With 75% of precincts reporting, the current vote total on the GOP side is 28% for Ted Cruz, 25% for Donald Trump and 22% for Marco Rubio. Sure, we need to be cautious: both Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum are former winners of the Iowa caucuses. Still, this year is different. The RNC anointed the Iowa caucuses as the opening act in this year’s drama, and the candidates have devoted tremendous resources to the state.
So it obviously is noteworthy that beneath the top three, Ben Carson is at 10%, Rand Paul at 4%, Jeb Bush at 3%, John Kasich at 2%, Mike Huckabee at 2%, Chris Christie at 2%, Carly Fiorina at 2%, Rick Santorum at 1%. These candidates have failed to get over the bar. Iowa was Dr. Carson’s best chance, and he couldn’t get over 10%. The others are a blip on the screen. I was stunned yesterday to meet the first GOP voter ever whose first choice is Jeb Bush. There are nowhere near enough of those to make Bush a serious contender.
New Hampshire is very different from Iowa, but it is hard to see how a candidate who couldn’t break the 4% barrier can be viable going forward. I think we are looking at a three-person race: Ted Cruz, Donald Trump and Marco Rubio. Of the three, Rubio probably has won the expectations game. The margin between Rubio and Trump is, at present, no greater than that between Cruz and Trump. So what we have, based on these results, is a three-person race.
That’s how it looks now, anyway. I will check back in the morning.
UPDATE: Rubio is closing on Trump. With 99% of precincts reporting, it is Cruz 28%, Trump 24%, Rubio 23%. There probably aren’t enough votes outstanding to allow Rubio to surpass Trump, but the virtual tie for second place is big news. Rubio is overperforming, Trump is underperforming. The spin will go on for the next eight days, but one can’t spin away the obvious. It’s a big night for Rubio. Also, at this point no one other than the big three is in double figures.
FURTHER UPDATE: Fox News says that Huckabee is suspending his campaign. I don’t see that as big news, except that the field is starting to winnow down.
MORE: Marco Rubio has just finished his “victory” speech on Fox News. He killed it. I pray–literally, not figuratively–that the Republican Party has the good sense to nominate him to run against the corrupt septuagenarian Hillary Clinton.