The caucusing is over; the choice is made; the numbers are in. And we know who won and who lost, pretty much; unlike last time, the results are pretty reliable. But even though the numbers don’t lie, by themselves they don’t tell the whole truth.
The Actual Results:
Bear in mind, the following tables are cobbled together from varying news sources, including FiveThirtyEight.com, CNN, NBC, Fox News, and the random mutterings of some insane homeless guy who claims to be the reincarnation of Henry IX of England. Complicated statistical analysis tools were employed, including the Dartboard Method, Stealing Other People’s Answers, and the highly sophisticated Wild-Ass Guess Formula.
Once final results are official — and the best guess for that is a couple of days — I’ll adjust this to match, but until then, these data are preliminary.
|Dr. Ben Carson||9.7%||2|
From the numbers, then, it appears that Hillary Clinton and Ted Cruz each won their respective party’s decision in Iowa. After all, each of them got a majority of the votes, right?
Simple. Straightforward. Wrong.
The numbers for the Democrats are pretty simple: Hillary got half; Bernie got half; O’Malley got to go home.
But who won on the Republican side? It’s not that simple. In a very real sense, nobody at all won. I mean, yeah, Cruz and Rubio both did surprisingly well. Rand Paul did better than expected; he picked up almost enough votes to get a delegate at the convention. That’s a tremendous validation for his campaign since he was actually excluded from some early debates. Jeb Bush, the man in this campaign with the most unfortunate relatives, may also have picked up a pity delegate, and that’s not bad (considering). Dr. Carson, who seems intent on running for Vice President at this point, picked up an unexpectedly large percentage himself.
But is any of that really a victory? All told, we’re talking trifling percentages of the total vote. They all scored personal victories; they all met or exceeded expectations — but no matter what spin you put on it, there’s no escaping the simple truth: They all lost.
On the other hand, so did everyone else.
Hillary Clinton Lost
The darling of the Left, the chosen successor for President Obama, and (perhaps unfortunately) the only serious female candidate in the race, Mrs. Clinton is the preferred choice of the Democratic Party establishment. Her positions are well-known; she has better name recognition than our current president. Pick a random person in any state and there’s a decent chance that they’ve actually met, personally seen, or even spoken with this candidate.
And, although she may have won, she’s seen her major opponent, Senator Sanders, walk away with a stunningly close second place — and that despite his campaign’s lack of funds, miniscule in comparison to Clinton’s Super-PAC and massive war chest.
Bernie Sanders Lost
Six weeks ago, Sanders had no hope in Iowa. But the campaign has been building momentum, gaining strength, as people started seeing him for the first time as a serious candidate. Two weeks ago his popularity spiked, and then again a few days ago he gained even more support — possibly due to a negative reaction toward his opponent and her well-publicized email problems. His poll numbers have been going up, and up, and up… and yet despite all that he couldn’t quite win Iowa.
This perception of a slowing momentum is likely to cause the Sanders campaign problems in upcoming primaries, specifically in Nevada. If he fails to win more than one or two of the early races, he’s going to be perceived as an unelectable candidate and the bandwagon effect will serve to send votes to his opponent.
Donald Trump Really Lost
He’s loud, he’s arrogant, and he’s quite possibly the most disliked man in politics today. Trump is all set for a series of primary race wins and his campaign machine is coming together nicely. On the other hand, he couldn’t deliver in Iowa. No ground game.
Going forward, the Republican race is going to be all about money — or rather, a lack of money. Donations will be spread out among a wide field of candidates, and a lot of that will be spent on infighting and attack ads. For the eventual winner, all of that waste and negative press can only harm their eventual chances on the final ballot.
And Trump, for all his volume and bluster, has failed to demonstrate that he can actually win a major race.
Ted Cruz Lost, Despite ‘Winning’
Two weeks ago, Cruz was the man to beat in Iowa. Although second only to Donald Trump in unlikeability, Ted Cruz has a conservative Christian campaign that appeals to the heartland values crowd here in the center of the Bible Belt. Unfortunately for him, the more time he’s spent in the state, the more the citizens seem to prefer other candidates; his early lead in the polls was towering, but on decision day his followers went over to Trump and Rubio.
Ted Cruz set out to demonstrate his viability as a candidate. His views are solidly conservative; his beliefs have wide appeal; his abilities are unquestioned. But nobody that meets him likes him. Unfortunately for Cruz, that’s the main thing his campaign has demonstrated in Iowa.
Marco Rubio Didn’t Really Win
One of the last news items from tonight was a victory speech from the Rubio camp. It wasn’t surprising; it wasn’t really inappropriate, considering that he’s managed to pick up a ton of momentum at the last minute. Oddly, Rubio seems to have stolen votes from Cruz faster than Cruz could lose them to Trump.
But does he have any real chance in the later race?
As I mentioned in the conclusion of another post, we know Trump will stick around for a while and snag some of the delegates. Texas will go Cruz (155); Florida will go Bush (99); Ohio will go Kasich (66) — if, that is, Bush and Kasich stay in the race after tonight. Even if Marco Rubio takes South Carolina (that’s speculation based on a late endorsement), he’s got an awfully long way to go before he can be considered a serious candidate.
The Bottom Line
So what does all this mean for the voters, both in primary season and then in the upcoming election cycle?
Basically: Not much we didn’t already know.
For Clinton and Sanders, the primaries will be about staying viable through to the end. My perception is that, apart from age, either would make an excellent Vice President for the other, and that the final results of the race would be almost irrelevant were it not for that factor. However, since age will be an issue and they’re unlikely to choose one another as a result, a lot will depend on their eventual selections of running mates. Until then, there’s no real news for us; because of heightened Sanders expectations, nobody will be greatly surprised no matter which of them finally wins.
For the Republicans, this tells me more and more that we’re looking at an excellent chance for a divided convention in July. On the other hand, the candidates are well aware of that possibility, and the time will soon come when we’ll see the heavy weapons come out: Attack ads. Whisper campaigns. Negative memes spread via the internet. There’s an excellent chance of a bloody battle that lasts months, and the big news will only come when candidates start dropping out.
Anyone want to start a pool?