The story of Iowa is Donald Trump, no longer a winner

This picture, from a caucus site in Des Moines, pretty much sums it up. (AP Photo / Jae C. Hong)

This picture, from a caucus site in Des Moines, pretty much sums it up. (AP Photo / Jae C. Hong)

On the Republican side of the Iowa caucuses, the story is not that Ted Cruz won or that Marco Rubio finished in a stronger-than-expected third place. Both are important, but neither really compares to the story of the man in between them: Donald Trump.

He lost. Ergo, following his own usual reasoning, he’s a loser.

Trump’s entire campaign has been based on free airtime from TV networks chasing ratings a curious bit of circular logic: Trump is leading the polls because he’s so great. How can you tell he’s so great? Because he’s leading the polls. No other candidate has referred to his own poll numbers more than Trump; it’s possible that all other candidates, for all offices, combined, have referenced their own poll numbers less than The Donald. Winning begets winning. Ipso Trumpo.

Only now … he’s not winning. He’s losing. The final poll average at Real Clear Politics had Trump at 29 percent and Cruz at 24 percent (although you really have to check out those trajectories toward the end). The results, with almost all precincts reporting, were the opposite: Cruz at 28 percent and Trump at 24 percent. That last set of numbers is the one that counts.

And, let’s note, he fell to a disappointing second despite record turnout. For some time now, we’ve heard that turnout would be key to a Trump win. Well, the number of Republicans who voted Monday was more than 50 percent higher than in 2012. Trump got over 15,000 more votes than Rick Santorum did in his 2012 victory in Iowa. He still lost.

The story going forward remains about Trump, but it’s no longer about Trump the unstoppable. It’s about Trump the wounded. Now bloodied, does he keep his supporters in places like New Hampshire and South Carolina? If he’s caught by a Rubio or a John Kasich in New Hampshire, and then by Cruz in South Carolina — both of which are well within the realm of possibility — where does his campaign turn for rejuvenation?

We’re getting ahead of ourselves now. But make no mistake: No other top-tier candidate faces a make-or-break stretch over the next couple of weeks like Trump does.

***

OK, what of Cruz and Rubio? Well, they confirmed one thing: They are the only non-Trump candidates who can still win the GOP nomination.

Kasich is polling well in New Hampshire, where he has concentrated his resources, but he would face a series of uphill battles afterward. Ditto for Chris Christie. Ben Carson did a little better than expected in Iowa, but he was still merely in the single digits. Rand Paul and Jeb Bush simply haven’t lived up to their famous names.

Cruz bet big on Iowa and was rewarded. He withstood birther attacks and won despite an unpopular (in Iowa) stand against the federal ethanol mandate. Exit polls show he won the votes of “very conservative” voters by 2-to-1 over Trump and 3-to-1 over Rubio. That’s his constituency going forward. He is all but certain now to be, at least, one of the last two Republicans standing.

He did much worse, however, among the slightly larger “somewhat conservative” crowd. That’s the Rubio crowd; the Floridian won it by 5 points over Trump and 10 over Cruz. For all the talk of Rubio as the “moderate” “establishment” candidate (if he embodies those words today, conservatives and outsiders have officially won) his sweet spot is really in between “very conservative” Republicans and moderates. That’s a good place to be. The fact that he won a plurality of that group — and, yes, finished with a much larger share of the overall vote than expected — bodes well for his campaign going forward. But expectations have been raised for him. His third place will look a lot less shiny if it doesn’t carry him to greater heights later this month.

Perhaps the strangest result of all, from the exit polling, is this: Donald Trump won a plurality of the moderate vote with 34 percent; Jeb Bush finished sixth in that category with 5 percent. Bush actually got less of the moderate vote than Kasich, who virtually ignored Iowa in favor of New Hampshire. I don’t know much, but (I think) I know these things: Trump can’t win the nomination doing best among moderates, and Bush can’t win it as an also-ran among moderates.

Reader Comments 0

46 comments
McGarnagle
McGarnagle

Rubio, the establishment candidate, lost to a more conservative more evangelical candidate Cruz but still did well in Iowa and has momentum to contend in the other states. He has presidential appearance and appeals to moderates. His biggest negative is in immigration reform bill which had path to citizenship for illegal immigrants currently living in the U.S. 


History repeats itself.

MarkVV
MarkVV

I find it generally useless to prognosticate the future decisions of the voters and to pretend to have an insight into the opinions and reasons of other people, so I stick to my opinion of the candidates, such as Donald Trump.

I do not think that Trump’s xenophobic comments are a most important reason for his popularity, although they certainly play a role. I think many people vote for Trump mainly because he offers the simplest way to make everything right in the country – he will just do it, do not ask how.

As a matter of fact, while I do not believe that Trump can be elected President, I do not think it would be such a disaster as the liberals and even many conservatives believe. In my view, Trump is the ultimate opportunist, a person without any principles in a political campaign. While this accusation has been exchanged mainly between Rubio and Cruz, Trump is really the one who “will say anything to be elected.” But I think it would be a very different story if he indeed became the head of the government.

What appears to be forgotten by many is that we are not electing a king, an emperor, a dictator. Many actions and programs the candidates propose cannot happen without the approval of the Congress and sometimes of the courts. If elected Bernie Sanders cannot install a single payer system of healthcare; Hillary Clinton cannot herself put into action an economy plan which, according to some organization, would “shrink the economy,” etc.,

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

@MarkVV  I do not think that Trump’s xenophobic comments are a most important reason for his popularity, although they certainly play a role.


Nice post but dont underestimate this. His promise to deport Hispanics and build a wall coincides with his campaign really taking off.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@MarkVV "I find it generally useless ... to pretend to have an insight into the opinions and reasons of other people ..."

VERY NEXT PARAGRAPH:

"I think many people vote for Trump mainly because ..."

I just can't even ...


Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@MarkVV Funny. Not once in my piece did I attempt to divine what voters were thinking, unlike you, who, as noted, had just dismissed such an exercise as useless.

MarkVV
MarkVV

@Kyle_Wingfield @MarkVV  Yes, I find it "generally useless;" therefore, this one little note is the only little suggestion in that respect ( unlike most of your pretension of wisdom), and most of my comment is devoted to a different aspect of the nomination fight.

xxxzzz
xxxzzz

@Kyle_Wingfield @MarkVV Well you have on several occasions tried to divine the mind of those who have a fondness for the Confederate battle flag.  Its pretty much the same type of thing.

ATLAquarius
ATLAquarius

What will be more interesting is seeing either Cruz or Trump try to tack back to the center in a general election....the flip flop counters may explode...


Lil_Barry_Bailout
Lil_Barry_Bailout

@ATLAquarius

It's pretty sad that fidelity to the Constitution and to our Founding Fathers' values is strictly the province of Republicans.

Why do Democrats hate America?

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

Trump has taken some damage with this loss, but I suspect that those talking excitedly about how Iowa has punctured his aura of invincibility are telling us more about their own anxieties than about Trump.


- Bookman


He nailed it there.

lvg
lvg

Good analysis Kyle- As dumb as Iowa voters are with their archaic caucuses , the  GOP voters figured out that Trump is a disguised liberal pretending to be conservative. At least he did not pander for votes with that "severely conservative" line.

Caius
Caius

Picking up on Kyle's thought from below, 72% of Republicans voted against Cruz. 77% voted against Rubio and, as Kyle noted, 76% vote against Trump.


Cruz now has 8 delegates. Another 1228 delegates and he has the Republican nomination wrapped up in red ribbon.


So the big questions: will Republicans really nominate a Canadian, or a Hot Air Machine, or kid in diapers, for president?  It is early in the process. Just ask former presidents Huckabee and Santorum.


Lil_Barry_Bailout
Lil_Barry_Bailout

@Caius

We know that the Democrat party will be running a felon who puts her own need for secrecy above national security or a socialist.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator


@Caius Trump is the only one (of the top three) whose narrative was interrupted last night. Yes, it's early. But he's the only one for whom things aren't going to plan as of this morning.

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

@Lil_Barry_Bailout @Caius In reality Republicans couldnt pin anything on HC regards Benghazi. 


So they just moved onto the emails.  


As if Hillary were somehow different than previous SOS.


This is all right out of the swift boat playbook.


The good news for the country is the only people who go for this stuff are  the Hillary  killed Vince Foster crowd who weren't going to vote for her anyway.

Lil_Barry_Bailout
Lil_Barry_Bailout

Sure seems like the loudest voices trying to make the argument that Trump is the GOP and the GOP is Trump are neither Trumpkins nor Republicans.  They're hate-filled rabid leftists.

Eye wonder
Eye wonder

I said it months ago and will say it again - if cons want any shot at the Presidency, the only people capable of delivering a victory are Rubio or Kasich.  Rubio is a stooge and I'd prefer Kasich, but, again, Rubio's your guy.  Get behind him early and often if ya want a con in the WH.

xxxzzz
xxxzzz

@Eye wonder It was disconcerting that nobody understood Christie when he pointed out in the last couple of debates how Cruz and Rubio personified what everyone hates about DC.

khckhc
khckhc

just remember iowa gave us steve king

JeffreyEav
JeffreyEav

I wouldn't think Rubio qualifies as anti-establishment. He's extreme which is a requirement in a Republican primary but he's no outsider. Heck I heard he has his own RNC credit card.

RafeHollister
RafeHollister

Cruz, Trump, Rubio, Carson, Paul topped 85%.  The elite donor class establishment mushy moderates of the Gop got about 15%.  I'd say the base is just a little tired of our permanent political class.  Now the establishment has no choice but to lie and say we were behind Rubio all along, haha .  That is the story!


Meanwhile the Dems try to sort out their feelings, the Hugo Chavez clone or the felon, who so far has escaped prosecution. 

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

Today Kyle is blaming the Trump phenomena on the media. Tomorrow it will be Obama's fault

Rinse and repeat

He simply refuses to acknowledge that Trumps popularity comes from his xenophobic views. Which resonate loudly in an almost all white GOP

xxxzzz
xxxzzz

@Hedley_Lammar @xxxzzz I didn't know the Democrats could choose a president by themselves.  I know Obama thinks that.  He doesn't believe in the Constitution.

RafeHollister
RafeHollister

@Hedley_Lammar They are not xenophobic or racist, they would just like a job.  


Before you throw it out there, immigrants do compete with American workers.  Meat packing plant in Iowa just got rid of Americans and imported foreigners, just like Disney did.  Plumbers, painters, carpenters, carpet workers, carpet layers, restaurant workers, carpet cleaners, poultry workers, brick masons, automotive mechanics, etc have all been left unemployed by  immigrants that work cheaper.  


Not all immigrants are employed spreading pine straw and picking fruit as you allege Headley.  

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

i see you are in denial as well

Misery loves company. You are not alone

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

What crimes? Benghazi?

P.S. It's no coincidence the GOP is all white these days. Their policies made that happen not "free stuff". Trump has been a long time coming.

lvg
lvg

@Hedley_Lammar Trump is just more public about his xenophobia, mysogyny, racist  tendencies and appeal to the lowest denominators in the GOP than Cruz who is a  total snake  and a venomous one at that.

xxxzzz
xxxzzz

@Hedley_Lammar Then why are the top 5 in the GOP race-A reality TV star, Hispanic, Hispanic, Black and married to a Hispanic?  While the Dems have two ancient white people who look like they could croak at any minute?

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

@xxxzzz @Hedley_Lammar Democrats elected an African American to the office of President twice.


Let me know when Republicans approach that bar will ya

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

Trump wins big in NH and then SC as he cruzes to the nomination. Remaking the GOP in his own image in the process.

The fact he did so well in Iowa while barely campaigned there tells you it's his party now.

This is how far the party of Lincoln has sank.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@Hedley_Lammar "Trump wins big in NH and then SC as he cruzes to the nomination. Remaking the GOP in his own image in the process."

^^This is the definition of denial. 

khckhc
khckhc

when is iowa right?  sorta like their football team. they will be crushed in bowl game

HotDawg
HotDawg

Are you seriously trying to write Trump off, after one caucus in Iowa and only a 3 or 4 percentage from a win? Caucuses are a joke to begin with. It's equal to the sleeziest parts of football recruiting.

Caucus voters change their minds and commitments more often than a narcissistic recruit. Just go out and vote on election day, like a primary. Shouldn't be any campaign material within a certain distance of polling place. Like here in Georgia.

They've had forever to make up their minds. Ridiculous to have campaign rallies, speeches, and campaign signs at a polling place. That's basically what a caucus is. And Iowans get sucked into changing their support right before they vote. Crazy.

In the end, Iowa won't matter much. Time for the rest of the country to get involved.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@HotDawg I'm not writing him off. But I do think he is losing his margin for error in NH and SC. If he underperforms again, especially in NH next week, it's going to start looking like the polls were wrong about him. And when your campaign is predicated so much on your success in the polls, that's a problem.

xxxzzz
xxxzzz

@Kyle_Wingfield @HotDawg Then he just campaigns on the media like you being afraid of him and writing him off despite getting more votes overall than Cruz or Rubio or whoever.   Don't underestimate him just because he acts like a clown.