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Iowa produces an election-year first: Trump, the loser

The 2016 Iowa Caucuses (image desmoinesregister.com)

By Tom Baxter

We have come to that point in the process when very small margins amount to a lot, when small bands of like-minded citizens gathering on a snowy night actually do make some difference.

With just a few thousand more votes, Donald Trump might have left Iowa with his mojo working. He didn’t do badly Monday night, given that his ground operation appears to be have been largely a bluff. Even if Sen. Ted Cruz had still won, a few thousand more Trumpeters would have made Trump’s second-place finish respectable.

Instead, the brash intruder who has dominated both the polls and the media finished in his first real political outing with the most third-place of second-place finishes imaginable, almost surpassed by not one, but two, Cuban-American Republicans. (Fun Fact: the white, non-Hispanic Republican male candidates accounted for less than 40 percent of the vote by Republican caucus goers.)

Trump, the Campaign, moves on to more inviting territory in New Hampshire and the South, but he narrowly dodged a disaster. A third-place finish behind Cruz and Marco Rubio would have made Trump, the Balloon, lose air quickly.

The Democrats report their caucus results differently, so it’s difficult to say how Trump’s performance compares, numbers-wise, with the Democratic insurgent, Bernie Sanders. Sanders did a much better job than Trump of getting first-time caucusers out to support him, coming within a hair of overtaking Hillary Clinton in the Democratic Caucuses.

But by just that razor-thin margin, the Democratic contest again looks like a shorter race than the Republican battle for the nomination, and that not always been apparent. Clinton may have a rough night ahead in New Hampshire, but Iowa was an important draw, if you can speak of such a thing in politics.

A few hundred less Clinton supporters would have put her campaign in much worse position than it came away with Monday night. There still are those pesky emails, but Clinton proved, once again, that nobody’s going to outwork her in a political campaign.

In a brief leap-year month, the campaign that began Monday night lands on our doorstep. Already we’ve lost the chance to vote for Democrat Martin O’Malley and Republican Mike Huckabee, who threw in the towel and soon as the caucuses were over.

There could be more before Georgia votes in the March 1 SEC primary. Given how terribly things have gone for Jeb Bush, it would have been hard to foresee a headline in Politico announcing that he’d done even worse than expected. But sure enough, we got one Monday night. There’s likely to be much more pressure now on Bush and the other establishment non-starters to clear the way for a final, three-way contest. Although, on the other hand, the Republican contest could just be at the beginning of getting down in the woods.

Tom Baxter

Tom Baxter has written about politics and the South for more than four decades. He was national editor and chief political correspondent at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and later edited The Southern Political Report, an online publication, for four years. Tom was the consultant for the 2008 election night coverage sponsored jointly by Current TV, Digg and Twitter, and a 2011 fellow at the Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics at the University of Kansas. He has written about the impact of Georgia’s and Alabama's immigration laws in reports for the Center for American Progress. Tom and his wife, Lili, have three adult children and seven grandchildren.


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  1. Burroughston Broch February 2, 2016 9:39 am

    Your political bias is very apparent as you ignored the larger headline of Hillary Clinton’s narrow, pyrrhic victory in Iowa. Feeling the Bern, are you?Report

  2. GeorgeWilson February 2, 2016 11:18 am

    Angry white males should take a look at the Sanders’ platform and realize that he has solutions .Don’t be manipulated by the right wing media and the top 1%.Report

  3. Burroughston Broch February 2, 2016 2:36 pm

    GeorgeWilson  Do you mean Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, and Ben Carson, all members of the top 1%? Do you expect Hillary Clinton to save you from the top 1% (including her and Bill)?Report


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