Following the Iowa horserace, the Primary season has been dramatically changed in just under twenty-four hours.
A caucus state, Iowa winners were not determined on sheer volume alone, but on a division of delegates; the ins and outs of which I’ll leave to your civics teacher. Iowa is not an accurate barometer of how the rest of the race will shake out, but it does lend weight and a thin veneer of plausible electability. Even a respectable finish is enough to string along a few more hesitant donors. And that was what Monday night in Iowa was all about. We saw which contestants received another week of immunity, which were handed a rose and which ones were yet to be voted off. All of which was determined by donors’ tightening purse strings.
While the death of certain campaigns has been known to all but the campaigns themselves, Iowa served as the cold shower some reluctant hopefuls needed. Democratic also-ran, former Maryland governor, Martin O’Malley, suspended his campaign after failing to receive one percent of the Iowa delegates. Mike Huckabee, who won Iowa in 2008, finished toward the bottom of the race and announced via Twitter that, he too, would be hanging it up. For those of you already missing the bloodshot eyes and slobbering jowls of the religiously intolerant misogynist check out his failed Iowa commercial on YouTube, Hello, Huck; truly a transcendent bit of Dadaism.
Ben Carson finished in a respectable fourth place. While not technically suspending his campaign, he said he was going to take a break to “change his clothes”. But in all honesty, he said as much when his book tour conflicted with his primary campaign, the same as when one of his volunteers tragically died in a car crash, the same as when his puppet master and “financial advisor” Curtis Armstrong pulled a defacto coup against the rest of his staff and left him twisting in the wind. We’ve been watching the Carson freefall since he announced his candidacy; eventually someone should inform the good doctor.
Perhaps skipping that last debate in Iowa was not as savvy as Donald Trump once thought. Ted Cruz bested Trump, despite that state’s governor actively campaigning against him. Trump’s humbled and very, very brief concession speech stunned most, expecting the real estate mogul to go on a trademark tirade. Rumblings that Trump is little more than a toothless paper tiger are making their rounds now that it is obvious strong polling numbers do not equate strong voter turnout. While he is a likely lock for New Hampshire, if he does not follow that with immediate and sustained victories, he will struggle to keep his devout from realizing their Emperor has no clothes (gross). His followers are not loyal champions of his policies or philosophy. They are the pilot fish that trail after sharks feeding on their crumbs. They follow strength and power and respect only that. Once Trump fails to return on his followers’ investments, he will find that their passion, while burning brightly, is not a fire that is sustained.
Marco Rubio finished third but you would never know this given the length of his speech and the number of pats on the back he gave himself. Clearly, cleaning up after the two non-establishment choices, Rubio is setting himself up as the Establishment’s alternative and the big-money donors’ next stop. Where that lane was once cluttered with the likes of Kasich, Christie, and Jeb Bush, Rubio has made an argument that he may be the candidate to coalesce around. Expect others, including Santorum and Fiorina, to start picking sides as they pack it in. While Jeb Bush’s war chest may carry him over the next couple of month, it is a march to the graveyard. Proving that money can’t friends, Bush spent $2,884 for every vote and recouped less than three percent of the total vote, finishing sixth, behind Rand Paul.
The Democratic results were, at times, both convoluted and rudimentary. Without getting into the weeds of how the winner is determined, suffice to say, a coin toss was used at one point. In the end, Hillary Clinton topped Bernie Sanders by a narrow .2%. While Sanders can console himself in proving he is a viable competitor to Clinton, celebrating a loss as a win is spin no matter which side of the aisle you govern from. Sanders needed Iowa to provide him padding when he enters South Carolina after he (presumably) cleans up in New Hampshire next. Clinton is expected to trounce him throughout much of the South, as the area has proven reluctant to warm to the democratic-socialist underdog. With only New Hampshire under his belt (presumably) leading into the southern gamut, Sanders will be in for a long haul.
Ultimately, the takeaways are four.
1) Now is the time of the winnowing. Iowa serves as the first true barometer of a campaign’s viability. Huckabee and O’Malley got the message. Expect others to follow suit soon. Expect Jeb! to continue his streak of pathetic under-achieving as long people keep funneling him money. He has not the shame enough to quit on mere results.
2) Trump is not infallible and probably should have shown up at the Iowa debate. He does not wear losing well. How many more blows to the ego can he take before he implodes?
3) Marco Rubio saw the night as an affirmation that he is the Establishment candidate that the others will coalesce around (whether this holds water depends on Rubio’s performance over the next few weeks)
4) Although he lost, Sanders will win much more campaign donations after a strong performance. He has shown that he is a strong competitor and that the Democratic primaries are anything but decided.
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Content Strategist, novelist and prolific roustabout who drinks entirely too much coffee. You can find him on Twitter @therealadamdodd