It turns out I was right. The fundamental rules of politics still apply. Ted Cruz built an impressive ground game in Iowa. His campaign poured in resources while stockpiling huge amounts of cash in a bank account. They knew their voters, rented vans to get them to caucuses, and turned out the vote. The fundamentals still matter. The rules of politics have not changed. They just got lost in translating the din of the noisy Trump operation.
The Republican Party seemed to go mad. The polls suggested a large chunk of the party, in its anger at Washington, would vote for a man who, until recently, was a Democrat. In 2010, Donald Trump had funded the Democrats against the GOP and in 2014 had funded the Republican Establishment against conservatives. But now conservatives seemed to be taking him seriously and willing to burn it all down.
But in Iowa, sanity returned, if only temporarily. Like Aurelian putting the Roman world back together, Ted Cruz put the GOP back together. The Iowa caucuses saw a record turnout of 180,000 people. Ted Cruz himself got a record breaking share of the vote, beating Mike Huckabee’s vote in 2008.
In turns out that voters showed up to stop Trump. Seventy-five percent of Republican voters in Iowa voted against rank jackassery. Urban Republicans went with Rubio. Suburban and most rural Republicans went with Cruz. The voters of the GOP refused to have their party hijacked by a man who has excelled at identifying problems, but confused that with offering solutions.
Ted Cruz restored the Republican world by defeating Donald Trump. In September of last year, I declared this would be a Cruz v. Rubio race and it looks more and more like that today.
Rubio, in New Hampshire, can potentially solidify his position as the establishment candidate while Cruz continues to struggle against Donald Trump. But for today, Cruz wins and does what no one else could do — beat Trump.
He beat Trump, in part, by playing nice with Trump until he was in a strong enough polling position to weather the storm that would come back on him. His campaign was savvy, smart, and adhered closely to the fundamental rules of politics — organization, turn out, and raising positive name ID.
As we leave Iowa and turn toward New Hampshire, South Carolina, and the SEC primary, Ted Cruz still has an advantage the other candidates do not. He has money in the bank and a win, a real win — not just beating expectations. But Marco Rubio has one advantage Ted Cruz cannot acquire: sympathy in the media. It was abundantly obviously last night that Rubio’s campaign had played the press masterfully. From leaking the pending Tim Scott endorsement in South Carolina to rushing out first to declare victory. One would have thought from the coverage that Marco Rubio had just won Iowa. He had not. But he did tie Donald Trump in delegate wins.
Over the coming days, a media that hates Ted Cruz as much as the GOP Establishment hates Ted Cruz is going to play up Rubio’s tie with Trump for second place and ignore Ted Cruz’s poll defying win.