By Ryan Hamilton
As I’m sure you’ve all heard, Hillary Clinton and Ted Cruz won the Iowa Caucuses. Ted Cruz was a surprise, and while it was close, Cruz beat Donald Trump by 5 000 votes. This has been foreseeable for a few weeks but the real surprise in the Republican caucus was Marco Rubio. The Florida Senator performed significantly above expectations. It’s hard to describe just how close the Democratic race was.
So first of all, how does the Iowa Caucus work? For Canadians, it’s a pretty unusual system. We’re used to secret ballots, but a caucus is completely different from that. In Iowa, everyone gathers in a small building and then they move into groups to indicate their support for a candidate. Then people start arguing. Yes, as ridiculous as it sounds, everyone stands in their corners and tries to convince people to come to their corner. Then there’s a head-count and those numbers are sent up to the state level and a winner is picked.
Now, onto the Republican race. Ted Cruz won, followed by Donald Trump and Marco Rubio. Ted Cruz’s victory was not a surprise. He had been rising in the polls for a while and Iowa is a state that has lots of deeply religious conservative voters, which is a group that Ted Cruz appeals to.
The surprise is the scale of Trump’s defeat. What this shows is that Trump’s support is much more shallow than it initially appeared. The Caucus process requires a lot of effort. It’s much more difficult and time consuming than a simple ballot. What went wrong for Hillary Clinton in Iowa in 2008 was a lack of organization. She didn’t organize her supporters to come to the polls and stay there for the full caucus. Donald Trump is down but certainly not out. All this does is break Trump’s sense of invincibility. Trump will respond with rage, and he will fight every primary even harder. This is what was seen in his concession speech. He was obviously humbled, but he is not giving up, and any candidate who gives up on Trump now is in for a surprise at the New Hampshire Primary next Tuesday.
The big surprise of the night was Marco Rubio. He performed significantly higher than all the polls and despite the fact that he finished third, his performance makes him the obvious establishment candidate. When people want to vote for the traditional Republican candidate, they will vote for him. For these reasons, Iowa is a victory for Rubio. He knows that as well, for his concession speech was not a concession speech. It was a victory speech.
It is hard to describe just how close the Iowa Democratic Race was. On Caucus Night, Secretary Clinton and Senator Sanders were in a virtual tie. Clinton had been winning for most of the night and she finally won by just .2%. For many months, Hillary Clinton was viewed as the inevitable candidate. Bernie Sanders’s campaign has come from nowhere and has become a serious threat to Hillary Clinton. Clinton’s narrow victory shows that she is still the front-runner, but it is not a coronation. The New Hampshire Primary comes next, and since Sanders is expected to win it, Clinton will have to recover momentum soon, otherwise she might lose her front-runner status.
The final thing I’d like to address are the three people who have dropped out since Iowa: Martin O’Malley, Mike Huckabee and Rand Paul. Martin O’Malley was the former governor of Maryland who was running for the Democratic nomination. For a long time he’d been the third man in a two-man race. He had failed to get any momentum and his .6% showing in Iowa was final proof that this campaign was over for him. Mike Huckabee was a very serious candidate in previous elections. He won Iowa in 2008 and did well in 2012. What happened this time? There were too many candidates and he had overstayed his welcome. He simply became irrelevant. The final candidate who has dropped out since Iowa was Rand Paul. The Libertarian Senator from Kentucky hoped to replicate his father’s success in the 2012 primaries. However, there’s only so much room in a primary race, and Rand Paul simply got left behind. The Republican race has seen so many unusual candidates come up in this election that many strong candidates have simply been left behind.
There were no real surprises in Iowa, but it sends the message that this is going to be a interesting primary season.