February 2, 2016
By Reed Galen
Quote by a Smart Person: “The achievements of an organization are the results of the combined effort of each individual.” Vince Lombardi
Welcome to the American Singularity
Tonight Senator Ted Cruz captured the first win of the 2016 Presidential primary, winning the Iowa Caucuses by four points. This is a big deal for Cruz for a number of reasons: 1) It’s always better to win than lose 2) he had as rough a January as any Caucus winner as I can remember 3) he survived a sustained, frontal assault from Donald Trump and 4) he looks to have created a coalition of Evangelical voters and Constitutional conservatives.
It is cliché to say that organization matters in caucus states and the Cruz campaign proved that it can mean the difference between winning and losing. However, it wasn’t a crushing victory and this was a state Cruz always needed to win (and was supposed to.) As he currently sits in a distant second place position, the Cruz camp must feel good about their performance tonight.
Second Place is the First Loser
Donald Trump is very clear how he feels about losing and losers. The mood on Trump Force One will likely be glum as they wing eastward toward New Hampshire. While Iowa was always a reach and a definite away-game for Trump, the late polling showing him surging past Cruz at the end created an aura of inevitability that I (pundit admission) believed was reality. For a first-time candidate, second place is a good showing. But for Trump, second place is never good enough.
Marco! Marco! Marco!
Rubio finished third by the tally tonight, but within a point of Trump who owns the airwaves. The very strong finish shows that although Iowa is a very conservative state, there is still a healthy Establishment bloc of voters and those who truly believe that electability matters. This is a big, big night for the Rubio campaign. This should be the first big step in the Establishment wing collapsing beneath Marco and making it truly a three candidate race.
1) Ted Cruz won the Iowa Caucuses. It’s interesting to see what the results would have been if the quixotic efforts of Ben Carson, Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum had ended before tonight. With Huckabee dropping out of the race, his support, however modest, should accrue to Cruz’s benefit. Cruz also appears to be the first Iowa winner since George W. Bush in 2000 who actually appears viable enough to win the nomination.
2) Cruz, Trump and Rubio were extraordinarily close in their vote totals. Will this dynamic continue throughout the primary? Cruz as evangelical, Constitutional conservative, Trump as the anger candidate and Rubio as the Establishment choice. If they Win, Place and Show in New Hampshire, it appears this will be the triumvirate from which the GOP will have to choose its nominee.
3) For the Governors – Jeb Bush, Chris Christie and John Kasich, it was a very rough night. Admittedly, none of them campaigned in Iowa nor expected to win (nor even stuck around – they all decamped to New Hampshire.) But if they had not been in play, would those voters have gone to Rubio? Would their combined 7% have gone exclusively to Marco? Perhaps not, but it’s reasonable to expect that some of the Governors’ support in New Hampshire, both political and financial, will shift to Rubio as they see him as the savior of the Party.
4) Ben Carson issued perhaps the strangest press release in presidential primary history; noting that he was going home to Florida, not because his campaign was ending, but because he needed clean clothes. Pro-tip: They leave those plastic bags in your hotel room closet. They’ll clean your clothes for you.
Granite State Grind
Sixteen years ago I remember the scramble off the tarmac at Des Moines International Airport after then Governor George W. Bush, fresh off his Caucus win, headed for a midnight rally in New Hampshire. The campaigns still left in the Hawkeye State will make a similar pilgrimage tonight. The next eight days will be a bloody mess of diner stops, town hall meetings and rallies as the 10 or so remaining GOP candidates strive for every last Granite State voter. New Hampshire is fickle – they don’t like handing out wins to Caucus winners. Trump is up by a lot – but the winds could change in a hurry.