“Vote for anyone but Cruz,” declared the much-vaunted Iowa establishment governor, Terry Branstad. Between Trump, the establishment, and Fox News, they threw everything they had at him in the months preceding the 2016 Iowa Caucus.
We heard it all: birtherism, ethanol, Goldman Sachs loans, the Palin endorsement, Cruz supposedly losing every debate, the Santorum/Huckabee sniping, the entire establishment ganging up to defeat him. Then we were told that even if Cruz wins Iowa, a victory would only occur in the event of low turnout. After all, the newbies will all be for Trump. Well, Cruz won with a record turnout, projected to be near 180,000. It also appears that Cruz will break Mike Huckabee’s previous record of the most total votes received by the caucus winner. And he did it in an eleven-person race.
Here are some key observations from the preliminary results:
- From watching Fox News, one would come away with the impression that the big news of the night is “the Rubio surge.” I’ve never seen an election in which the political class focused exclusively on the third place winner and not the actual winner of the election, especially given that the first place winner defied every single poll. But the political class has it all wrong. The storyline is just the opposite. Despite the entire establishment-lane collapsing and coalescing around Rubio (Christie, Fiorina, Bush, and Kasich barely registered), they still could not beat Cruz. While Rubio did gain some momentum, most of his votes came at the expense of other establishment candidates. Also, despite the pro-Rubio talking point that Cruz was always going to win Iowa because he spent so much money there, Rubio actually spent more money in the state.
- In every election since 2012, we’ve heard the canard, “the Tea Party is dead.” In reality, the establishment is dead. Perception is reality in politics, and the perception is that Trump and Carson are conservative outsiders. Even Rubio has run as a conservative outsider, publicly repudiating amnesty and disavowing any ties to the establishment. Combined, the establishment candidates couldn’t muster more than single digits. On the other hand, Cruz had Carson syphoning off as much as 15% in some rural strongholds, a factor that will likely diminish as the good doctor becomes a non-factor in future states. Further, Cruz won 54 counties, more than half of the counties in the state, while Rubio won just five.
- This election was truly historic. A lot of people are passing around the now-iconic video of Cruz convincing an Iowa farmer of the veracity of his position on ethanol. Nobody has ever spoken the truth about ethanol in its home state and gone on to win the election. If we ever hope to limit government, we will need a president who is willing to both articulate the truth about government dependency and change hearts and minds.
- Steve King deserves a lot of credit. He laid it out on the line for Cruz and his endorsement and organization turned out to trump all the other endorsements of the cycle.
Make no mistake about it: this was not just a huge win for Cruz, it was a momentous victory for conservatives who have been so disenfranchised for so many years. Given the expectations of the caucuses over the past few weeks, Cruz is likely to pick up tremendous momentum from this win and is very well positioned in South Carolina. He’s even better positioned in the SEC primary, which will award over 600 delegates on March 1st.
Watch for the entire political establishment to rally behind Rubio in the coming days and for the attacks to grow more vociferous this week. But judging by the mood of the voters, they are no longer buying what the political establishment is selling.