DES MOINES, IA – The script called for the populists to squash the establishmentarians, with Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump taking the first of many state victories to come en route to earning their parties’ respective nominations and zapping lobbyists and super PACs into obscurity.
But as Iowa is often the first real speed bump on the road to the White House, it was not to be. Ted Cruz (R) won, keeping the Trump Train if not derailed, then at least stalled for the moment. Meanwhile Hillary Clinton beat Bernie Sanders but by a very small margin..
Though largely called a beauty contest, particularly for Republicans whose Iowa winner more often than not does not capture the party nomination, and though Iowa’s measly total delegates won’t matter a whole lot in the grand scheme of things, because so much of politics is perception, any candidate who isn’t happy about a win or upset about a loss isn’t being realistic, or honest.
Except if you’re counting Marco Rubio’s 3-2-1 strategy: finish third in Iowa (he did), second in New Hampshire (he might), and then first anywhere on Super Tuesday (March 1). Though that doesn’t sound too formidable, considering that by that point Jeb Bush will probably bow out, Rubio will soar as the establishment candidate, in a great position if GOP voters finally get cold feet about a high-risk candidate like Trump.
New Hampshire is next on February 9, with Trump and Sanders expected to rebound, even though it would have been a lot easier had they prevailed in Iowa.
Meanwhile, Martin O’Malley, the other Democrat in the race, bowed out after a poor performance, gaining just about 1% of the vote, as did Republican Mike Huckabee, who won Iowa in 2008 and who fell far short of expectations this time around, given the fanfare behind his leaving his popular Saturday show on the Fox News Channel to enter the race.
Trump was upbeat and graceful in his concession speech, perhaps, ironically, helping his long-term image more by showing he’s not a sore loser. Cruz, meanwhile, gave an impassioned victory speech, his voice thundering as he railed against lobbyists, the media, and the establishment in general.
Stay tuned, it’s a long way to Election Day!