Iowa caucuses–the day after impressions
We didn’t get a final call on the Democratic race until mid-morning–and then it showed no change from the last numbers given the night before– showing a slim win for Clinton. 49.8 percent to 49.6. The last two major polls, the Des Moines Iowa Poll, which completed their polling on January 26, and the Quinnipiac poll, completed on January 31, had the race close with the former giving Clinton the edge by 3 points, and the latter poll having Sanders on top by 3. Averaging them had it dead even. As expected, turnout was the key as Sanders (and Trump in the Republican caucus) attracted young people and others who normally didn’t attend the caucus. What wasn’t certain was whether they’d turn out for the caucuses. The consensus among campaign and polling professionals was that if the turnout was 150,000 or less, Hillary would win, if it reached 200,000, Sanders would win. By that reasoning the race figured to be a dead-heat at 175,000. The last turnout figure I saw was 171,000, so it predicted a razor-thin win for Hillary, and so it was.
Sanders’ people are claiming a moral victory, as he had come from being a virtual unknown in Iowa to effectively splitting the delegate count with Clinton. It was a remarkable effort by the Sanders tea. But remember, Hillary lost Iowa in 2008, and the racial make-up of Iowa’s Democrats contains fewer minorities than the big state primaries to come. Hillary derives much of her support from Black and Hispanic voters so winning those big states with their delegate rich, winner-take-all primaries, and large minority populations, should prove a very steep mountain for Bernie to climb. Iowa, with it’s more liberal-than-the-country-as-a-whole Democratic voters (one poll showed that 43 percent Iowa’s Democratic caucus-goers chose “socialist,” as an attribute that described themselves), figured to offer the Sanders campaign one of their best shots at winning a state outside of his home region.
In the Republican caucus, the big story again was Trump–only this time as a loser, well beaten by Cruz, and barely ahead of the late-surging Rubio. With it’s very conservative and evangelical Republican make-up, having just elected a Tea Party Senator, Iowa always figured to be Cruz’s to lose. Trump’s “birther” attacks hurt Cruz, but Cruz’s reminding Iowa’s Republican voters of Trump’s New York values, probably resonated with some. Most polls, as Trump regularly paraded, had him beating Cruz, and his rallies drew such big crowds as he also regularly boasted–so the election results provided a real comeuppance for Trump. He did very poorly in voter rich Polk County (including Des Moines). With hindsight–and many would argue, foresight–Trump’s seemingly limitless arrogance, by skipping the final week’s debate and by patronizingly boasting that he could pull out a gun and shoot someone and not lose a single vote, may have rubbed some Iowa Republicans the wrong way.
The real winner in Iowa may prove to be Marco Rubio. His much better than expected showing now gives Rubio a path to claim the mantle of regular Republicans. If Rubio can parlay his good showing in Iowa to propel himself in front of “the Governors”–Kasich, Bush, and Christie–in next week’s New Hampshire primary, he could well seize that mantle and give Trump fits down the road in Super Tuesday’s all important delegate rich primaries. Right now expectations are for a big win for Trump in New Hampshire, and the Southern states are expected to provide him with a “firewall” to stop any surging newcomer. But, as Iowa demonstrated, Trump can be beaten. National polls this early in the primary season, which show Trump well in front of the large Republican field, often prove ephemeral.