Prologue: Now that the vastly media-over-hyped Iowa Caucuses are in our rear-view mirror, we can assess the results for both major parties and where they individually stand, heading into New Hampshire (NH).
Republicans: In Iowa, a state tailor-made for his strong evangelical roots, Ted Cruz took first place and indeed, won, handily, albeit not without controversy; i.e. some members of his campaign staff issued bogus printed and electronic messages, hinting that Dr. Ben Carson, another evangelical favorite, was dropping from the race. People who planned to caucus for him were urged to switch and do so for Senator Cruz (1). Primadonald, who apparently thought he could carry the day based on the sheer force of his personality and bravado, came in second. It’s entirely possible that late in the game, the real estate mogul sensed that he might lose. So, he rushed in Sarah Palin (henceforth to be referred to as Trump’s strumpet  ) to bolster his bona fides with evangelical and Tea Party voters. Obviously, it wasn’t enough. Marco Rubio rose to third place, failing to top Primadonald by just a bit more than 1,200 votes (3). Dr. Ben Carson landed in the fourth slot having lost a great deal of the allure that had him riding much higher in the polls as recently as 1-2 months ago.
In what we could call a second echelon of candidates, there was John Kasich, Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, and Carly Fiorina. As of the date of this blog, all are hanging in there and have moved on to NH. In this group, it’s Kasich who has the most to gain, having been endorsed by all but one of the state’s newspapers. Bush stands to be the biggest loser if he cannot vault himself into the upper tier of candidates.
Among the rest of the GOP field, Senator Rand Paul, Rick Santorum, and Mike Huckabee all fared so poorly that each elected to suspend their respective campaigns. Paul can now turn his attention to retaining his senate seat from Kentucky. Among these three, only Santorum has issued an endorsement; he’s on board with Marco Rubio. Asked by a talk show host to cite one of the Florida senator’s accomplishments, Santorum whiffed which is to say, he couldn’t.
As a sidebar to Santorum’s support of Rubio, there is the question of why he chose not to cast his lot with Cruz with whom he shares a number of conservative attributes. Perhaps Santorum is just one of many establishment Republicans that have an unqualified dislike for Cruz who they see as an unprincipled politician with a singular driving force that is his own self-interest and grandiose ambition.
Democrats: Both HRC and Senator Bernie Sanders (BS) claimed victory, never mind that actual results showed them in a virtual dead heat. The former corralled most older voters; the latter, younger ones. Across those two groups, there is a mile wide enthusiasm gap that favors the Vermont Senator. How HRC bridges that divide remains to be seen, though she certainly needs to. If she eventually does win the nomination, she will have to depend on Sanders to bring his troops over. Absent that happening, her candidacy will be in deep trouble.
The only other Democrat in the race was Martin O’Malley who finished a very distant third. His run at the nomination never gained traction and he wisely has abandoned it, doing so without tossing his support to either HRC or BS.
Epilogue: Among Republicans, if Primadonald learned anything from his second place finish in Iowa, it’s that he will actually have to build a campaign organization with volunteers going door-to-door and manning phone banks on his behalf. If the man fails to do that, it will reinforce the growing suspicion that he has never really been serious about running for president. Ted Cruz will have to broaden his appeal since NH Republicans are not dominated by evangelicals. Rubio must build on the momentum he generated in Iowa lest he be regarded as no more than a one-time super-nova who is already burning out. Dr. Ben Carson has to muster a much-stronger-than-Iowa showing or give very serious consideration to dropping what has steadily become his quixotic run at the GOP nomination.
As for the “lesser lights”, Gov. Christie has in hand, the endorsement of NH’s most conservative newspaper, the Manchester Union-Leader. That is the one endorsement that Kasich failed to land. As for Jeb Bush, a lowest tier finish will send his campaign onto life support, and the same can be said for Carly Fiorina.
The foregoing considered, it is very likely that by the end of a week after all Republican votes are counted, the party’s candidates will have sorted themselves out into those still in, and those who are out. Your blogger’s best estimate is that the field will winnow down to four and no more than five remaining hopefuls.
Moving on to the Democrats, NH is BS-territory inasmuch as he comes from the neighboring state of Vermont. He has a sizable double-digit lead over HRC and it is hard to imagine that it will dissipate entirely in the few days before the NH primary. That said, it’s noteworthy that HRC has not surrendered and continues to campaign hard. If she can drive down into single digits, the difference between herself and BS, she can claim a “victory” of sorts, and move on to the next primary battle in South Carolina.
- This ploy by Cruz’ staffers have properly been labelled a “dirty trick”. While Cruz apologized to Carson, he refused to fire the perpetrators.
- No claim here for originality. This clever sobriquet was borrowed from a fellow blogger.
- Rubio’s campaign is working off a “3-2-1” strategy; i.e. finish third in Iowa, second in NH and first in SC. If that is what comes to pass, Florida’s junior senator will have greatly increased the odds that he will be the GOP’s nominee.