The bloom is off the Trump rose. The Bern is being felt. Rubio and his high-heeled boots are on the rise. Let’s take a closer look.
On the Republican side voters who made up their minds at the last minute broke to Cruz and Rubio. Trump was closer to third than first. For Cruz Iowa may be his best state, and he didn’t steamroll a win but he clearly out-organized for the victory. He won’t wear as well in coming states. Trump’s finish shows that celebrity isn’t candidacy and Rubio showed that some really hard but last-minute work paid off.
On the Democratic side, not to toss cold water on my Bernie-supporting friends, but while he clearly had a closer than expected finish, Iowa is a state tailor-made for a Sanders candidacy – mostly white and very liberal. And he earned a virtual tie. While that clearly will help on the momentum front at the moment, it hurts in two ways: one, he probably should have won with the demographics in Iowa so it doesn’t bode well for other states and, two, a loss always makes Mrs. Clinton a better campaigner.
So what happens in New Hampshire? Sanders clearly now needs to back up his polling in the Granite State with a big win or he will be judged to have missed expectations. Hillary becomes the underdog and while she lacks the campaign skills of her husband, she does get better under pressure (Doubt that? Go watch the Benghazi hearing). Sanders still has to show, after New Hampshire, that he can appeal to a more diverse electorate and figure out how to balance his record on gun control and his inexperience in foreign policy.
The GOP side is more interesting. Cruz is not a New Hampshire candidate. Too right wing and wearing religion on your sleeve isn’t as big a plus there as in Iowa. Trump, before the Iowa results, was leading New Hampshire by a lot – but Iowa will have an effect on those numbers. Rubio is more of a New Hampshire candidate but, in the wings, so are governors Kasich, Christie and Bush. And each of them is working hard at the traditional New Hampshire process of town meetings and house parties. Kasich has been garnering newspaper endorsements. Bush is better one on one than he is giving a speech or on a debate stage, and that’s key in New Hampshire. It’s also under the radar now because the media hasn’t been covering Bush as closely so any gains there (and my guess is there are some) aren’t being as well noticed.
Time, of course, will tell. If Rubio should outdistance everyone, clearly he will be the big favorite among establishment types. Personally, he’s not my cup of tea. A bit too practiced for me and, even for a politician, will always tell you what you want to hear. Not unlike Cruz. Trump has had his effects on the race – anger, direct talk (I didn’t say honest, I said direct), frustration with Washington. Other candidates are picking up on that and when all is said and done, voters want someone they can trust as President not someone who talks a good game with no substance behind it.
So Iowa has put reality back on the table…and the beat will go on.