Editor’s note: John Burris is a former member of the Arkansas Legislature.
Opinions, commentary and other essays posted in this space are wholly the view of the author(s). They may not represent the opinion of the owners of Talk Business & Politics.
The Iowa Caucuses have performed their services. The decline of Trump has begun. Cruz regretfully delivered. Rubio did well enough. Hillary’s weaknesses were exposed.
The New Hampshire primary is next.
Headlines and summaries are abundant in the days following milestone occurrences in presidential politics. Conventional wisdom after an event is about as accurate as the conventional wisdom before. That aside, speculation is still entertainment.
Trump didn’t win second place. He lost first. It has to be a blow to an ego in need of a punch or two. Many will blame the loss on his decision to skip the final debate only days before the caucus. Maybe, but it’s likely much simpler.
It was true when Trump said he could shoot someone in the street and still get the same amount of votes he would have gotten before. It was the Trump way of saying he had a “floor” of support, below which he could not fall. But there was always a ceiling, too, and it appears to be around 25%. His vanity focused on the steady thing beneath him, instead of noticing how little room he had above him.
Cruz somehow withstood an army of attackers and finished a surprisingly strong first. Some say not to overestimate his strength, and that he simply out-worked and out-organized his opponents in a state friendly to his politics. Anti-Cruz crusaders, a club I wholeheartedly join, say things will change in future states. But I’m not sure exactly how.
It’s doubtful Cruz will stop working or stop organizing, having just proved he’s better at both. Iowa was in many ways an unfriendly state, at least compared to host of southern states who appreciate fire-breathing more than Iowans, many of whom have primaries in a matter of weeks. His cuteness in debates and tactics probably cost him supporters, but he’s smart and calculating enough to learn lessons, not repeat mistakes.
Cruz is not limping out of Iowa, as it appeared he might. He was the clearest winner of the night.
Rubio finished a strong third, which, because of the smartness of managing expectations, seems almost like a victory. His proximity to the top vote getters was better than most expected. The hope is that perceived momentum can translate into actual momentum, not just in polls, but in votes. His finish in Iowa is the foundation upon which he can begin to win elections in other states. I’m hopeful he does.
The challenge, it seems, might be the declining of Trump. It’s hard to envision too many Trump voters converting to Rubio voters while there’s still a Cruz option. There are surely many polls that will measure these things in the coming days, but a gut-level feel seems like the path ahead might be challenging.
Of course, it’s not yet a three-man race. Huckabee has dropped out and is going “home to Florida.” Unfortunately his campaigner-in-chief, State Treasurer Dennis Milligan, is presumably now coming home to Arkansas.
Kasich, Christie and Bush could all perform in New Hampshire. They should drop out quickly if they finish less than third again. Supporters could move to Rubio as easily as Trump supporters move to Cruz, making for a longer race than normal.
But while Republicans have choices, Democrats have a problem.
Hillary received the most votes by a fraction of a percentage, and the process by which she won will be debated for several more days. Allegations of fraud are rampant. Like most things Clintonian, there’s just enough proof to make it seem possible, and virtually no one doubts her capability to orchestrate a questionable action that helps her own cause.
Around the time Bernie Sanders wins New Hampshire, it’s possible that Iowa will have recounted and simultaneously declared Hillary the loser. Even if her half-victory is upheld (not confirmed), the caution lights are flashing brightly.
She was supposed to be the inevitable nominee, so she will never be stronger than she was. The email scandal looms larger than any Democrat will ever admit, but fingers in ears won’t drown out the FBI investigation that is sure to continue. As importantly, Sanders dominated the demographics that Hillary must energize to win a general election.
These are the reason why today, the day after the Iowa Caucus, most Democrats are attacking Rubio, not relishing in the successes of their own processes. They hope Cruz makes a run, just as they hoped Trump would stick.
But yesterday 76% of Republicans in Iowa voted for someone other than Trump, while nearly half of Democrats voted for someone other than Hillary. They have a problem. Instead of addressing it early, they’ve tried to conceal it.
As long as Republicans choose a nominee who can play in a sandbox without throwing the sand at others, we’re on the path to victory in November.
Iowa did its job, in more ways than one.