Iowa Winners, Iowa Losers
- Ted Cruz, who not only did what he had to do to stay alive, but also, by winning outright, embarrassed Trump mightily.
- Marco Rubio, whose surprisingly strong third place finish — a whisker behind Trump! — makes him the undisputed establishment candidate, and delivered a massive shot in the arm to his campaign. There is now no reason for candidates who polled behind him to stay in the race. Their supporters reasonably ought to coalesce around Rubio (except Carson voters, many of whom will probably drift Cruzward).
- Hillary Clinton, former Secretary of State, dynast, and the presumptive Democratic nominee since forever, was very nearly knocked off by an elderly New England socialist. (And may yet be, but it’s late, and I’m not going to wait for that last five percent of Democratic votes to come in.) It’s impossible to see how she loses the nomination, but my gosh, even if she pulls this out tonight, what an incredible humiliation for someone of her stature within the Democratic Party. This:
Blowing a 53.8 lead in 12 months is a loss, no matter how you try to spin it.https://t.co/G22WyGfSqu
— Connor Walsh (@wconnorwalsh) February 2, 2016
- Donald Trump, who got his nose bloodied. He’s still got the most momentum going into the next primary states, and he was always expected to do less well in Iowa, a caucus state that rewards ground organization (of which Trump had bupkis; if you think about it, it’s still something else that he came in 2nd). But he has lost the psychological advantage over his rivals that he’s held for months. He looks vulnerable. Had Trump won Iowa, it would have been possibly a mortal wound for Cruz.
- Jeb Bush, who polled a miserable 3 percent in Iowa, spent a reported $25,000 per caucus vote. Hey, he’s still got $59 million to burn through, but they don’t have trailer hitches on hearses. The Bush political dynasty died tonight on the Midwestern plains.
UPDATE: Six months ago, if you had said that the Iowa caucus would end with 1) Vermont socialist Bernie Sanders tied with Hillary Clinton, 2) Donald J. Trump coming in second on the GOP side, and 3) Jeb Bush bottoming out with 2.8 percent of the vote, who would have believed you?
The Clinton campaign’s strategy will, of course, be second-guessed as stumbling front-runners always are. But the larger problem is the way that party as a whole — elected officials, operatives, leaders of allied interest groups, major donors, greybeard elder statespersons, etc. — decided to cajole all viable non-Clinton candidates out of the race. This had the effect of making a Clinton victory much more likely than it would have been in a scenario when she was facing off against Elizabeth Warren, Joe Biden, and Deval Patrick. But it also means that the only alternative to Clinton is a candidate the party leaders don’t regard as viable.
Trying to coordinate your efforts to prevent something crazy from happening is smart, otherwise you might wind up with Donald Trump. But trying to foreclose any kind of meaningful contact with the voters or debate about party priorities, strategy, and direction was arrogant and based on a level of self-confidence about Democratic leaders’ political judgment that does not seem borne out by the evidence. This is a party that has no viable plan for winning the House of Representatives, that’s been pushed to a historic lowpoint in terms of state legislative seats, and that somehow lost the governors mansions in New Jersey, Maryland, Massachusetts, and Illinois.
It’s a party, in other words, that was clearly in need of some dialogue, debate, and contestation over what went wrong and how to fix it. But instead of encouraging such a dialogue the party tried to cut it off. That leaves them with Sanders’ Political Revolutiontheory. It doesn’t seem very plausible to me, but at least it’s something.
A lot of us have been focused for the past week or two on what the Trump phenomenon says about the intellectual bankruptcy of the GOP. The Sanders phenomenon is not nearly as colorful or as fun to think about, but Bernie is quietly making a very similar point to Donald Trump’s, on his own side. Yglesias gets it.