On February 1st, the long and arduous American election cycle began. This process starts with the Primaries or Caucuses, where each state votes for who they want the presidential candidate representing their party to be. Based on that vote, a certain number of delegates are sent to a national partisan convention, where they vote for who they want to end up on the ballot in November. The first of these Caucuses took place in Iowa.
Iowa voted for Ted Cruz as the Republican nominee and for Hillary Clinton as the Democratic nominee—but only by a historically close 0.2% lead and a coin toss. That night, five people declared themselves victorious: Cruz and Clinton, of course, as the technical winners of the evening, Donald Trump (Republican), Marco Rubio (Republican), who surpassed expectations and had the third highest support, and Bernie Sanders (Democrat), who, for all intents and purposes, tied with Clinton for Democratic nominee. However, going forward into the New Hampshire Primary (February 9th) and many others, it seems as though Iowa’s results really brought about three winners and two losers.
Bernie Sanders (Democrat)
Once an obscure U.S. Senator who was an Independent-Democratic-Socialist, Bernie Sanders has become a household name. At the start of the candidacy campaigns, it seemed as though he would be a fringe candidate. However, with strong ground game, grassroots movement, and a populist message—one of empowering the electorate by getting big money out of American politics—he’s slowly but surely surged in popularity. He’s surged enough to nearly tie with an incredibly established candidate, Hillary Clinton. Although he still lags in support from American people of color, his messages of economic equality and a political revolution seem to be resonating with the white American left-wing public, and increasingly so within minority groups. Going forward, since he greatly surprised the expectations of voters, Bernie Sanders and his message are likely going to increase in popularity and legitimacy.
Ted Cruz (Republican)
Ted Cruz is often seen as a Donald Trump Lite. Yes, he isn’t as inflammatory, but many of his positions are essentially the same as those held by the billionaire candidate. Like Trump, he has been able to harness the vote of the extreme American right-wing, who feel as though their freedom is being infringed upon by political correctness and immigrants. This support translated into a success in the Iowa caucuses, which allowed him to unexpectedly defeat Trump. Unlike Trump, Cruz is not as polarized or as incendiary as his rival. Therefore, going forward, individuals who supported Trump may be swayed to vote for Cruz as a more legitimate, and potentially successful candidate.
In the polls leading up to the Iowa caucus, it looked like the Florida Senator would be a distant third. Many pundits criticized his ground game in Iowa. However, the results showed him only trailing Trump by a few points. Unlike Cruz and Trump, Rubio is somewhat of a moderate. He’s still a Republican through and through, but seems rather left-wing when compared with the policies of Cruz and Trump. Therefore, unlike Cruz and Trump, he is supported by the Republican establishment, and seems like their best bet for beating Cruz and Trump (who are both hugely disliked by the establishment). Leading up to the next Primaries and Caucuses, he will likely receive the endorsement and support of many key Republican figures.
Hillary Clinton (Democrat)
Although she technically won, Hillary Clinton was expected to have this campaign in the bag. It was initially thought she would be unrivalled in the Democratic race, and the only impact Bernie Sanders would have would be to push her a bit to the left. She has upped her game regarding progressive issues, but this evidently hasn’t cut it. Clinton, a former first lady, U.S. Senator, and Secretary of State, has a great deal of experience and is working very hard to have a shot at being the first female president. However, Bernie Sanders’ campaign has managed to eat into much of her support. She is still holding her ground within minorities, but that might be slipping as well. In the upcoming Primaries and Caucuses, her near defeat by Bernie Sanders makes him a more viable candidate, and will therefore lower her chances at success.
Donald Trump (Republican)
Donald Trump has boasted for months about how he’s going to be the next President of the United States. As his numbers shot up in the polls, he frequently cited them to make sure to show how much support he had. However, after leading in Iowa polls but losing Iowa’s nomination, Trump loses a fair share of credibility. He’s currently calling for a recounting of the votes because he thinks the party is trying to cheat him out of winning. Although Trump has tapped into subsection of American society, it seems as though the ostentatiousness that brought him so much support may end up losing him legitimacy. In the coming Primaries and Caucuses, Ted Cruz may pick up many of his supporters that think Cruz is a more plausible option.
The Iowa Caucuses are important insofar as the results there shape the perceptions elsewhere. This has less to do with actual success than it does with how results fare relative to people’s expectations. Since Sanders wasn’t expected to go very far, but gave Clinton a run for her money, his movement will gain momentum. Similarly, since Trump was expected to win but received less support than Cruz, his momentum will decrease while Cruz’s increases. Further, polls suggest that Sanders may even win New Hampshire by an astounding 58%, with Clinton at 36%. Within the Republican race, Trump is polling in New Hampshire at 36%, with Rubio far behind him at 15% and Cruz at 14%. Anything can happen between one Primary and the next, but odds are that Iowa’s results have influenced the American electorate’s view of the individuals vying for Presidency.