Last night a record number of Iowa caucus goers elevated Texas Senator Ted Cruz to victory with 28%. Trump finished second with 24% followed by Florida Senator Marco Rubio with 23%. As a result, Cruz will receive 8 presidential convention delegates, Trump and Rubio 7 each, Ben Carson, who finished fourth, won 3 delegates while Kentucky Senator Rand Paul and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, who finished fifth and sixth respectively, each won 1 delegate.
Okay, not really. The Iowa caucus last night was actually a series of county caucuses which actually
|Texas Senator Ted Cruz|
Trump led in all the Iowa polls released the week before the caucus. Last night though not only a record number of people showed up for the Republican caucus, but also a much higher number of them (63%) were evangelical than expected. None of the polls expected the evangelical vote, which tends to favor Cruz, to be that great. Also, the polling which was conducted several before the caucus didn't catch last minute shifts in support. I suspect Trump's decision to skip the last debate hurt him as did Republicans who have continuously pointed out the very liberal positions Trump has taken on issues over the years.
But the caucus process itself also undermined support for Trump. Iowa employs a 15% threshold requirement for support. So if in a county Jeb Bush, Rand Paul, Ben Carson, Chris Christie etc., have the support of less than 15% of the caucus goers, those candidates' supporters have to shift to another campaign to support. Polls show that Trump is not a popular second choice for many voters, so when those Iowans supporting those other candidates had to shift their allegiance, the beneficiaries were Cruz and, likely even more so, Rubio. None of the caucus shifting would have been shown in the polls.
I expect that after the New Hampshire primary next week, the race will consist of three major candidates, Cruz, Trump and Rubio. While the split field has helped Trump's polling in the past, I think the smaller split vote is soon to become his enemy. Trump has a ceiling on his support more so than Cruz or Rubio. I think eventually the majority of the GOP vote is going to coalesce behind a single candidate not named Trump and, for the first time, I'm betting that candidate is Marco Rubio. All along I couldn't envision the the path to Rubio's eventual nomination. But I finally saw it last night.