I want to say that the outcome of the Iowa Republican caucus was close enough to a three-way tie to bolster my reputation as a predictive political scientist.
The Democratic result was really a tie, but everyone thought that would be close.
Cruz’s victory, I have to concede, was real and quite impressive. He bolstered his reputation as someone who really knows what he is doing and so can predict his victorious outcome with confidence. In terms of money, organization, and scientific modeling, all the other candidates are clueless wanderers in the wilderness by comparison. His brand in Iowa was his “values,” which are Christian but still mostly very classically liberal (his favorite philosopher is Locke) and certainly not from New York. People who voted values chose Cruz overwhelmingly. It might be telling that people who voted “electability” went with Rubio and Trump. It might be that the sound judgment at this point is that Cruz will be hard to beat for the nomination and easy to beat in November. Ted’s response to me and other skeptics: Don’t worry! I know what I’m doing. Well, to some extent that’s what scares me.
It turns out that Trump is not a god or even a Fascist demagogue but just a man. From one view, he had to hustle in the last couple of weeks just to get organized well enough in Iowa to finish second. From another, he might have won, except for the bleeding in Rubio’s direction over the electability issue in the days before the caucus. Probably Trump erred by skipping that debate. One good thing among many of Trump’s failure to be a winner in Iowa is that maybe he will stop making Republicans — especially Republican public intellectuals — appear ridiculous. He’s very unlikely to be nominated, and so they don’t have to adjust themselves anymore to his inevitability. Nor do they have to embrace Cruz as the only way to stop him. Nor do they have to start a whole new party, conceding theirs to Trumpism. Once you realize that Trump isn’t going to be the nominee, you can even stop hating him (or, for that matter, thinking of him as a dealing-making savior rising from our towers).
Still, it’s also unreasonable to believe that Trump is finished. He will learn from his errors, as he showed in his short, exceedingly classy, and even somewhat coherent speech last night. Trump won’t get the nomination, but he’ll have weeks when he’s a formidable contender.
Rubio now has an opportunity, and I’m just not sure whether he’s up to exploiting it successfully. We’ll see. Rubio has been the target of many a negative ad already, but his real vetting has just begun.
Who could forget Bernie!? The Democrats are perfectly satisfied with President Obama. Hillary Clinton — with the president’s blessing — is running as his stay-the-course successor. And yet the socialist revolutionary gets half the vote! Well, probably more than half, when you take out the coin tosses, the various unstaffed precincts, and all that.