DES MOINES – Well, the Iowa Results are mostly in on the Republican side. At this point we are not sure if Rubio or Trump will finish technically second, but it looks for all intents and purposes like they will finish tied. It looks like Carson will not break 9%, and no one else had support that was even worth mentioning. With that in mind, let’s look at who won and lost in Iowa tonight.
1. Ted Cruz – Ted Cruz deserves a ton of credit. He faced a ton of flak coming down the wire. He was the central target at Thursday’s debate, and even I said that he did not come off looking particularly well in his final effort. But his campaign built a truly impressive organization here in Iowa and rode it to a surprisingly easy win. Cruz’s campaign is richer than Croesus, and he heads to New Hampshire with a telling story of success under his belt. Winning makes you the top winner, no matter what.
2. Marco Rubio – All across the state, Rubio’s people were supremely confident that he was going to surprise people today, and surprise people he did. Rubio also built a great (although smaller) organization here and got virtually every late breaking voter to his side. He ended up utterly destroying Jeb Christie, and all the other contenders who were hoping to sell the story that Marco was a paper tiger heading into New Hampshire. Marco will likely siphon a bunch of support from the “establishment” lane as a result of his extremely strong showing tonight.
1. Donald Trump – Whether he finishes behind Rubio or not, Trump has now faced the first test of actual voters, and the story going forward will likely be that the polls are drastically overstating Trump’s support. The flaws in Trump’s organization, which mostly does not exist, have been exposed. Given that Trump has basically been running on inevitability for a month, this can only hurt his image. To finish essentially tied with Rubio, who he largely dismissed, has to be especially insulting for Trump. What’s even more damaging is that he has been pivoting to the general over the last week in particular, letting loose with a ton of outright liberal statements that will provide endless fodder for his opponents going into New Hampshire.
2. The Renewable Fuel Standard – With a Cruz win, against the entire ethanol lobby, the RFS might be dead for good.
3. Ben Carson – Carson really hoped to make a surprising showing of strength based on the commitment of his volunteers, but in the end he finished up around the exact 10% that the polls predicted, if not a little weaker. Iowa was supposed to be a good fit for Carson; it’s difficult to see a rationale for his campaign going forward.
4. Rand Paul – Rand Paul had been touting his campaign’s organization and caucus strength, based largely on the success his father had here in Iowa in years past. It turns out, most of those people really had abandoned him to support Cruz, and he looks likely to finish under 5%. Paul will probably continue campaigning through New Hampshire, but the writing is on the wall for his campaign, and a strong Senate challenge beckons back home.
5. Chris Christie – Christie’s people secretly hoped to pull off a surprise level of support here in Iowa, or at least to create some measurable distance between themselves and Jeb Bush. Instead, Christie looks likely to finish even behind Jeb Bush, and even worse, behind Kasich, who basically did not campaign here. Christie’s campaign will play this off as a state he didn’t really want or need, but the Iowa results will definitely hurt him heading into New Hampshire.