucuses, he steamrolls through New Hampshire. Is that true?
Trump surged in January as Ted Cruz faded. The last two major surveys out of the Hawkeye State (Des Moines Register/Bloomberg & Quinnipiac) showed Trump marginally ahead of Senator Ted Cruz. Should the Donald convert his stadium-sized crowds to actual caucus-goers, he certainly appears to have a head of steam heading into the Granite State. A large field in New Hampshire bodes well for Donald next week.
2. Anything but a win for Ted Cruz now looks like a big loss. Is it?
Ted Cruz had a miserable January. He’s trailing Trump and now feels Marco Rubio nipping at his heels. It appears that Cruz, to use car-racing parlance, has gotten himself caught between the Trump and Rubio high/low lines and is left without a drafting partner. Given how much and how vehemently Cruz is now invoking the Almighty to come to his defense, Cruz absolutely must drive Evangelical turnout if he hopes to overcome Trump tonight. Given the much smaller number of religious voters in New Hampshire, Cruz will need to escape next week and get back to the South where he can hope to regain steam.
3. Marco Rubio’s star is rising in Iowa. Is this the beginning of his march to winning the Establishment primary?
If the Establishment wants to make a run at the White House, Senator Marco Rubio would be an excellent choice as standard-bearer. Rubio has a run a savvy, media-heavy campaign that has made the most of his strengths and done its best to mitigate his weaknesses. While the conservatives in the race will continue to make hay of his Gang of Eight involvement, if he’s within a point or two of Ted Cruz, he can begin making the case across the party lanes that he’s the candidate to take on Donald Trump.
4. If the rest of the Establishment wing (Jeb, Christie, Kasich) places no better than 6th tonight, what does that mean for them?
Oof. Sixth or worse in Iowa, despite its more conservative status, would create a(n even more damaging) narrative that they couldn’t manage to convince Iowa’s moderate Republicans that they had what it takes to win. If the three of them finish this far back, only one of them will reasonably emerge from next week’s New Hampshire primary with something that even remotely resembles long-term viability.
5. If, as expected already-runs like Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum finish way, way out of the money tonight, do they get out? If so, does their earlier appearance with Trump this week indicate a coming endorsement?
Despite winning Iowa in 2008 and 2012 respectively, Huckabee and Santorum have been unable to recreate their magic. Given that the bulk of the Evangelical vote appears to be going with Cruz, the former Caucus winners will see the end of their aspirations laid out on the snowy plains of Iowa. If their appearance at Donald Trump’s debate counter-programming event last week is an indication of their inclination to endorse the front-runner, it would raise the question of whether the religious vote is really a bloc anymore.
6. Will Iowa truly “winnow the field?” If so, is that a good or bad thing for Donald Trump?
There are currently 12 candidates in the GOP field. After Iowa, that number should drop by at least three, if not four candidates. Even a party of eight still allows Trump to capitalize on his 30%+ support in New Hampshire and beyond. However, as the primary continues and it becomes a three, four or five-person race, will voters in later states decide Donald Trump’s Wild Ride has gone far enough?
7. If Bernie Sanders wins tonight, what does it mean for Hillary Clinton’s campaign? 2008 Redux?
Hillary Clinton in 2012 is not that different than Hillary Clinton. That’s bad news for her. But Bernie Sanders in 2012 is not Barack Obama in 2008. That is good news for her. However, Clinton needs a win, by a country mile or by a hair’s breadth tonight. The questions, they’re always there – can she really win? Will the email stuff ever go away? The late surveys in Iowa showed the intensity for her candidacy was as strong as for Sanders. But she needs a little luck, a little bad weather and a lot of legwork to overcome the Bernie machine of older voters and college kids. Going into a much tougher New Hampshire contest 0-1 might not derail her chances at the nomination, but it would likely extend the primary, and the damage she absorbs, longer than she’d like.