As some here at Breitbart News predicted, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) won the Iowa caucuses because of hard work and superior organization.
But Cruz also damaged himself in the process, with attacks on “New York values” and explicit appeals to religion. Donald Trump came up well short of his poll numbers despite record turnout, barely finishing ahead of Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), who leaves Iowa with the most room to grow as “establishment” rivals fade.
The importance of the result cannot be overstated. Had Trump won–as polls had predicted–the primary would have been all but over. Cruz’s victory means that the Republican contest will drag on for weeks, and even months–which is good news for conservative media. It also means that however tough the primary race becomes, it is a debate the Republican electorate wants to have as it works out its internal policy debates and its emerging political identity.
The field will soon narrow considerably. There are only three tickets out of Iowa, and possibly a “standby” ticket for another candidate who manages to surge in New Hampshire–perhaps New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. Like Rubio in Iowa, Christie enjoys the endorsement of the state’s most important editorial page.
Until the Feb. 9 vote, the talk will focus on Cruz, Trump, and Rubio. Here is what each must to to build on–or improve upon–his Iowa finish.
Cruz: Reach out. Cruz targeted social conservatives to win, but the damage of “New York values” will be long-lasting, affecting his general election prospects and his appeal to urban and suburban Republicans well beyond the tri-state area who want to feel they are voting to be part of something bigger, not a conservative rump. Cruz is more than capable of relating to people who have different social values. The time to start doing so again is immediately.
Trump: Win. The basic argument for Trump’s candidacy is that he alone can defeat Hillary Clinton. He was never expected to win Iowa until his surge in the polls over the past two weeks, but a loss is a loss, meaning he has yet to prove his political potential. To stop Cruz’s momentum, he has to win New Hampshire; to stop Rubio’s, he has to win South Carolina. Anything less than back-to-back victories in those states means failure. He has to find a way.
Rubio: Smile. Thus far, Rubio has skimped on retail, door-to-door campaigning. In speech and on debate stages, he has scowled through talking points on America a brighter future. His intensity suggests an underlying lack of self-confidence, perhaps dating back to his failure in the Gang of Eight. He should take his strong result in Iowa as a signal to relax–not to work less hard, but to relate more easily to voters who will now be giving him a fresh look.