Iowa is over. As it nears midnight here in Los Angeles – the middle of the night in the middle of the country – Donald Trump no longer seems invincible. Ted Cruz – the nasty and vindictive and clever little man who is loathed by everyone who has ever had to work with him, especially every Republican in Washington – won the Iowa caucuses. The Iowa voters stuck it to the Republican Party. More than half of those Republicans in Iowa are evangelicals who have long felt used and abused by the party – betrayed – promised no more abortion, and government-mandated Christian prayer in public schools, and no more of this gay marriage nonsense, and who knows what – only to find the party wanted tax cuts for the rich and no more regulation of Wall Street and an end to the EPA and maybe Medicare too. That was never their fight and Ted Cruz was, he said, as evangelical as they were. Donald Trump, the thrice-married billionaire from New York City, just couldn’t fake that. All the late polling showed Trump leading – he was a winner who would make America great again and that notion seemed irresistible – but then it seemed absurd. How was he going to do that? He never said. The folks in Iowa must have sensed bullshit – and Cruz was a man of God. Trump ended up pretty much tied for second with Marco Rubio, the young senator from Florida with that frightened look in his eyes, all the time, the man-child who had memorized all the right things to say. Push the button, he says them. He’s the establishment candidate – the national party loves him – and a few people in Iowa must have decided he was far more electable than Trump or Cruz. And that’s it – now no one else matters. Mike Huckabee dropped out. Jeb Bush didn’t – but he came in almost dead last. The family, and the family friends who came up with well over one hundred million dollars to fund his campaign, have no idea what happened – but Jeb will soldier on, for no apparent reason.
That’s a quick summary of what you’ll find in this more detailed New York Times account:
Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, powered by a surge of support from evangelical Christians, dealt a humbling loss to Donald J. Trump in the Iowa caucuses on Monday, throwing into question the depth of support for Mr. Trump’s unconventional candidacy.
In the first contest of what so far has been more a populist revolt against the political order than a traditional Republican primary, Senator Marco Rubio of Florida finished a strong third, bolstering his case to consolidate the support of Republicans uneasy about the two top finishers. …
Mr. Cruz’s victory was hard-earned. He fought off a barrage of attacks in the campaign’s final weeks from Mr. Trump as well as from Iowa’s longtime governor, Terry E. Branstad, and Republican leaders in Washington who warned that the hardline Mr. Cruz would lead the party to electoral disaster this fall.
Having felled the brash Mr. Trump, who unceasingly predicted victory and dominated the race up until the first voting, Mr. Cruz can credibly portray himself, to conservatives who have yearned to unite behind a strong champion, as a giant-killer.
“To God be the glory,” Mr. Cruz told jubilant supporters. “Tonight is a victory for the grass roots. Tonight is a victory for courageous conservatives all across Iowa and our great nation.”
And so it goes:
“I love you people. I love you people,” a subdued-sounding Mr. Trump unconvincingly told a crowd of Iowans in West Des Moines. “We will go on to get the Republican nomination, and we will go on to easily beat Hillary or Bernie or whoever the hell they throw out there.” …
Portraying his third-place showing in the best possible light, Mr. Rubio subtly took aim at both Mr. Cruz and Mr. Trump on Monday, suggesting they could not defeat Mrs. Clinton. “When I’m the nominee, we are going to unify our party and we are going to unify the conservative movement,” Mr. Rubio said to hundreds of supporters in Des Moines.
And on the other side there was this:
Hillary Clinton and Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont were locked in an intensely tight race in the Iowa caucuses on Monday as Mrs. Clinton’s strong support among women and older voters was matched by the passionate liberal foot soldiers that Mr. Sanders has been calling to political revolution.
The close results were deeply unnerving to Mrs. Clinton and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, as well as her advisers, some of whom had expressed growing confidence in recent days that they had recaptured political momentum after weeks when Mr. Sanders was drawing huge crowds and rising in the polls. The Clintons had appeared optimistic at rallies over the weekend, thanking Iowans for their support as much as urging them to turn out to vote.
The close vote means that Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Sanders are likely to split Iowa’s share of delegates to the Democratic convention, and Mr. Sanders will be able to argue that the Iowa result was a virtual tie.
When the sun comes up over Santa Monica Boulevard out here, in a few hours, this still won’t be decided. Hillary Clinton did declare victory. That may have been a bad move. Iowa resolved nothing there.
What was resolved? At Talking Points Memo, John B. Judis suggests this:
I believe the Republicans came out ahead in the Iowa Caucuses. If Donald Trump had won the caucus, he may have been able to close out the nomination battle by winning Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina. But the Republicans now have a three-man race, and one of the candidates, Marco Rubio, would be difficult for the Democrats to defeat in November.
The Democratic results – a virtual tie between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders – suggest that the Democratic contest will go well into March. I love Bernie Sanders, and I think his campaign is making an enormous contribution to America’s future, but I don’t think he can win in November. He’ll run up against deep-seated skepticism about big government and tax increases. For the time being, he is too far to the left to win a national election unless he faced someone who was equally on the far right. And his age could also be a handicap.
But Hillary is no better:
With her extensive experience, and credibility as a future president, Clinton could be a more formidable candidate, but she is once again running a dreadful campaign. Her speech tonight was typical: a set of lists of what needs to be done delivered in a shout. And the results showed again that she is failing to inspire young voters, who have to come out in large number for a Democrat to win the presidency. In polls, she lost 18 to 29 year old voters to Sanders by 84 to 13 percent.
Clinton also displayed continuing weakness in connecting with voters. The quarter of Democratic voters who want a candidate who “cares about people like you” preferred Sanders by three to one. Those who wanted a candidate who was “honest and trustworthy” preferred Sanders by 82 to 11 percent. These kinds of concerns could plague Clinton in the general election.
Ah, but on the other side:
Cruz won the primary by bringing out Iowa’s hard right voters – a constituency that is somewhat unrepresentative, outside the Deep South and a few prairie states, of the Republican or American electorate. He did best among the 40 percent of Iowa caucus goers who identified themselves as “very conservative.” He got only 9 percent of the moderate Republican vote. He also did best of the candidates among born-again Christians. Trump did best among voters with a high school degree or less (who made up only 16 percent of the GOP caucus goers) and among the 13 percent who thought immigration was the most important issue.
That’s pretty dismal, and then there’s the third man:
Rubio got all the late-comers to the election, and if you look at the difference between the final polls and the results, he seems to have shifted about six or seven percent of the vote from Trump to himself. Among the 20 percent of the caucus goers who put a priority on a candidate who could win in November, he got 43 percent of their vote. He did well among young voters, college-educated voters, moderates and somewhat conservatives.
This bodes well for later Republican primaries in big states that Obama won, as well in the South, and also can make him a formidable candidate in November. Trump still has to be the favorite in New Hampshire, but Rubio could gain second place and find himself in a strong position as the campaign moves south. The Democrats should worry.
Okay, Rubio won Iowa, but Josh Marshall sees trouble:
Trump’s campaign from the start has been about immigration – booted out undocumented workers, slamming the door on Muslims. There was never much to hit Cruz on on the immigration front. There’s a ton to hit Rubio with. He made his pitch to be the Republican who delivered his party for comprehensive immigration reform. And he failed miserably. Trump’s script writes itself. Even more than usual.
And Marshall adds this:
The big story is what can only be called a body blow for Donald Trump. If Trump had won or won big, I think he would have blown out New Hampshire next week and quite possibly been unstoppable. Now Trump isn’t a winner, but a loser. We’ll see how he responds to that.
But Rubio has a strong showing, greatly beating expectations. He’s clearly the only hope for establishment Republicans. And in a one on one with Cruz, I think Rubio wins. So a damaged Trump, a one on one between Cruz and Rubio, that creates a path toward a Rubio nomination in my mind. Not certainty or perhaps even a likelihood – but a path. A path out of the choice between a Trump or a Cruz nomination is a path out of catastrophe. And that’s a win in itself.
But the whole business on both sides is still dismal. It’s this dismal:
About 1-in-4 federal employees would consider leaving their jobs if Donald Trump is elected president, according the results of a recent survey conducted by the Government Business Council.
Overall, about 2-in-3, or 67 percent said they would not think about leaving the federal government if Trump becomes president, but 14 percent said they would and 11 percent said they would “maybe” leave. Just 8 percent said they did not know. The share of Democrats who said they would leave is higher, with 42 percent indicating that they would exit or could exit.
Among all of those surveyed, 59 percent said they would be embarrassed to have Trump as president, compared to 49 percent who said the same for Hillary Clinton, 45 percent who would be embarrassed with Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, 37 percent with Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and just 20 percent for Florida Sen. Marco Rubio.
Hey, Rubio wins again, for what that’s worth. Perhaps he’s mainly harmless. That may be the best we can hope for, but the New Yorker’s Amy Davidson sees only trouble ahead:
Senator Ted Cruz, of Texas, has won the Iowa Republican caucus, with close to twenty-eight per cent of the vote, a result that will likely leave his party in an even more queasy state than if Donald Trump, the New York businessman, had beaten him. Until recently, a Cruz victory would not have been a surprise: he had put most of his campaign’s energy into getting out the vote and appealing to the evangelical activists whose opinions tend to be amplified in the caucuses. But then Trump began calling him “the Canadian” (Cruz was born in Calgary, to an American mother) and wondering why “nobody likes Ted” (the Party leaders, especially those who have worked with Cruz, seem to despise him) and pulled ahead in the polls. If Trump had triumphed, and then gone on to win New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada – he is leading in the polls in all three states – Republicans might have just told themselves that a deal-maker was better than a nobody, which is what the other candidates were looking like, and slapped some gold paint on the establishment. Now they still have Ted Cruz, the single most conservative member of the Senate, and no clear idea of what to do with him.
And the third guy doesn’t help either:
In the most recent Republican debate, Cruz, in Trump’s absence, had wilted; Rubio, and not Trump, seems to have been the beneficiary of Trump’s no-show tactic. Rubio did well in the debate, in part, by calling Cruz a liar to his face. There was a general expectation among commentators that the Republican establishment would now give Rubio money, to try to beat both Cruz and Trump. The complication is that the establishment donors, before the campaigning started, gave more than a hundred million dollars to Jeb Bush’s super PAC, Right to Rise. The group still has more than fifty million left, which it has been spending furiously on attacking Rubio. Jeb Bush got only about three per cent of the Iowa-caucus vote, behind not only the three front-runners but also Ben Carson and even Rand Paul. (John Kasich, Chris Christie, Carly Fiorina, and Mike Huckabee each got less than two per cent; Huckabee announced that he was suspending his campaign.) But Bush had once been a mentor to Rubio, and now he seems to believe that Rubio ought never to have run. The last time a Bush-family grudge distorted American political culture, the target was Saddam Hussein, who at least was a brutal dictator. Now the storm of pettiness is directed at a one-term Florida Senator.
Then there is the matter of how Cruz seems to have won, with fraudulent mailers, xenophobic warnings, his own calls to build a wall on the border, attacks on “New York values.” He suggested that President Obama wanted to help terrorists. He appealed in ever-starker terms to evangelical voters, presenting himself as the sole defender of the faith in the field. (In his speech, Cruz said that his victory was, in part, a testament to “the Judeo-Christian values that built this great nation.”) … The Cruz campaign had dormitories of volunteers working to turn out the vote, and the candidate himself visited each of Iowa’s ninety-nine counties. (“The full Grassley,” as it’s called.) But Cruz didn’t sneak in with just a few activists; Iowa is small and unrepresentative, but turnout in the caucuses may have reached or come close to a record high.
And the guy is poison:
There is a strain in the Party that Cruz both speaks to and, with his sneering attacks on even his ideological allies, sours. And, in recent days, he threw in lines such as this one, from a rally in Sioux City on Saturday: “Donald Trump, right now today, as a Presidential candidate, is advocating full-on socialized medicine – expanding Obamacare.” Also, “Marco Rubio’s position in this race is that, if he’s President, he wants to grant amnesty, full citizenship to all twelve million people here illegally.” Neither of those sentences is true. And neither heralds a Party that is pushing back against Trump’s bigotry. Cruz didn’t renounce Trumpism; he sold his own cheap knock-off.
This is a mess:
Trump came out after learning that he’d lost and talked about how “we’re just so happy with how it worked out.” Despite the impression he often gives, Trump has plenty of experience with losing, and with carrying on as if he had won. Sometimes, it works for him. It might in New Hampshire. The stubborn, multifarious uncertainty that various candidates are unelectable – especially the ones who are winning votes – will keep the race unsettled. Ted Cruz’s victory makes a brokered convention a little more likely.
In December, Frank Bruni, of the Times, quoted someone who had worked with Cruz on George W. Bush’s 2000 campaign as saying, “Why do people take such an instant dislike to Ted Cruz? It just saves time.” If that is so, Cruz seems to have beaten the clock in Iowa. And the Republican Party has a lot more time to waste.
Do we have to watch? Yes, and from Sam Stein and Jennifer Bendery there’s this:
Things were even more muddied on the Democratic side of the aisle, where former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton clung to a marginal lead over Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), with just few votes remaining to be counted. If she ultimately emerges victorious, and based on the critical delegate count it appears she will, it will be something of a Pyrrhic victory. Rather than show herself to be the inevitable nominee on Monday — blessed with a bloodless and quick primary fight – she struggled to handle a man she once led by more than 50 points in the polls.
Now, Clinton faces the prospect of an upcoming loss in New Hampshire, where Sanders enjoys a healthy lead, and a drawn-out fight for the nomination. Whoever wins will inevitably be forced to empty his or her copious war chest and resort to more personal attacks in the process. Even before Sanders spoke Monday night, his supporters were booing Clinton and calling her a liar when she appeared on the TV screens. There was a huge cheer when the feed froze.
Expect more of that, and more of this:
The Iowa caucuses bring many celebrities to the state to rally last-minute support for candidates, and this weekend, Duck Dynasty’s Phil Robertson was the latest to make the trek to support Republican Ted Cruz. Introducing the competitive candidate at a rally Sunday, the reality show patriarch not only attacked marriage equality as “evil,” but suggested that its supporters needed to be literally obliterated.
“Don’t you understand that when a fellow like me looks at the landscape and sees the depravity, the perversion – redefining marriage and telling us that marriage is not between a man and a woman? Come on Iowa! It’s nonsense. It is evil. It’s wicked,” Robertson told the crowd.
“It’s sinful. They want us to swallow it, you say. We have to run this bunch out of Washington, D.C. We have to rid the earth of them. Get them out of there. Ted Cruz loves God.”
And more of this:
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump told the crowd gathered at his campaign rally on Monday to “knock the crap” out of anybody who threw a tomato at him.
Trump said the event’s security staff told him there was a risk people would throw the juicy fruit.
“So if you see somebody getting ready to throw a tomato, knock the crap out of them,” Trump said at his rally in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
“I will pay for the legal fees. I promise,” he added. “They won’t be so much because the courts agree with us too.”
A protester was arrested last week for throwing tomatoes at Trump at a different Iowa event.
What comes after Iowa? This comes after Iowa. Iowa was only the beginning.