In the weeks leading up to the Iowa caucus, according to Real Clear Politics, Donald Trump led the Republicans in Iowa by less than five percent. By Monday, when Iowa voters went to the polls, not so much to vote for a candidate but to vote on how many delegates will be sent to the national convention, Cruz managed to close Trump’s lead (and then some) enough to win the primary.
For a man who has never been as close to elected office as he is today, Trump can feel proud of coming in second with 24 percent behind Cruz’s 28 percent. “I’m really honored,” Trump said congratulating Cruz, “I’m just honored.” Sanders too can feel very proud of himself. He came in second with 49 percent behind Clinton’s 50 percent, winning twenty-one delegates compared to Clinton's twenty-three.
Could Iowa be a sign of things to come? Writing this a week before the New Hampshire primary, I’d say maybe but likely not.
The virtual tie with Sanders dealt Clinton’s campaign a damaging blow but not a fatal one. Though Sanders overtook Clinton by eighteen percent in New Hampshire, Clinton still leads Sanders by twenty-nine percent in South Carolina (the next primary state after New Hampshire). Sanders looks to be on track to cancel out Clinton's narrow victory in Iowa by winning New Hampshire but to then lose in South Carolina giving Clinton some much-needed breathing room.
While Cruz was able to close and upturn Trump’s lead in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina will be uphill battles. The Republican nominee, Cruz said after his victory, “will not be chosen by the media, will not be chosen by the Washington establishment, will not be chosen by the lobbyists, but will be chosen by… we the people.” But Cruz shouldn’t count his eggs before they hatch. He won a grand total of eight delegates. Trump and Rubio both won seven. Seeing as how Trump leads Cruz in New Hampshire by twenty-two points and in South Carolina by sixteen points, Cruz still has an awful lot of ground to cover.
George W. Bush won Iowa in 2000 and 2004, but Mike Huckabee won it in 2008 and Rick Santorum won it in 2012. Even with his victory, Cruz can’t count on Iowa being a kingmaker. Though Cruz managed to close a five-point gap (and then some) in about two weeks, he now needs to close a gap twice as big in half the time. I don’t think he can do it.
“We will go on to win the Republican nomination,” Trump continued in his concession speech. “We will go on to easily beat Hillary or Bernie or whoever the hell they throw up there.”
Sanders came within a hair of Clinton — four votes, actually — and so should be immensely proud of himself, but, as with Cruz, I don’t see how Sanders can cover as much ground as he needs to in the time he has.
To those who think we could be looking at a Cruz-Sanders race, I say “not so fast.” I say a Trump-Clinton race looks much more likely.