Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Reaction to Iowa

The great circus that is the Iowa caucus has passed, and primary season has begun in earnest. I made a set of predictions for Iowa, so I might as well share my thoughts now that we know what actually happened. Or sort of know, as the case may be.

Ted Cruz in Iowa, after his victory
(Brendan Hoffman/Getty, taken from the National Review)
My prediction for the Republican Iowa caucus's winner was lousy. I gave Cruz a twenty percent chance of winning and Trump an eighty percent chance, and Cruz won by several percent of the vote. Like many, I didn't see that coming--and I expected that if Cruz won it would be due to a lower turnout; but turnout was fantastic, apparently. I guess I underestimated the appeal that this creepy-looking, serpentine preacher-man has for the evangelicals in Iowa, and probably the rest of the country. Kind of a stupid oversight on my part, given that they gave a victory to the dull block of wood that is Rick Santorum four years ago, and Cruz panders to the faithful like a faith-healer skilled in his charade.

On one hand, it's great to see Trump lose. The planetoid ego that he holds just had an asteroid crater into it. Watching his supporters react is even more of a perverse delight, as the online white nationalist community threw a tantrum and shrieked about how Microsoft had stolen Trump's votes and given them to "Jubio." But Cruz is a scarier candidate in many ways. Like I've said before, Trump may very well be a complete phony, putting up a front to get power and prestige; Cruz is a true believer, the sort of figure who could be at the head of a suicide cult somewhere out in the West. He believes he has God on his side, and the last president to think that broke to bits an entire damn country in the Middle East. And Ted Cruz makes George W. Bush look like a moderate in comparison.

But the people who think they're dancing on Trump's political grave have got it way wrong. Iowa's caucus system means participants have to be a lot more involved than your average primary, and Trump's supporters are not the type to be too engaged in politics. Plus, he leads in New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Florida by far more than he did in Iowa. Santorum won Iowa four years ago, and Huckabee in 2008, so the Republican Iowa caucus is not much more than a badge of honor given to the craziest and most depraved religious extremist running for president; it can hardly be counted on as a predictor of who lives and dies.

On the Democratic side, it was every bit as close as I would have anticipated; I gave Sanders a slight edge, but they say Clinton won now. But who knows, given the coin tosses, talk of missing votes, and whatever else. Sanders hasn't conceded, nor should he. But whether or not Clinton is the ultimate winner, it's clear that Sanders is a serious threat. He's taken a sledgehammer to the foundation of the corporate establishment and made the whole thing quake. The Clinton campaign is certainly happy to avoid losing to Sanders by a few points, but to call this a real victory for Clinton is delusional. At best, she barely won Iowa, and is way down in the polls in New Hampshire, the first actual primary of the election. Sanders has proven that he's a real candidate, not just an also-ran trying to make a point.

The New Hampshire primary in a little less than a week doesn't hold much of the same suspense as Iowa did, with both Trump and Sanders boasting double-digit leads in the polls. Trump's lead mig
ht be threatened a little by Cruz, but I doubt it'll be enough to tip the state (though, then again, I doubted Cruz would win Iowa). The "virtual tie" between Sanders and Clinton probably only adds fuel to Sanders campaign's engine, so if the polls are right--and they were about right in Iowa for the Democrats--he should cruise to an easy victory in the state Clinton won in 2008. It seems we probably have two long primaries ahead of us, and the outcomes couldn't be more important.

No comments:

Post a Comment