The Donkey Digest: A Taste of Things to Come

Wow. Monday night was fun, wasn’t it?

If you have made up your mind to take every single precaution to avoid the Barnum and Bailey-style circus that is primary season, I wish I could be so strong, and I applaud you. But, if anything, Iowa is the smell of the freshly-fried donuts at Fractured Prune that forces you to dump that New Year’s Resolution pretty quickly.

And, the fresh ball of fried bread that is Iowa did not disappoint. On either side. At any point in the night. Evangelical darling and self-proclaimed “courageous conservative” Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas won the Republican caucuses with about 28% of the vote, followed by the Charlie Sheen of presidential politics, Donald Trump, came in a somewhat-surprising second with 24% of the vote, and resurgent mainstream candidate Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida shocked the pundits with a close third place finish with 23% of the vote.

I mean, really? Where on earth did Marco Rubio come from? On the 1st of September, according to RealClearPolitics, he was polling at a shocking 4.8%. How did The Donald drop from his RCP average of 33.6% two weeks ago, to collecting nearly 10 percentage points fewer in terms of real votes? And why on earth would Iowans vote for a Canadian? The answer is actually very simple.

The answer is that Christian-evangelical, socially-conservative voters almost always decide Iowa for Republicans. According to CNN, two in three Republican voters in Iowa last Monday identified themselves as born-again or evangelical. Simultaneously, when asked which candidate shared their values, Republican voters overwhelming chose Cruz. Those factors coupled with high overall Republican turnout lent themselves to a close yet decisive win for Cruz.

The trend of evangelical, “values voters” choosing Iowa for the Republicans is also backed up by recent history. In both the 2008 and 2012 primary caucuses, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, respectively, two candidates who spent massive amounts of time and money in Iowa preaching a message of Christian-based social conservatism, walked into New Hampshire with an Iowa win under their belts. And, as we know, the results of those caucuses turned out to mean absolutely nothing to the outcome of either nomination.

On the Democratic side of things is, if you ask me, where the real action was. Former Secretary of State and current Secretary of Pantsuits Hillary Clinton, the favorite of the Democratic establishment and wealthy donors, and lover of all things Scandinavian Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, the favorite of collegiate liberals and retired hippies, locked themselves in a virtual tie for Iowa, although on Tuesday morning, the Iowa Democratic Party declared Clinton the winner, slightly.

However, Clinton may have won the battle of the numbers and the press releases, but Sanders won everything else, and not by a little, and no matter how arbitrary that sounds, it’s no small matter. Clinton and Sanders will split the convention delegates gained from the Iowa caucuses, and with Sanders leading by an RCP average of 18.1 percentage points, and by 33 in the most recent poll conducted by UMass Lowell, Sanders should walk away from New Hampshire with more delegates in the bag than Clinton, and more than likely, a ton of upward momentum.

That momentum may be what decides this election, because the next two primary states, South Carolina and Florida, are all but owned by Clinton, thanks in no small part to the large African-American and Hispanic populations she tends to wallop Sanders in. She leads by at least 25 points in South Carolina, and at least 35 in Florida. If Sanders can cut into Clinton’s lead by even 10 percentage points, the media may continue its relentless questioning of Clinton’s ability to win, snowballing into something huge for those who are feeling the Bern. If Sanders doesn’t manage to win back some support in these states, the nomination may be signed, sealed, and delivered to Clinton before Super Tuesday.

So, some predictions, first the Democrats: 1.) Sanders maintains his lead in New Hampshire through Tuesday and wins by roughly the margin predicted in the current polls, 2.) Sanders does cut slightly into Clinton’s lead in South Carolina, but not as much as the current predictions say he needs to, and 3.) Sanders wins more support in Florida than expected due to a large turnout of New England retirees, keeping this race close all the way to the bitter end.

For the Republicans: 1.) Cruz and Rubio both cut deep into Trump’s New Hampshire lead, Cruz trying to win values voters and Rubio trying to talk sense into Trump’s more mainstream supporters. 2.) Trump wins New Hampshire by no more than two points, with Cruz and Rubio virtually deadlocked in second. 3.) Rubio moves up in national polls, and upsets Trump and Cruz both in South Carolina.

This ought to be fun. Buckle up, keep yours hands and feet in the car at all times, and, in the immortal words of Terrell Owens, “Getchya popcorn ready.”

Ethan West is the president of Frostburg State College Democrats, and the Political Director of College Democrats of Maryland (CDMD). He was elected to the Allegany County Democratic Central Committee in 2014, and has volunteered and worked for many local, state and federal campaigns and causes.

Photos in featured image are attributed to Creative Commons.

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