Cruz pulls off shocking win, Rubio overperforms in Iowa
Last Monday, the Iowa Caucuses officially kicked off the 2016 presidential race. Candidates from the Republican and Democratic parties faced their first real tests of public opinion. For the Republicans, the night was a fight between the establishment and outsiders as well as a way to narrow the field.
Going into the caucus, polls had shown real estate developer Donald Trump leading the pack, as he had been for several months beforehand. At the end of the night, however, Senator Ted Cruz (R–TX) took first place, followed by Trump, Senator Marco Rubio (R–FL), retired pediatric neurosurgeon Ben Carson, Senator Rand Paul (R–KY), former Florida governor Jeb Bush, and six other candidates.
Trump, Cruz, and Carson all present themselves as outsiders, people who aren’t entangled in the mess of Washington, D.C.. Trump and Carson worked in the private sector, having never held public office before, while Cruz is a senator — he was elected in the 2012 election with a grassroots campaign focused on conservative social issues.
Rubio, on the other hand, has been in politics since 1998, most recently as a senator. Along with Jeb Bush — who comes from a family that includes two past presidents — and a handful of others, Rubio is one of the establishment’s greatest hopes to keep control of its party.
Since Senator John McCain’s (R–AZ) loss in 2008, the Republican party has been split between the somewhat moderate establishment and the ultra-conservatives, many of whom align with the Tea Party movement.
In 2012, after former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney’s loss, the Republican Party ran a so-called “autopsy,” and found that they weren’t appealing to minorities and women, that their stances on social issues like marriage equality and immigration were off-putting, and that their more mainstream politicians, namely governors, were doing well.
The moderates in the Republican race have a chance to address the issues from the autopsy — including some of the governors named in the report, like New Jersey’s Chris Christie and Ohio’s John Kasich — but the conservative wing that broke away after Obama’s election is threatening to continue moving the Republican Party to the right.
The Iowa Caucus was America’s first look at voting patterns, and to have a look at where the Republican Party might be headed next. Cruz took first place with 27.6 percent of the vote, slowing down the Trump train that had seemed unstoppable.
Despite placing second in a field of 12, Trump lost a lot of momentum. He was decisively behind Cruz, taking 24.3 percent of the vote (45,427 compared to Cruz’s 51,666). His campaign is based almost entirely on his flamboyant attitude and supersized proposals. When his promises of being a winner didn’t work out, it made it harder to see his ideas as realistic.
In third place was Marco Rubio, with 23.1 percent of the vote. With his clear position in the top pack of the race, Rubio is now the hope of the Republican establishment. As other candidates drop out of the race, he’s likely to see an upswell of support, as he presents a more familiar face and greater experience in politics.
Of the three leaders, the entrance polls show some interesting information. Rubio, a more traditional candidate, has the support of voters who care most about who can win in a general election. Cruz has the support of people who care about sharing values with candidates, while Trump wins over the constituents who care about bringing about change and “telling it like it is.”
Additionally, Cruz had the most of the very conservative voters, Rubio won the somewhat conservative voters, and most of the independent or liberal voters supported Trump. People who believed the next president should be experienced in politics voted for Rubio, whereas people who wanted an outsider mostly voted for Trump. Cruz won mediocre support from both groups, likely because he’s not a complete outsider, but still doesn’t have much experience.
These groupings demonstrate the split between the establishment and the ultra-conservatives fairly well. It’s still early in the nomination process, but it looks as though Cruz and Trump will be fighting for the outsider label (with Carson barely hanging in there as well, earning 9.3 percent of Iowa’s votes), and Rubio handily leading the mainstream Republicans, at least for now.
Bush will be looking to challenge Rubio’s hold in the later primaries, but despite having high name recognition, his family’s history may be more hindrance than help.
As for the other six candidates in Iowa, they have little to no chance to the nomination. Paul, despite winning 4.5 percent of the vote — ahead of Bush’s 2.8 percent — dropped out after the Iowa caucuses, vowing to continue the fight for liberty. Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee also dropped out after receiving dismal showings.
Former HP CEO Carly Fiorina and Kasich remain in the race, having earned one delegate each from the Iowa Caucus; Christie and former Virginia governor Jim Gilmore are also hoping to do better in future contests, having received no delegates in Iowa. Gilmore received a total of 12 votes, but that isn’t stopping his doomed charge toward the presidency.
As the election season moves forward, more candidates will drop out and support will begin to coalesce around the remaining few. Will the far right take over the Republican Party, nominating someone like Cruz or Trump? Or will Rubio — or Bush, possibly — take back control from the outsider faction?
After a few more primaries, including 12 states on March 1 (“Super Tuesday”), there will be more of an idea which way the party is going to swing.