Here Are The Winners and Losers from a Historic Night in Iowa
By the time the long night dragged into morning, it was clear that this presidential campaign is set to be one of the most historic races since Obama brought hope to the White House in 2008. A lot happened when a historic number of Iowa voters showed up to pick the candidate they want to represent the Democratic and Republican parties in November, and we’d be lying if we said it wasn’t at least a little bit confusing. After spending a tense night huddled on my couch with my roommates nervously holding a beer and trying not to dissolve into an anxious mess, it’s time to make sense of the political implications from last night’s Iowa Caucus. After sorting through a Mt. Everest sized mountain of data, we went deep to figure out who won, who’s done, and what it all means.
There is no disputing the fact that last night was an absolutely huge win for Bernie Sanders and Ted Cruz. Yes, Sanders technically lost by a razor-thin margin of 49.6 percent to Hillary Clinton’s 49.8 percent, but it’s essential to remember that a tie was never supposed to happen. This time last year, Hillary had 56 percent of the Iowa vota. Bernie? He had 5 percent. This election was supposed to be a cakewalk for Hillary on her inevitable road to the White House, but it’s become one of the most historic Democratic campaigns ever, and is already the closest race in Iowa democratic caucus history. It’s absolutely crazy that the race to the presidency for Democrats has been altered so suddenly and so quickly—but the momentum isn’t lost on Bernie. After a rousing speech from Hillary, he took the stage to address his supporters, who had been nervously watching the results trickle in for hours last night.
“Nine months ago, we came to this beautiful state,” he explained, while trying to hide a massive grin over what his campaign has already accomplished. “We had no political organization, we had no money, we had no name recognition, and we were taking on the most powerful political organization in the United States of America.”
The Democrats weren’t the only surprised ones last night. The Republican party’s clown car of candidates battled it out and, somehow, eased our nightmares about a Donald Trump presidency. Record turnout brought out every kind of Republican. But in the end, it was the Evangelical spirit of a higher being that elevated current Gerber Baby Ted Cruz to a surprise victory against his opponents. Cruz waddled his way to victory with 28 percent of the vote, compared to Trump’s 24 percent and Marco Rubio’s 23 percent, and is setting his sights on New Hampshire as he reels from his unexpected win. In a sense, Rubio was also a winner–despite finishing in third place, he still surged out of nowhere, landing him a spot only 300 votes short of beating Trump. With major donors and GOP bigwigs looking for an antidote to the crazy train of Trump and Cruz, Rubio may be the youthful shining star the GOP needs to stand any chance of winning the White House.
The most obvious losers of the Iowa primary were politicians who watched their hopes and dreams of sitting in the Oval Office erupt in flames as they decided to finally end their campaigns. By the end of the night, Mike Huckabee made headlines for the first time in his campaign. He announced that, yes, he had actually still been in the running, but was now dropping out of the race. (Seriously, everyone we talked to had no idea he was running.) The other loser, of course, was Donald Trump. Bless him for trying, but Iowans, showing their support for a different brand of religious-tinged crazy, left Trump in an embarrassing second-place finish. Watching the press conference in which he conceded defeat was as satisfying as watching a spoiled kid trying to feign happiness after getting one scoop of ice cream instead of the two he was expecting. As the realities of the morning sunk in, Trump took to Twitter to remind the country what being a sore loser looks like. “I don’t believe I have been given any credit by the voters for self-funding my campaign, the only one,” he spewed. “I will keep doing, but not worth it!” The grammatical errors here are on Trump’s part.
The Democratic side was a bit less clear on who won and who lost, but with Martin O’Malley dropping out early on in the night, all eyes turned to Hillary and Bernie’s battle. Okay, so maybe the eyes were on O’Malley’s ripped bod more than his political chances, but at least now we’ll be able to tune into the Democratic fight without any sultry distractions. The biggest loser of the night wasn’t O’Malley, simply because there was never a shot of him making a dent to begin with. The real loser was, ironically, Hillary Clinton. Even though she officially won, her campaign has been hit hard by the Bern, and she might be panicking. After expressing disappointment with the results in Iowa, there are reports of a staff shakeup being planned at the Clinton campaign. If exit polls are any indicator, the stagnation in Clinton’s campaign can be tied directly to the fact that youth voters are abandoning her in droves. Sanders won the vote of those aged 17-29 by an astounding 84 percent to 14 percent, while Hillary swept those over 65 years old by 69 percent to 26 percent. Sanders also won among independent voters and first-time voters, which means that if the youth vote actually turns up, Bernie could win big on his revolutionary ideals.
What It All Means
As O’Malley famously said last night when announcing the end of his campaign, “In conclusion, there is no conclusion.” This could be a game changer moving forward, or it could prove to be a false start. The real moment of truth is going to come a month from now on Super Tuesday when 15 states will hold their primary elections. Historically, this day has essentially decided campaigns, and we expect nothing different here. Hillary’s strength lies in her reach with minority voters, and with many of the 15 states having majority nonwhite populations, she could feasibly slay Bernie once and for all come March 1st. According to a poll last month, Clinton held a 40-point lead among nonwhite Democrats, compared to Bernie. On the Republican side, it’s anyone’s guess who will come out on top. All we know for certain is that the day will almost definitely knock out the majority of the candidates.
Before we get to March, though, there are three more states that will hold primaries throughout February. New Hampshire will vote in a week, before the candidates move to Nevada and then South Carolina. All three states pose significantly different challenges, so it will be interesting to see who comes out on top. New Hampshire seems to be Sanders’ and Trump’s to lose, with both candidates enjoying double-digit leads on their closest rivals. Nevada and North Carolina are less clear because of a lack of polling data, but all signs point to leads for Trump and Clinton in both states. Again, this is all speculation, and as we’ve seen from Bernie’s historic rise in the polls and Cruz’s upset last night, anything can happen in this election season.
Stay tuned to Milk for more election coverage.
Gif by Kathryn Chadason. Additional images via The New York Times.