It was an exciting race, but the results are in: Ted Cruz has won the Iowa caucuses.
The senator from Texas was my favorite going in, but the talking heads in the media and the pollsters didn’t agree. According to them, Iowa was Donald Trump’s for the taking.
Well, not quite so. He lost big tonight. Early in the evening people thought it could be too close to call, but that was absolutely not the case. Cruz led from the get-go and stayed on top all throughout the night.
What this means is simple: Cruz has rallied Iowa conservatives behind him, and we can expect conservatives, supporters of the Tea Party, and evangelicals to flock to him even more. Especially now that The Donald has suffered a humiliating blow.
Speaking of Trump, he will now have to win New Hampshire. If he does not, his game is up and he’ll fade away.
According to Fox News, Marco Rubio is “the big winner,” but that’s nonsense. He finished third. Third. He did better than many thought (I actually predicted he and Trump would almost be too close to call, but I gave it to Rubio beforehand because he had momentum), but a bronze medal is never gold. It’s now up to him to compete in New Hampshire by rallying the moderate and establishment vote around his campaign. If he does, he may come very close in the Granite State which would make him a real competitor.
But it’s not even clear that this scenario will happen. Many Cruz insiders believe he will do better than many expect in New Hampshire. He’ll almost certainly finish in the top three, and with the momentum he now has, he could even end up in the top two, depending on whether or not Ben Carson and Rick Santorum decide to do the honorable thing by dropping out. Mike Huckabee has already done so; although he personally hates Cruz, his voters will almost certainly join the Cruz campaign, which will help the senator from Texas perform even better.
And that brings me to the real state to watch right now: South Carolina. This is the state where it all may be decided. No candidate who won two of the first three primary/caucus states has ever lost the nomination. Cruz is gaining momentum in that great state. If he wins there, he’ll go on to sweep the SEC states in March, possibly winning Texas with 50% of the vote of more, which would mean he’d get all of Texas’ delegates, roughly 10% of the total amount of delegates the eventual nominee needs.
This is now a legitimate scenario.
Before tonight, Rubio was hoping for a 3-2-1 scenario. But it’s hard to imagine him winning South Carolina if he loses in both Iowa and new Hampshire. For him, then, it’s now vitally important to do well in New Hampshire. For that to happen, he needs moderates to flock to his campaign now… and he has to hope and pray that people like Chris Christie and John Kasich (who’s surging in the Granite State) lose momentum or even drop out. If they don’t, it’ll be harder for Rubio to hold on to his momentum, and that would doom his efforts in South Carolina.
Meanwhile, it’s make-or-break time for Trump in New Hampshire. If he loses again — either to Cruz or Rubio, or even to Kasich (it’s amazing that we have to take the Ohio clown seriously) — he’s done. And that would instantly turn it into a two-man race between Cruz and Rubio.
That’s all speculation, however. What we do know for sure right now is that Ted Cruz is tonight’s big winner.