What We Learned From Iowa

On Monday residents in Iowa were able to cast the first votes in the 2016 presidential primary race. At the end of the caucus we learned that Ted Cruz defied the polling leading up to the caucus by defeating Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton clinched a victory over Bernie Sanders by the skin of her teeth. This week I wanted to take a look back at the strengths and weaknesses exhibited by the leading campaigns.

Ted Cruz

The Texas Senator’s Iowa upset shocked many political observers around the country, but it becomes less surprising  when you examine his campaign operation. According to Iowa entrance polls Cruz handedly won the “Born-Again Christian” vote in the heavily evangelical state. This was probably due in no small part to his father, Pastor Rafael Cruz, traversing the state to gather support and endorsements from prominent faith-leaders.

The Cruz campaign also used some effective, albeit ethically questionable, voter turnout techniques that included sending targeted Iowans a misleading “voter violation” mailer and promoting a rumor that Ben Carson was exiting the race.

Donald Trump

Trump bet big by using a wholesale-politics strategy in a retail-politics state. It did not pay off for him. Even Trump will admit that his weak ground game and absence from the debate hurt him and allowed Rubio to siphon off votes and catch up.

On Monday night the real estate mogul delivered an uncharacteristically humble concession speech however he has since changed his tone and has begun accusing Sen. Cruz of cheating in the election with shady campaign tactics.   

Hillary Clinton

The former Secretary of State barely pulled off the ‘W’ in Iowa (but no, it was not decided entirely by coin flips). What is notable about the Clinton victory is who she won and who she lost. She did great among older Iowans that had been to a caucus before but lost voters aged 17-29 by 70 points and lost first time caucus-goers by 22 points. This seems to indicate there is not much enthusiasm for Clinton outside of the older more established members in the party  

Bernie Sanders

While Bernie’s showing in Iowa sure to excite his supporters it is important to note that Iowa is 92% white, a demographic group Sanders polls well in. Sanders may have harder time in states with a more diverse electorate that doesn’t “feel the Bern” as much. However given his campaigns aptitude for fundraising, especially the $3 million pull the day after the caucus, we could expect to see Sanders in it for the long haul.


My biggest takeaway from Iowa was that this will be one of the most unconventional presidential campaigns in recent history. As the partisan campaigns try to sell their spin we will make sure to tell you like it is.  

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