Tuesday, February 02, 2016


Whoa, Ted Cruz. Is there any here here? I guess it means Trump can't run the tables, which if you want chaos in the GOP nomination battle, is a pretty good outcome.

Cruz. Obviously a big win for him, but it only buys him time. Of the last six contested races in Iowa, the winner failed to go on and win the nomination four times. Very often for Republicans, the voters line up well for a particular kind of candidate--a candidate who is not received as well elsewhere.

Trump. A bump in the road, really. I imagine the media will go crazy the next week talking about how he face-planted and this "raises serious doubts" about his ability to win the nom. Nonsense. He is the opposite of the kind of candidate who normally does well here. (Giuliani, a one-time front-runner from NYC, blew off Iowa entirely.) He literally mocked Iowans and still finished second. If he wins handily in NH, those will be quickly-forgotten one-week stories.

Rubio. A pretty strong showing, but one tempered by the Cruz win. If Trump had beaten Cruz and Rubio finished this strongly, he might actually have emerged as the "winner." Iowa's delegates are irrelevant--Iowa's all about setting expectations. Rubio way out-performed the polls (23%), and if Cruz had tanked, he would have emerged as the plausible anti-Trump. Now he remains the third wheel. NH will be a very big test for him. He needs a second place finish. If Kasich or Christie sneak in front of him, it will be very, very bad for his campaign.

The upshot is that Trump is still the man to beat, performing respectably in a state he had no business contesting seriously. I think Cruz is too unlikable to be viable long-term, but his strong performance here may knock out Rubio, which will give Trump the nomination. Hard to see this changes the underlying dynamics much.


Dems. Bernie characterized the race, accurately, as a "virtual tie."  How does that affect things? I doubt there will be a lot of argument here (except, of course, from Bernie partisans): a tie is a win for Hillary. Bernie had the Red Sox primary locked up months ago and it will give his campaign a good week. But it doesn't change the basic calculus of the race, which hugely favors Hillary. For these reasons:

1. Iowa and NH are the 2nd and 6th whitest states in the US, and Bernie does best with whites. The next two states as S Carolina and Nevada, with huge nonwhite electorates. "Super Tuesday" follows, with several southern states. Exiting that date (March 1), Hillary will have a big delegate advantage.

2. Bernie has had months to speak directly to voters in NH and Iowa. This always benefits strong dark horse candidates. Following NH on Feb 9, there will be 14 contests and 1109 delegates at stake (NH and Iowa had 84). It's going to be impossible to spend the same level of time with voters in these states, so name recognition and familiarity will be an asset for Hillary.

3. Hillary has party support and will have many popular local pols on the trail for her in the 16 states following NH. Bernie will be on his own.

It doesn't seem like Bernie has a ton of good paths to victory here.

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