Ten quick takes on tonight’s results.
One: Trump foes shouldn’t get too excited. This is one contest, for a handful of delegates. Trump will have the resources to continue for as long as he likes.
Two: Having said that, Trump dominated the discussion of this campaign for most of the past year and led the last thirteen polls in this state. Chuck Laudner, who ran Santorum’s 2012 get-out-the-vote operation, was running Trump’s get-out-the-vote operation. But observers wondered about Trump’s ground game, and the billionaire finished with about 24 percent. Polls had him in the high 20s, low 30s. Does Trump have a good get-out-the-vote operation anywhere? Is he a paper tiger?
Three: The Cruz campaign earned applause tonight. The turnout was huge, and their man won, and won solidly, in the face of some withering attacks, with almost everything on the line. Take that bow, senator; you just won more votes in the Iowa caucus than any other Republican in history.
Four: The coverage of Trump needs to change. The story is no longer the novelty of the Trump phenomenon and shock and surprise that he’s attracting such big crowds and leading the polls. He’s an aspiring commander-in-chief, and he needs to be pressed for details on his health care plan, his infrastructure spending plans, how he plans to balance the budget, and so on. This race is not a reality show. Also, the talk of Trump taking over the GOP has been proven wildly overwrought and premature. About 76 percent of Iowa Republicans preferred somebody else.
Five: Mike Huckabee’s out tonight. It’s about time, and Rick Santorum should think about that, too. The past two GOP caucus winners won about three percent combined in this year’s contest.
Six: To hell with ethanol.
Seven: Marco Rubio can feel good tonight. Only one poll had him above 20 percent in Iowa the past year. He’s at about 23 percent, about a percentage point behind Trump. It’s a three-man race, and he’s in position to occupy the “Establishment” lane. Scoff if you like, but there are a lot of resources available in that lane.
Eight: Hey, Trump fans, still sure skipping the Iowa debate was such a great move?
Nine: Over on the Democratic side, a near-loss is good enough for Sanders. Hillary Clinton had about eight years to prepare for this night. He should roar to victory in New Hampshire and really have Democrats sweating about a 2008 flashback for her.
Ten: Ben Carson is a really nice and accomplished man who seems like a bad fit for the presidency. If he couldn’t catch fire in Iowa… where’s the next state that looks good for him? South Carolina? Nevada?