The 2016 presidential campaign is now officially underway, with the completion of the Iowa caucuses last Monday evening.
First the numbers. On the GOP side, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz finished first, with 28% of the vote, Donald Trump finished second with 24%, and Florida Senator Marco Rubio came in a close third with 23%. Cruz won 8 delegates, Trump and Rubio won 7 apiece (three other candidates split the remaining 5 delegates.) It has been reported that the turnout for the GOP caucuses was a historic high.
For the Democrats it was the slimmest advantage to Hillary Clinton, winning just two more delegates than Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. Interestingly, in 6 precincts the Democrat outcome was decided by a coin toss, which somehow Hillary Clinton won each time. Unlike on the GOP side, turnout was down heavily for the Democrats, with 25% less participation than in 2008, the last race with a contested outcome.
But when it comes to presidential politics, the basic facts never tell the whole story.
First there is the expectations game. There is no doubt that Hillary Clinton was the big loser in this regard. After all, this was supposed to be the beginning of a coronation for her. The Clinton machine was supposed to clear the field and run unheeded to the nomination. But we’ve heard that before. The fact that she was unable to defeat a little known (at least until a few months ago) Senator is a major setback for her campaign and sounds ominously similar to 2008. This is especially true when you consider that Sanders currently has a double-digit lead in New Hampshire, which holds the first primary next Tuesday.
Additionally, the forgotten Democratic candidate, former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley dropped out of the race after only receiving 0.6% of the vote and earning no delegates. While O’Malley tried to make his run on his opposition to gun owners’ rights and his contempt for the NRA, he never gained any visible support from this gambit.
Of course, Mrs. Clinton has made her complete opposition to the Second Amendment rights of Americans a central part of her campaign as well, even attacking NRA-PVF “D” rated Sanders for not being sufficiently anti-gun. Clearly for Clinton, the only gun rights that are acceptable are none at all.
In a related story, in the days running up to the caucuses, Clinton attacked the NRA for supporting lowering the age for handgun possession. Problem is, as is her norm, Clinton got it wrong. What she was talking about is a NRA-supported bill in the Iowa legislature that would allow temporary possession of a handgun for those under 21 while under direct supervision by an adult. This would allow parents and guardians to train young people and provide recreational and sporting opportunities to future shooters. One has to assume that Hillary Clinton opposes such training, but that is hardly a surprise when you recall that she supports British and Australian style gun bans and confiscation.
If Hillary had actually investigated the matter instead of taking another opportunity to blindly attack NRA, she could have learned that the bill is the brainchild of a Iowa father who wants nothing more than to share the shooting sports with his 11 and 12 year-old daughters. But it does not help Clinton’s anti-gun narrative if she can’t blame the NRA.
Perhaps the most important takeaway from the Iowa caucuses is that Hillary Clinton is not the juggernaut that she wants us to believe. She might not even be the nominee.
Now the process moves on to New Hampshire where a new set of expectations are in place. Stay tuned.