The Iowa victory of Republican Ted Cruz offers the first glimpse of clarity in the fractious – and sometimes surreal – 2016 election season, the nation’s most troubling since 1968. Forty-six years ago, the Democrats were engaged in serial acts of self-cannibalization. Today, it’s the Republicans.
In a narrow, mechanical sense, Texas Senator Cruz’s victory was an upset. Caucus day dawned with Cruz narrowly behind New York billionaire Donald Trump, who shrewdly said that he’d like to win; never, however, claiming the sort of ownership he does for New Hampshire.
Monday morning, the question was this: If the Canadian-born son of Cuban émigré Evangelicals could not beat the twice divorced, one-time pro choice Trump in this redoubt of awe-shucks Christian fundamentalism, then where could Cruz prevail? Well, that’s been asked and answered. By Tuesday morning Trump was a loser.
Maybe skipping the Fox debate moderated by Megyn Kelly, during which Florida Senator Marco Rubio shined, was not such a good idea?
Rubio, who finished third, was also a loser. But Rubio lost in a way that makes him a winner. Rubio exceeded expectations. He lost with more votes that expected. And for establishment Republicans seeking someone who could conceivably stop Trump and Cruz, Rubio today shines more brightly.
Cruz and Trump are red-meat nativists, yet they carry a whiff of hard-right European-style authoritarianism of which Richard Nixon (the ultimate ’68 victor) could have only dreamed. Still, America favors happy warriors: witness Ronald Reagan. Is Rubio happy and heavy enough?
Among Democrats, the takeaway is more complicated.
The contest between former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders is too close to call.
Clinton, however, declared victory.
Republican Mike Huckabee and Democrat Martin O'Malley both "suspended" their campaigns.