The following are some observations on the Iowa caucuses:
1. The Cruz ground game pays off. Entering this contest, everyone fully expected this to be either Cruz or Trump ending up on top at the end of the night. In this, there was no surprise. But, why did Cruz move ahead of Trump when the chips were down? Ted Cruz invested a lot of time, effort, money and manpower in Iowa. Given that investment, anything lower than a second place finish would have been almost deathly for the Cruz campaign. His ground game may have been the biggest factor in getting him to the #1 spot.
2. Trump got injured. Expect Trump to turn up the rhetoric now that we head into New Hampshire where he leads in the polls. But, he also led in Iowa before faltering. Given the Iowa results, he now has to look not only in front of him, but behind him. Like a caged animal with walls closing in, he will likely strike out against Cruz and Rubio now. That could potentially help Cruz, perhaps not in New Hampshire but in the early March primaries.
3. Cruz supporters should hold their enthusiasm. Congratulations go out to Cruz for a well-deserved earned victory. But remember that neither Mike Huckabee nor Rick Santorum ended up the eventual nominee. As will be explained in a later article, the calendar clearly favors Cruz and/or Trump, but once we get to mid-March, the game changes completely. So, expect Cruz to downplay New Hampshire next week. And please do not cite polls showing Cruz gaining in the Granite State because if Iowa proved anything, polls mean squat.
4. Iowans did not fall for Trump’s debate stunt. Given everything this writer has read and heard out of Iowa, Trump’s decision to skip the debate last week did not help his cause. Some took it as an insult and using Megyn Kelly as an excuse fell on deaf ears. We will never know how this caucus would have turned out had he appeared at the debate other than what Iowans are saying. In any case, don’t expect Trump to miss any more debates. And obviously the “birther” issue was a sideshow.
5. Pundits suck. Everyone predicted that if there was high turnout, it would benefit Trump. Well, it was record high turnout and it did not help him. The pundits predicted this because of their reliance on polls.
6. So where did the Trump poll numbers go? There is no explanation for Trump’s discrepancy between his poll numbers and those actually received other than those actual votes broke in favor of Rubio. Cruz was rather consistently in the 25-30% range and he landed dead in the middle. In those same polls, Trump polled north of 30% while Rubio was stuck at 15%. Obviously, those Trump votes did not go to Cruz, but to Rubio.
7. Criticism over the Rubio strategy. As recently as yesterday some people here and elsewhere were highly critical of Rubio’s primary strategy. It seems strange to declare the #3 finisher the “winner,” but he is the one candidate who by far exceeded his expectations going into Iowa- and by a large margin. The goal is to stay close and relevant until the calendar more heavily favors Rubio. This was clearly a vindication of his strategy and as the campaign heats up, expect more Rubio presence on the ground in future states.
8. Goodbye Huckabee and Santorum…and Fiorina should go also. Mike Huckabee was true to his word and suspended his campaign having finished ninth. Now Santorum should do the same. And Carly Fiorina had her 15 minutes of fame and it is time to head for the exits also. One would expect the small Huckabee/Santorum contingent to drift into the Trump camp with Fiorina’s drifting towards Rubio and, taken together, they wash each other out.
9. What about the other guys? Bush, Kasich and Christie will come out will all barrels blazing in New Hampshire after Rubio. Anything less than a third place finish for any of those three- given their investment in New Hampshire- should be justification for dropping out. I expect Kasich to hang in there until Ohio just because. But, we will hopefully see the end of Bush and Christie after next Tuesday.
10. Who the hell are the 12 people who voted for Gilmore? You gotta hand it to them for sticking to their guns. But then again when “Other” beats you by 107 votes…
11. What about Carson and Paul? As the last debate illustrated, there was a strong and vocal contingent for Rand Paul- just not enough of them. It may get him a slot in the next debate however. As for Carson, he too will lull viewers to sleep with the next debate on February 6th- three days before the primary. If anyone is to play a spoiler, it may just be Paul and who he backs (or who his supporters drift towards) after he eventually withdraws should be watched. He’s a civil liberties/”isolationist” type and that favors Cruz.
12. Oh yeah- the Democrats. Hillary Clinton eeked out a narrow victory against a 75-year-old socialist from Vermont…in Iowa. Clinton has deep problems of her own making and she is not convincing a soul. If Sanders can hit her on her integrity and trust issues, he may just surprise where she doesn’t expect it.
13. Reince Preibus will not have his nominee by April 1st. Last year, the RNC Chairman boldly predicted there would be a nominee by the end of March. Everything points to the fact that is not going to happen. Think more like mid-May or possibly even the final primaries in June…and maybe even then it may not be decided.