Republican Nomination: Iowa Takeaways and New Hampshire Predictions
On the Republican stage, the final results of the Iowa Caucus included a victory for Ted Cruz, a significant defeat for Donald Trump, and a solid “exceeded expectations” for Marco Rubio. Cruz led with 27.7 percent of votes, Trump following with 24.3 percent, and Rubio close behind with 23.1 percent. No other republican candidate received more than 10 percent, and Rand Paul, the leading libertarian-leaning candidate, dropped out, after receiving only 4.5 percent.
The real losers of the Iowa caucus were the pollsters, who consistently estimated significant leads of almost 20 percent for Trump ahead of other Republican candidates. Yet Trump failed to win when the first votes were cast, revealing the polls’ failure to account for Trump’s inability to secure actual votes. Turns out it’s easier to get people to say they support Trump, than actually vote for him.
Speaking of polls, contrary to media coverage, an entrance poll for caucus voters showed immigration was a far less influential issue than government spending, economy, or terrorism. Unsurprisingly, among voters who were most concerned about immigration, Trump dominated with 44 percent of their votes, ahead of Cruz whose emphasis on immigration helped him secure 34 percent of immigration-driven votes. Rubio was far behind with only 10 percent, likely due to his repeated dodging of the “amnesty” attacks for his 2013 Gang of Eight reform vote. He has since rejected Gang of Eight in favor of incremental reform, which is slightly more realistic. However, Rubio’s refusal to support mass deportation, and his calls for a path to legal working status (not citizenship) will likely prevent him from advancing among immigration-centric voters.
The final results left Rubio only 5 points behind Cruz, and only 1 point behind Trump. In a state central to the nationwide debate over heated anti-immigration politics, the results of the caucus have shown that in the end, GOP voters care more about supporting the economy, and combating terrorism than building a wall. If Rubio stays strong against immigration attacks, it may not prove a significant setback, leaving Rubio a strong contender for victory in the primary.
This Iowa Caucus has both countered and fortified traditional winning factors of the Republican presidential race. Ted Cruz is the first Republican in a long time to win without the support of the Iowa Ethanol Lobby. Corn, the main crop in Iowa, is also an important and vital factor in ethanol production. The biofuel industry has expanded and succeeded in large part due to government-issued requirements supporting the increased use of biofuels. In the past, Republican candidates have courted votes tied up in ethanol, a dilution of party values seen as necessary to succeed in Iowa. However, Cruz’s refusal to sacrifice the conservative values against mandates and subsidies for Hawkeye State votes, and his success despite this, has paved the way for future Republican candidates. On the other hand, Ted Cruz’s victory has proven once and again that Iowa loves religious conservatives. Thirty-four percent of evangelicals, who comprise 64 percent of all voters in Iowa, voted for Cruz, clinching the victory for him.
The overall influence of the Iowa caucus on primary victory is debatable. In the past 30 years, only 2 Republican winners of the Iowa Caucus have gone on to win the primary. However, the press and media coverage afforded to the results could definitely influence polls and significantly contribute to the momentum of a candidate’s campaign.
Heading into New Hampshire
Since so much of Trump’s appeal lay in his seeming inability to lose, the defeat along with curbed media coverage will severely disadvantage his campaign. Momentum-wise, Cruz and Rubio, who exceeded expectations that he would only exceed expectations, are on top and will benefit from the push to New Hampshire. Granite State voters, however, lack the strong religious evangelical base present in Iowa that secured the victory for Cruz. Additionally, both Rubio and Trump have focused their visible efforts on weakening the current Republican frontrunner, leaving Rubio with the advantage going into the first primary on Feb. 9.
In the five counties that Rubio won in the Iowa caucus, all exceed the statewide average of percentages of adults with bachelor’s degrees, and almost all have higher average incomes. These factors strongly represent the values of the Republican establishment, which indicates that Rubio is the favored candidate among traditional party voters. Unlike Iowa, which tends to disproportionately represent religious evangelicals, New Hampshire, historically, has represented the establishment’s choice, indicating a strong possibility of victory for Rubio.
It’s expected that the New Hampshire primary will be the final nail in the coffin of the trailing Republican candidates after Feb. 9, which currently include Ben Carson, Jeb Bush, Carly Fiorina, and John Kasich.