What a night! And the winner is: the voter. A record turnout for the Iowa caucuses with 60,000 more people showing up to join their fellow citizens in the original civic engagement.
I was drawn in right from the start. Mesmerized by one guy in Des Moines retrieving folded up pieces of paper from an old mail bin. He carefully unfolded the papers and read off the names of the Republican voters while others stood near the table. In one of the first indications of how the night would end, Rubio, not Trump, got the most votes in that location. Across the state cameras captured the overflow crowd at a Democratic caucus where the caucus captains ran out of ballot paper to give to attendees. Again, foreshadowing the down to the wire finish, hundreds of residents lined up for Bernie Sanders, dwarfing the number of Hillary Clinton supporters.
This is what democracy looks like. No, this is what democracy in action looks like. Overall, Iowans were on fire to make their voices heard. It was thrilling to witness the passionate arguments from the caucus participants as the committed zeroed in on the undecided. Well informed Iowans could argue the fine details of their candidate’s positions. Supervoter that I am, I kept imagining a November election day with enthusiastic, informed citizens eager to advocate on behalf on their chosen candidate.
It’s been a while since I’ve seen Americans ginned up for the chance to vote. Most notable, a lot of the people lining up in those gyms, and schools were not just first-time caucusers, but first-time voters. In this unconventional campaign with nontraditional candidates, there's one old fashioned truth: if you give people a reason to vote, they will.
I can’t wait to see what happens next as the campaign moves to New Hampshire with Republican Marco Rubio riding high even as Ted Cruz takes the win. That sets up New Hampshire for an exciting rematch in a state where a humbled Donald J. Trump feels supremely confident; and with Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders leaving Iowa in a virtual tie, knowing they must fight for every vote. Forget "Serial," this is a cliffhanger promising edge of your seat twists and turns.
Pollsters and pundits would do well to remember the voters pen their own story, and are likely to make quick revisions mid chapter. And they are the only ones who can write the ending.