Feb. 2, 2016

Note: The next election update will run following the Feb. 9 New Hampshire Primary.


And so the Iowa Caucuses are history and in many ways the presidential race 2016 in both parties is starting anew.

The Republican Party – The Republican contest in Iowa ended with a huge defeat for the front runner, Donald Trump, contrary to the conventional wisdom of most pollsters and pundits. To understand that, it is enough to compare the last national average of all polls by realclearpolitics.com with the actual results in Iowa. In the former, Donald Trump led Ted Cruz by 28.6% to 23.9%, while in the latter, Cruz beat Trump decisively by 27.7% to 24.3%. This is as close as it comes to a political earthquake in American politics and it changes the dynamics of the GOP race dramatically. Yet, as substantial as Cruz’s drubbing of Trump was, perhaps the most significant development for the GOP race from now on was the huge surge by Marco Rubio in the last few days to come within a hair of beating Trump for second place (23.1% to 24.1%). This has portentous implications, because unlike Cruz, Rubio, while staunchly conservative, is considered much more acceptable to the republican establishment. Which, in turn, means that if Donald Trump now starts fading away as the GOP’s establishment worst nightmare, Rubio is likely to become the natural beneficiary of huge support and money in battling their second worst nightmare, Ted Cruz.

A sign of what that may mean was a meeting of the Koch Brothers network in California a few days ago. The Kochs control the largest conservative financial support network in the country estimated at nearly $1 billion with 700 individuals that donate at least $100,000 to conservative causes. The California meeting focused on the question of how to stop Trump. If Trump does not need to be stopped now, Rubio is certain to inherit a significant chunk of that financial bonanza.

There are other important implications from Iowa that point to a further Trump decline and a Cruz-Rubio mano-a-mano for the nomination from now on. A key poll that asked responders which candidate they thought shared their values, found Trump at the very bottom with 6%, while Rubio led with 42%. Another key finding that was missed by virtually all pollsters was that as many as 35% of the GOP caucus goers made up their mind very late (late deciders). A majority of those voted for Rubio, a significant fact for the future of the race.

The Democratic Party – Though less dramatic than the republican results, the democratic outcome was no less significant for the future of the race. It ended essentially in a tie with Clinton at 49.9% vs. Sanders’ 49.5%. By any political measure, this was a defeat for Hillary Clinton who had long been touted by the democratic establishment as the “inevitable” nominee. Sanders’ spectacular performance, especially among young and first-time voters, coupled with serious concerns about a possible Clinton indictment over her handling of classified e-mail, could easily destroy the “inevitable” argument. Especially, if Sanders wins the New Hampshire primary next week, where he is currently leading Clinton by a nearly 2-1 margin. Given the widely-shared perception that his socialist views make Sanders unelectable in the general election, persistent rumors in the democratic party suggest that if Hillary starts looking less inevitable, the establishment will put up somebody ‘electable’ like vice-president Joe Biden to save the day. This, of course, cannot but lead to a huge fight with Sanders’ army of young idealists.

All in all, Iowa’s unexpected results have made the future of the US presidential race more exciting if anything.