By the time you see this, you’ll know that Cruz, Trump, and Rubio came in — in that order — with their percentages of the vote in the 20s.
It is a significant victory for Ted Cruz, given the somewhat wild ride of the polls over the last two weeks, and a surge for Rubio in the last several days. One reason it’s significant is that this year’s Iowa caucuses were the biggest vote draw ever. At over 180,000 total ballots cast, it beats the totals in the last three by more than 40,000 votes. Cruz didn’t win because Iowa voters were apathetic; he won because they were energized.
That said, his poll numbers aren’t as good in New Hampshire, and it’s clear at this point that the “GOP establishment” is rallying around Rubio.
And that said, it remains a mistake to discount Trump. If you look at the vote totals, the three leading candidates are still close to each other, and the next-tier candidates aren’t having a concentrated effect on any one of them. Ben Carson, who came in a respectable fourth, probably drew off votes mainly from Cruz. Rand Paul probably drew them off about equally from the leaders; his more libertarian base has reasons to object to all three of them. Maybe there are more Paul supporters who’d vote for Trump on a single-issue basis — maybe.
And Jeb! and Fiorina aren’t chopped liver (even if they clearly aren’t going to make it to Cleveland). Jeb!’s supporters would be most likely to go to Rubio. Fiorina’s I suspect would go largely for Cruz, but a healthy number could well go to Rubio. Jeb!, Kasich, and Christie, the bigger-government “moderates,” came up with over 11,000 votes between them, and that number could have put either Trump or Rubio over the top.
So this is definitely not a done deal yet. That said, reports of Cruz’s political demise were greatly exaggerated.
A couple of stray notes. Mike Huckabee has suspended his campaign, in case you were wondering. We can hope he’ll be back strumming his guitar on Fox in short order. And Jim Gilmore, God bless him, got 12 votes as of the 99%-precincts-reporting mark.
It’s too early to fully parse meaning from tonight’s results. But it is interesting that the voters awarded about 54,000 of the total votes to what I would consider the big conventional-politics, old-consensus candidates: Rubio, Jeb!, Kasich, and Christie. That’s about a third of the total. It comes to about 3,000 more votes than Cruz got. The unconventional-politics candidates — Trump, Carson, Paul, Fiorina — got about 65,000 votes. If you add Cruz’s total to that, and consider him an unconventional-politics candidate, the strength of unconventional politics in this first salvo of 2016 is overwhelming.
On the Democrats’ side, Sanders has surged to within a percentage point of Hillary as I type. The Democratic vote total is much smaller; Hillary is currently leading with 661 votes to Sanders’ 657, with 94% of precincts reporting. The talking heads expect her to pull a little further ahead in the unreported precincts. But it looks like Clinton and Sanders will split the Iowa delegates just about 50-50. (Martin O’Malley, like Huckabee, dropped out today. And who knows — like Huckabee, he may soon be seen wielding a guitar to entertain the public.)
Sanders does have a real prospect of winning in New Hampshire too. I don’t expect him to show well in the southern primaries, so Hillary is still very much in this. But tonight is deflating for her, and a behind-the-scenes scramble is not going to be off the table for conventional-politics Democrats until she starts pulling away from him.
It’s 2016 in America. Let the wild rumpus begin.