Donald Trump may certainly lose out to either Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio yet – but don’t rule him out because of Iowa.
Trump and Bernie Sanders should still both win big in New Hampshire – but it doesn’t crown either of them when – or if – that happens either.
For Iowa and New Hampshire – especially Iowa — are the wild outliers that launch the five month great primary race for both of the great US political parties.
This year, it may not be over till California goes to the polls in June.
Also, don’t rule out a chaotic Republican convention in Cleveland and the possibilities of a brokered one in Philadelphia for the Democrats too. The Democratic Establishment is determined that Hillary Clinton wins, and will not scruple to overturn the popular choice if necessary to do so.
Trump certainly came in points behind Ted Cruz in Iowa, but the idea that the Old Republican establishment can smoothly move behind Marco Rubio and propel him into the presidency as their naive puppet as they did with hapless George W. Bush in 2000 is still the wildest of outside chances.
Put Trump’s and Cruz’s votes together in Iowa and you still have more than 50 percent of the Republican base – the supposed hard loyal core – alienated from the party establishment and hating Rubio like poison.
The more the mainstream establishment media – and that includes National Review, Rush Limbaugh and Fox News in all its nefarious glory — sing Rubio’s praises, the more the hardcore grassroots hatred of him will intensify.
As for Cruz, he won a caucus, but can he win a primary?
Given the right circumstances I believe he can – and many of them – but that has yet to happen.
Iowa is caucuses – so is Nevada – which will hugely benefit Cruz there too – and the number of activists engaged is usually vastly smaller than in any full-blooded primary elections.
Rick Santorum won the Iowa caucuses – sort of – in 2012 and Mike Huckabee won them in 2008 – and just look how both of their campaigns evaporated into thin air after that.
Even within the Republican base, darlings of the Evangelicals have to broaden their appeal after Iowa, especially if they obsessed too much on those caucuses to begin with.
I am prepared to believe Cruz can do that – indeed, as a lifelong, focused politician he has an enormous advantage over Trump, whose reliance on showy mass rallies and ignorance of the nuts and bolts organization details, the crucial “ground running game” of American electoral politics, tripped him up in Iowa.
However, it is far, far too soon to count The Donald out.
The crucial truth about Trump is that, contrary to all the endless lies that the Republican establishment and all the networks – Fox as much as CNN – churn out about him, his campaign is about core issues and real choices. He offers substantive and serious policy proposals about issues of real concern. His supporters realize that and they are not going to go away.
If Trump fails to win the nomination – or if he is robbed of it — all his supporters are certainly not going to come in and meekly vote for Marco Rubio. Cruz too will have his work cut out to woo them.
If Trump fails to win the nomination, he will walk away from the Republican Party and take his supporters with him. If that happens, the Democrats will win.
Which is very different from saying that Hillary Clinton will.
However, these are questions to answer on other days. The long marathon of the American presidential election process is underway at last.
The game is afoot!
Martin Sieff is a former senior foreign correspondent for The Washington Times and former Managing Editor, International Affairs for United Press International. Mr. Sieff is the author of “That Should Still Be Us: How Thomas Friedman’s Flat World Myths Are Keeping Us Flat on Our Backs” (Wiley 2012) and “The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Middle East” (Regnery, 2008). He has received three Pulitzer Prize nominations for international reporting.