The Iowa caucuses have concluded, with (as this article is being written) 99% of the Republican vote and 95% of the Democratic vote counted. What are the takeaways ?
(1) Ted Cruz’s w 28-24% win over Donald Trump proves once again that the grass roots matters – quite simply, Ted Cruz had a ground game that maximized his vote, while Donald Trump did not;
(2) GOP enthusiasm was at record levels this year – current estimates are that 187,000 Republicans voted. This figure is 54% higher than the 2012 GOP caucus turnout, which itself was a record four years ago;
(3) There are three tracks now for the GOP nomination: the “Trump track”, the “Cruz track”, and the “moderate/establishment track.” Marco Rubio’s surprisingly strong 23% showing was only 1% behind Donald Trump’s second place finish, and this unexpectedly strong performance may force a consolidation of the 40% of New Hampshire poll respondents who have been divided amongst Marco Rubio, John Kasich, Chris Christie, and/or Jeb Bush;
(4) While Trump currently has a strong lead in the polls in New Hampshire, the assumption that he is the inevitable nominee has been disproven, and this may have a psychological effect by eroding his poll lead there.
(1) Hillary Clinton’s narrow (49.9-49.6%) lead establishes Bernie Sanders (in the short term) as a viable competitor;
(2) Since Bernie Sanders currently has a large lead in the polls in New Hampshire (which holds its primary next Tuesday), if he wins New Hampshire (which is next door to his home state of Vermont), he will go into the Nevada Caucus on February 20 with undeniable momentum;
(3) Sanders’ challenge after New Hampshire, however, will be to expand his appeal among minorities and traditional Democrats (Nevada’s Democrats are predominately Hispanic and/or union) if he wants to be a contender in South Carolina (they vote on February 27) and when the larger states begin voting on March 1.
Looking forward to New Hampshire
Iowa was a state whose Republican electorate was friendly to conservative candidates. That will change in New Hampshire, as Independents are allowed to vote in either the Democratic and/or Republican primaries. That electoral reality favors a moderate candidate on the Republican side, although the “moderate” needs a consolidated vote to leave New Hampshire in a strong position.