Cruz; A Tie; Rubio the Surprise

Feb. 3, 2016 — The Iowa Caucuses ended in a bit of a surprise. Despite the last 10 public Republican contest polls all finding Donald Trump leading the Iowa vote by anywhere from one to eight points, it was Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) who claimed first place last night with a 28 percent preference. Trump finished a close second with 24 percent, followed by Sen. Marco Rubio’s (R-FL) stronger than expected 23 percent.

It is the latter number that few saw coming. Sen. Rubio had been consistently scoring a third place finish in most polls, but a distant one. Of the final 10 Iowa polls from nine different pollsters, cumulatively conducted during the Jan. 18-31 period, only two — the Emerson College Polling Society and Opinion Savvy — forecast Rubio in as formidable a third position as actually occurred.

The Democratic side turned out equally interesting. In their much different system where voters’ choices translate into state delegates for each candidate, it is former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders ending in a virtual tie. According to the latest available number, the two split the delegate pool almost evenly, with Clinton leading by only three delegates from a pool exceeding 1,300.

Former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, who scored just eight delegates but a number large enough to make the difference between Clinton and Sanders, will reportedly suspend his campaign. The same is true for ex-Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee on the GOP side. Huckabee, the 2008 Iowa Caucus winner, finished ninth among Republicans with just two percent voter support.

The Republican turnout is the largest in Iowa Caucus history. When all of the votes are tabulated, the participation factor will top 185,000, far more than the previous record of 121,255 established in 2012. The Democratic system does not report the actual number of raw votes per candidate, instead using only the candidates’ delegate totals.

The Caucus result proved close to what was projected a month ago, meaning Sen. Cruz taking the state because the system was tailor-made for his strong grassroots campaign style. Expectations for Trump rose during the latter part of January, largely attributable to virtually every public poll suggesting he would finish first.

The fact that no candidate even reached 30 percent, let alone the 50 percent needed to capture the majority of delegates, suggests that yielding a contested Republican convention is certainly a possibility on the political horizon. Now having three candidates with similar strength is another element that potentially makes an eventual deadlock more likely.

Donald Trump, rebounding to finish first in New Hampshire coupled with a strong showing from a candidate such as Ohio Gov. John Kasich would further cloud the overall political picture. Such a result would make reaching a majority even more difficult for any of the contenders.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush’s poor three percent performance will increase speculation about him exiting the race. He will likely fare better in New Hampshire than Iowa, but probably won’t break into double-digits. Though he is well funded, and at least one estimate suggests he spent more than $3,000 for every vote he received last night, such a small base of support simply can’t sustain a national campaign for much beyond the February voting states of New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada.

The Iowa Caucus met expectations for excitement with two close finishes. Therefore, the national delegate count will begin as a virtual tie in both parties. The Republican delegate allotment for Iowa is only 30. This means Sen. Cruz will likely score just one more delegate vote than Trump and Rubio, and maybe two. Clinton and Sen. Sanders will more than likely split the Democratic delegate pool right down the middle.

Next comes New Hampshire on Feb. 9.

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