DES MOINES – On Monday night, the rubber finally hit the road as the first ballots of the presidential cycle were cast and the party Establishment on both sides of the aisle received a stern rebuke from the voters.
That firebrand conservative Ted Cruz had won the Republican contest is in itself a strong message. However that’s just the tip of the pitchfork.
The top five candidates in Iowa were Cruz, businessman Donald Trump, freshman Florida US Senator Marco Rubio, Dr. Ben Carson, and libertarian Rand Paul, while firmer Florida governor Jeb Bush finished in the embarrassingly low single digits in a state that his brother handily carried in 2000.
Though many conservative activists consider Rubio as part of the establishment due to his involvement in the since scuttled amnesty plan, the Floridian’s speeches are practically identical in content to Cruz’s- Rubio just uses softer tones.
The Hawkeye Republican caucuses once again proved to be poll proof as the billionaire real estate developer saw his consistent lead in Iowa tumble from the thirties to the mid-twenties on caucus night.
Cruz won thanks to a few key factors. First he largely consolidated the state”s influential Evangelical votes despite the presence of favorites such as Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum in the race.
Secondly, Cruz had an impressive ground game. His Des Moines headquarters was packed with volunteers phone banking voters in contrast to Trump’s non-existent ground game.
Thirdly, Cruz came off as the most authentic conservative in the race. After the debacles of the GOP’s previous two nominees the Republican base vote was hungry for someone different.
While Trump did not win, he should take solace in that his popular support in polls did translate in a substantial vote at the caucuses. He’ll do better in more participation convenient primaries.
Finally, Rubio has emerged as the leading alternative to Cruz and Trump. Though Rubio’s grassroots operation was not on par with Cruz’s, he did demonstrate political magnetism with his string show of support.
Expect the New Hampshire and national surveys to be rocked by what happened in Iowa, which wasn’t about a candidate but a popular movement rejecting the Republican establishment.
One final note on Iowa: it was assumed that a high turnout would dilute the vote share of the conservative Cruz. Instead, it powered his win. If the FOP nominates a true conservative, the voters will show up.