A number of pundits and journalists have declared Marco Rubio the official winner in the Iowa Caucus – not because he came in first, but because he came in third, only one point off of Trump.
I tend to agree with this analysis. This was a major step forward for the Rubio campaign and he is, in my estimation, in a good position to do well moving forward.
Here are the facts so far. Cruz obviously won Iowa and pulled in 8 delegates compared to 7 each for Trump and Rubio according to RealClearPolitics. Iowa is not, however, about winning delegates. It’s about momentum.
Rubio’s best news of the night was that he won 30% of the undecided voters, according to a Fox News report, compared with 25% for Cruz with Trump far behind that. It means that Rubio’s message is resonating in a state he didn’t expect to do so well in. The Iowan Republican Caucus is known for their Christian conservative bent. This can easily be seen in 2008 when Mike Huckabee won Iowa and in 2012 when Rick Santorum won it. Cruz’s large ground game and conservative message ultimately won in Iowa, which completely makes sense.
New Hampshire and beyond will be a different story. Rubio’s articulate, more moderate message might just be his calling card to reach large numbers of voters who could sour on Trump or at least see in Rubio an alternative which could be a formidable challenger to whoever receives the Democratic nomination.
Cruz, of course, has strong momentum and not to mention bragging rights, but it will be interesting to see how his message will play out in less conservative strongholds.
I’m very curious to see where Rubio will end up in New Hampshire. Trump currently commands a huge 22 point lead in the polls in the Granite State, but will Cruz rise from his Iowan victory or will Rubio make an impression? Fun times lay ahead. From here on out, it looks to be a three man race.
On the Democratic side, Sanders did well in Iowa and figures to win New Hampshire easily. However, that could end his run as the southern states and the Super Tuesday primary coming early next month will see Clinton’s base in full form and, barring any unseen circumstances, will likely overrun Sander’s camp by that time.
But stranger things have happened.