The Beginning Of The End Of Trump Phenomenon? Five Takeaways From The Iowa Caucuses

Arihant Pawariya

Feb 03, 2016, 10:09 PM | Updated Feb 24, 2016, 04:15 PM IST

The bottom line is this: On the Dems side, Sanders is going to give Hillary a run for her money. On the Republican side Ted Cruz is the candidate to beat now.

First votes have been cast in the 2016 US Presidential campaign. The results are out for the Iowa caucuses held yesterday. Iowa has a long history of delivering upsets to the frontrunners and it wasn’t any different this time. Ted Cruz defeated Trump comfortably while polls all along had predicted a Trump sweep. Though it is hard to tell whether or not participating in the Fox news debate hurt him or it was just another case of pollsters getting their numbers wrong.

On the Democratic side, the verdict of Iowans was equally surprising. The self-proclaimed ‘Democratic Socialist’, and a proud one at that, virtually tied with Hillary Clinton. The tie was later broken and the winner was declared by six coin tosses. Clinton won all the six! Are the cosmoses conspiring in full force to trudge Clinton over to the finish line?

Nonetheless, the Iowa caucuses hold some significant lessons for all the candidates. Here are the five most important takeaways from the results:

First, the invincible nominee for the Democratic Party’s nomination, Hillary Clinton, doesn’t look so much invincible anymore. Clinton has been running for her party’s nomination since she vacated the White House in 2001 and a virtual tie with Sanders is nothing short of a defeat.

Second, This is a big win for Bernie. He will be going into New Hampshire, whose primary is on this Tuesday, with a great momentum. Polls already show him way ahead of her in this relatively liberal state. Iowa tie is only going to help him widen that gap and give him more name recognition going into Super Tuesday.

Third, Trump’s failure to convert his media poll numbers into actual votes may just be the beginning of the end of The Donald phenomenon. For the time being, the second place finish has given a teeny-tiny hope to many conservatives, who are baying for Trump’s blood, that maybe, just maybe the GoP voters will finally come to senses and elect a winnable candidate.

Fourth, Marco Rubio’s third place finish is exactly what the 44-year old Senator would have wished for. But more than the ranking, the percentage of votes that he got is a more important takeaway for him. He secured 23% votes, just 1% less than the votes Trump got. This is huge. He is the last establishment candidate standing who can actually win in November. So, this consolation win will help him get more endorsement from the moderate conservatives who hate the idea of a Trump candidacy as much as a Ted Cruz one.

Fifth, Ted Cruz is the candidate to beat now. He is an extremely intelligent person and has displayed his political astuteness by winning Iowa. He is the darling of a Tea Party faction of the GoP and the Bible Belt loves him. This coupled with the perception of an outsider, he looks very convincing. The real test for Cruz will be in New Hampshire which is not an evangelical state like Iowa.

After the declaration of the result, Martin O’Malley and Mike Huckabee have suspended their campaigns. This trend will only escalate after the New Hampshire primary. Jeb Bush is the biggest loser along with Rand Paul, Carly Fiorina, Chris Christie, Kasich, Rick Santorum and Gilmore. Kasich and Christie are hoping to pull a rabbit out of their hats in New Hampshire given the relative liberal credentials of the state. Others will slowly start quitting the race. Bush can afford to carry on with the campaign slightly longer than others, thanks to his billion dollar war chest.

The bottom line is this: On the Dems side, Sanders is going to give a run for money to Hillary. She will have to work harder than 2008. Among the GOP voters, moderates are backing Rubio while the ultra conservatives are favouring Cruz. Once the Trump support slide (it is more a question of when, rather than if), these two are most likely to battle it out till the end.

Iowa is not an indicator of winning the nomination much less the presidency. None of the last three Republican nominees for the Presidency won in Iowa. Bill Clinton lost Iowa caucus but won the nomination and later presidency just like Ronald Reagan did before him.

It’s a long road to November. The tortoise, not the rabbit, will win.

Arihant Pawariya is Senior Editor, Swarajya.

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