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Taking Stock of the Dems Night

I've already shared my thoughts on the results of the Republican contest. On the Democratic side, I think Hillary seems to have done what she needed to do - not lose. We don't know the final results yet. But it seems like she'll likely hold on to her minuscule lead. I will say, however, that Bernie Sanders speech felt more like a victory speech. Hers was short; his was broad and thematic. I think he wins in New Hampshire where he's already far in the lead and from the neighboring state. From there, it gets much harder for him. I think she pulls it out. But I wouldn't say it's a certainty.

Initial Reflections: A Better Night for Republicans

I believe the Republicans came out ahead in the Iowa Caucuses. If Donald Trump had won the caucus, he may have been able to close out the nomination battle by winning Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina. But the Republicans now have a three-man race, and one of the candidates, Marco Rubio, would be difficult for the Democrats to defeat in November.

The Democratic results – a virtual tie between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders – suggests that the Democratic contest will go well into March. I love Bernie Sanders, and I think his campaign is making an enormous contribution to America’s future, but I don’t think he can win in November. He’ll run up against deep-seated skepticism about big government and tax increases. For the time being, he is too far to the left to win a national election unless he faced someone who was equally on the far right. And his age could also be a handicap.

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Trump v Rubio

That was certainly was a subdued, almost kind-hearted Donald Trump. I don't have a sense of how that will or won't play. But I will say this. Trump's campaign from the start has been about immigration - booted out undocumented workers, slamming the door on Muslims. There was never much to hit Cruz on on the immigration front. There's a ton to hit Rubio with. He made his pitch to be the Republican who delivered his party for comprehensive immigration reform. And he failed miserably. Trump's script writes itself. Even more than usual.

A Win for the GOP

I'll try to expand on this tomorrow. But the Republican results tonight look like a significant win for the GOP - mainly because it provides an opening for Marco Rubio. Yes, Cruz wins - huge victory for him. He looked to be declining in the polls and it seemed like he might even fall to third place. But he won. But here's the problem for Cruz. Iowa is a where hardcore conservatives win a lot, especially ones with strong evangelical roots. Other states won't be so easy.

But the big story is what can only be called a body blow for Donald Trump. If Trump had won or won big, I think he would have blown out New Hampshire next week and quite possibly been unstoppable. Now Trump isn't a winner, but a loser. We'll see how he responds to that.

But Rubio has a strong showing, greatly beating expectations. He's clearly the only hope for establishment Republicans. And in a one on one with Cruz, I think Rubio wins. So a damaged Trump, a one on one between Cruz and Rubio, that creates a path toward a Rubio nomination in my mind. Not certainty or perhaps even a likelihood but a path. A path out of the choice between a Trump or a Cruz nomination is a path out of catastrophe. And that's a win in itself.

What Does This Mean for Trump?

We're still not sure of the results. But it sure looks like Donald Trump will come in second place and not end up that far ahead of Marco Rubio. In other words, not only will he not win, it seems, but he's substantially underperforming his poll numbers. And remember that something like half his campaign message has been his poll numbers. As I've noted, strength is Donald Trump's whole message. So I'm very curious to see how he spins defeat, how he reconciles that with his message. Keep in mind that he's way, way ahead in New Hampshire at the moment. Does that hold up?

I think there's no question that he starts hitting Cruz and Rubio very, very hard. But how that will work when he's not a dominating force is not altogether clear to me.

If you're a 'winner', if you're the alpha, you have to win.

I'm Thinking It's Cruz

I'm trying to pick apart county by county numbers, not my specialty. But I think these mid-way-through results are starting to look like they're going to stick. I think Ted Cruz could well win this. The vote counters who I follow are saying the same thing (which makes me feel much more confident in my poor counting skills.)

What happened for Trump? Dave Wasserman, one of the guys who I always follow on these nights, sees more of a chance of Rubio moving ahead of Trump than Trump moving ahead of Cruz.

9:56 PM: Assuming this is Cruz, Trump, Rubio, I think a big question is going to be whether the caucus model was too big an obstacle for Trump or whether there's a bigger problem that will follow him into New Hampshire.

Getting Really Tight

The Dem side keeps getting tighter. Now at about 2 percent Clinton lead with about 65%. On the GOP

On the GOP side, we're now at about 50 percent reporting and when's Trump move into the lead? I'm really not sure he does.

Another thing to consider here is Ben Carson. He's down in 4th place. But about 10 percent is significantly over where the polls suggested he would be, especially since he's been trending down in the polls for weeks. When the story of the night was Cruz's underperformance, it seemed like a lot of Cruz evangelicals stuck with Carson. But now that Cruz looks like the winner, I'm not sure who that helped or hurt.


For all the talk of Rube-mentum and presumed Trump victory, when does Trump go into the lead exactly?

9:34 PM: On the Dem side, starting to hear a lot about 48% being an amazing accomplishment for Sanders', which of course it is, but ...

A Bit of Tightening

The margin is getting a bit tighter between Clinton and Sanders. Currently at Clinton 51.3% and Sanders at 48.1% with almost 50% of the precincts reporting. Full results here.

On the GOP side, we keep hearing about the momentum for Rubio and the assumption that Trump is winning. And I don't necessarily doubt those numbers. But 22% of the GOP results are in and Trump isn't in the lead yet. Full results.

They're only totally, totally anecdotal accounts but I've heard some examples of precincts where the Trump supporters were just terribly organized and did poorly. On the other hand, on the GOP side it's just a secret ballot. There's not much to organize. You just need to show up. Just a primary basically, only you have to stay longer.