Today is the first day of my last undergraduate semester, Future announced that he is releasing yet ANOTHER album/mixtape/holy scripture on Friday, and the Iowa Caucuses are behind us. What a time to be alive. If you’re washed up like me, you spent the night anxiously awaiting the results. I won’t waste any more time with the formalities. Let’s just dive into some analysis of what went down.
Conservative firebrand Ted Cruz won on the Republican side, taking 28% of the total delegates at stake. Trump came in second with 24%, while likely establishment favorite Marco Rubio finished third with 23%. I am unsurprised that Cruz was able to win Iowa. The past two election cycles have seen the Iowa winner on the GOP side win by riding the support of the evangelical right, as Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum did in 2008 and 2012 respectively. This constituency is exactly where Cruz draws the majority of his support from and he was able to continue this trend in this election cycle. To Cruz’s credit, he won by exhibiting an impressive ground game and fostering grassroots support. We’ll see if he can replicate this ground game elsewhere.
As for Trump, the second place finish chips away slightly at the narrative his campaign has sought to build of Trump being a winner. Lacking any realistic policy proposals, Trump has generally cited his high polling numbers, both in Iowa as well as nationwide, as reason to support him. Could this be the beginning of the downfall for the Trump machine? New Hampshire will certainly help answer that question.
The real story on the Republican side, however, is the unforeseen success of Marco Rubio. Rubio has consistently led the establishment wing of the party in polling. However, his numbers have been well behind Cruz, Trump, and Ben Carson’s at various points throughout the campaign. Coming very close to finishing second is a very strong showing for the Florida Senator. Numerous pundits believe that Rubio is the most likely candidate to eventually receive the nomination and have been predicting a surge on his behalf. In 2008, a strong Iowa showing propelled Barack Obama to be the eventual nominee. We’ll see if Rubio can replicate this. Rubio is an establishment Republican who is very popular within his party, unlike Cruz or Trump who are both hated by pretty much all office holding Republicans. Showing that he can win a substantial portion of the vote in a state that favors more conservative Republicans helps him show that he can unite both the moderate wing, as well as the conservative wing of his party, something that bodes very well for his chances of being the nominee. Judging by his victory (3rd place) speech, he knows how important his showing was too. Expect to see the GOP establishment begin to coalesce behind Rubio unless John Kasich, Chris Christie, or Jeb Bush, the other establishment candidates, can do well in New Hampshire next week.
As for the Democrats, Clinton slightly edges Sanders with 49.9% to his 49.6%. Both candidates will receive roughly half of Iowa’s 44 DNC delegates. Martin O’Malley decided to end his nonexistent campaign, leaving just two official Democratic candidates left (on the GOP side, Mike Huckabee called his campaign quits following Iowa). Honestly, Iowa matters far less for the Democrats than it does for Republicans, particularly now that it is basically a tie. Sanders will almost certainly win next week in New Hampshire. However, that is where his campaign will (I think) peak.
Sanders has nowhere near the support from racial minorities, particularly African-Americans, that Clinton has. The support of African-Americans is an imperative precursor any Democrat needs to win their nomination. When the third primary in South Carolina rolls around in a couple weeks, expect the Clinton coronation to be back on track, as Sanders will not be able to compete in states that aren’t as white as Iowa and New Hampshire. Bill Clinton lost both Iowa and New Hampshire in 1992 before riding strong minority support to a South Carolina win and, ultimately, 8 years in the White House. There is the possibility, however, that Sanders winning the first two states will set off a Clinton collapse eerily reminiscent of her 2008 debacle.
I expect Sanders to carry this momentum into New Hampshire and win easily there. However, I don’t foresee the “Bern” being felt much longer. Expect President Obama to endorse Clinton at some point in the near future, giving her a huge boost, particularly among the African-American constituency that already overwhelmingly supports her.