Some interesting results from the Iowa caucuses today with Ted Cruz winning the Republican vote and Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders virtually tied on the Democrat side.
For the Republicans, with 99% of the vote counted, Ted Cruz has won 27.7% ahead of Donald Trump on 24.3%, closely followed by Marco Rubio on 23.1% and then Ben Carson a fair way back with 9.3%. With less than 5% each we have Rand Paul, Jeb Bush, Carly Fiorina, John Kasich, Mike Huckabee (2008 Iowa winner), Chris Christie, Rick Santorum (2012 Iowa winner), and below 1% “other” followed by Jim Gilmore who received a whopping 12 votes across the state to score less than 0.1%.
On the Democrat side it’s virtually a tie between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders with Hillary leading by just 0.3%, 49.9% to 49.6%. Unlike the Republican vote, actual numbers of votes are not reported on the Democrat side so the size of that gap is unknown. Martin O’Malley (aka Maryland’s ex-Governor Rain Tax) received 0.5%, and both “uncommitted” and “other” received 0.0% which could be a handful of votes or could be nothing.
Ted Cruz winning is a good result in my books. He is a fantastic conservative candidate but is disliked by the establishment wing of the Republican Party and needed a victory in Iowa to build momentum. He is unlikely to win in New Hampshire where Donald Trump holds a comfortable lead in the polls, so this victory in Iowa puts him in good stead for the later states.
Donald Trump came in second, and while the media will portray this as a devastating blow for his campaign, it really isn’t. The Donald did very well in a lot of counties (especially rural ones by the looks of it) and, as Iowa is not a winner-takes-all state but rather selects delegates for the convention on a proportional basis based on the number of votes a candidate receives, Donald Trump has actually received quite a good start, although on a national basis, Iowa actually has very few delegates to send to the national Republican convention dues to its relatively low population.
Marco Rubio receiving as many votes as he did concerns me a bit because he has really fallen in line with the business-as-usual establishment wing of the Republican Party of late, but given his historic ties with the conservative and tea party wings of the party, the fact that he was the only “establishment” candidate to have a decent showing, and he is the least objectionable of the “establishment” candidates, it’s not a terribly-worrying result.
Dr. Ben Carson’s fourth place is good to see. I was worried he would be further back in the field, but it’s a decent spot and keep him in the public eye, even if it probably won’t get him any of Iowa’s delegates at the convention.
As for the rest…well, what can you say? They’ll be banking on Iowa’s 50/50 success rate in picking the eventual nominee, and complete failure in doing so in the last two presidential cycles, going in their favour. They will definitely be hoping to do better in New Hampshire, and then consider their position after Nevada and South Carolina.
It is worth noting that Mike Huckabee has pulled out of the race (officially he has “suspended his campaign” which is essentially the same thing). Huckabee was relying on the evangelical vote and has done a lot of work to drum up evangelical support. Alas, that work has ended up benefiting Ted Cruz and Ben Carson more than Mike Huckabee. I expect Huckabee will endorse either Ted Cruz or Ben Carson at some stage between the New Hampshire primary and Super Tuesday when a whole heap of states vote at the same time. For both candidates, given his political executive experience, he could be a valuable vice presidential candidate for either Cruz or Carson, neither of which have been a state governor.
Overall I’m pleased with the result on the Republican side as many of the good candidates have gone well. Some good candidates have not gone so well (ie. Rand Paul and Carly Fiorina in particular) but they will have chances in the next three states to raise their profile a bit before Super Tuesday. I would also be willing to accept any of the top four from Iowa (albeit with reservations when it comes to Marco Rubio) if they eventually go on to get the Republican nomination.
On the Democrat side, I’m happy with the result, mainly because the Democratic National Committee will not be happy with it, and Hillary Clinton won’t be overly impressed either. I’m not a fan of Bernie Sanders (although I will give him credit for not hiding his socialist views, unlike Hillary who tries to dress up her odd combination of crony-capitalist and socialist views as “fighting for the little people” and “against Wall Street”) but his strong presence in the campaign makes it harder for the Democrats to win a general election as his views are anathema to most of the country, even if he is managing to drum up support among an often unheard section of the Democrat base.
Hillary Clinton looks set to escape Iowa with one more delegate than Bernie Sanders, but she also looks set to lose New Hampshire by a decent margin if the polls are to be believed. The narrow Iowa result and a victory for Bernie in New Hampshire is a serious concern for the Democratic National Committee as Bernie Sanders scares off their major corporate donors, and these two states give him much better momentum going in to Nevada and South Carolina.
The DNC have, however, been well aware that Hillary could lose to Bernie or could face serious legal issues due to the ongoing scandal surrounding the classified emails which were illegally stored on her private email server. They, through influence via Obama’s office and the Department Of Justice, have been slowing down the FBI investigation in to her emails, much to the chagrin of the FBI, and have been keeping a standby candidate in the race just in case. Unfortunately for the DNC, their standby candidate, Martin O’Malley (the former governor of Maryland, who instituted a very unpopular rain tax) has failed to generate any interest, to the point where he may as well have been in the audience at the debates for the amount he contributed. He did not even get 1% of the Iowa vote and has pulled out of the race. I fully expect former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg to enter the Democratic race soon as a standby option for the DNC should Hillary falter. Bloomberg has stated he is considering running as an independent, but given he has previously been both a Democrat and a Republican (who acted like a Democrat in office) he could easily become a Democrat again. It’s a bit late for him to get on the ballot in many states, but not too late for him to be a candidate at the convention and potentially have delegates from other candidates sent in his direction, especially if a candidate pulls out of the race, and I fully expect Hillary to pull out of the race at some stage, especially if she loses a decent number of states between now and the end of Super Tuesday and the brakes are then taken off the FBI’s email investigation.
As I noted earlier, Iowa has a relatively small population and thus a relatively small number of delegates to send to the Republican and Democratic conventions. It really only gets a large amount of hype and attention because it is the first vote in the nation in the process of selecting presidential candidates. It might not be all that important in terms of overall numbers, but it is a good indicator (especially for those who receive very few votes) of how a campaign is tracking, and a good momentum builder for future states. The winners in Iowa will not necessarily be the eventual nominee, and often don’t even make it all the way to the convention, but it is a good start for the winners and a good experience and testing ground for many of the rest. There is still a very long way to go.
The good news from this is that a number of very good conservative candidates are off to a good start, and the even better news is that there are some clear margins on the Republican side so the field will narrow quite a bit fairly soon, and we will then be left with one of the most conservative Republican fields in living memory. I’m looking forward to the ballots in the next few states, and after today I am even more hopeful of a solid conservative taking out the Republican nomination (as opposed to the disasters of the “moderate” nominees from the last two cycles) and going on to win the presidency. The great thing about this is that a good and popular conservative candidate would improve Republican turnout at the polls and have a good chance at electing a majority of Republicans to the House and Senate, which would in turn give them an opportunity to quickly go about undoing the damage done over the course of the Obama administration, and even some done in the late stages of the Bush administration.
It seems to be a great time to be a conservative, and in my books that makes it a great time to be alive.