And now for something completely different.
The Iowa caucus and its unique procedures are in the books, with Ted Cruz winning for Republicans and Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders locked in a virtual tie.
The 2016 presidential race turns to New Hampshire for a primary ballot vote next Tuesday. Early polls have shown billionaire Donald Trump and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders with firm leads in their respective races, but the results from Iowa could change that trend in the next seven days.
Boston.com spoke to New England College political science professor Wayne Lesperance to get a read on the potential troubles ahead for Trump, the cash flow of the many Republican establishment candidates, and the route to victory for Hillary Clinton.
Things are going to be a little bit awkward tomorrow at Donald Trump’s rally in Milford, New Hampshire, says Lesperance. Not only did the Republican billionaire lose the Iowa caucus to Ted Cruz, he narrowly finished ahead of Marco Rubio, who now can firmly grasp the mantle of the establishment candidate.
“He will go to New Hampshire claiming to be the establishment’s choice and urging supporters of John Kasich, Chris Christie, Jeb Bush to rally behind him,” Lesperance said of Rubio.
For Cruz, the actual winner among Iowa Republicans, it’s less about his result in New Hampshire, where there is less support for his socially conservative appeal.
“Obviously he wants to do as well as he can here,” Lesperance said, noting that Cruz has set his sights on South Carolina, where Republicans will vote February 20.
Lesperance said Cruz also stands to benefit from Trump defectors going forward in the “outsider lane.”
The second-place finish will be a test of the billionaire real estate mogul’s character as a candidate going forward, Lesperance said.
“We haven’t seen Trump in a position of having lost something and having to battle through that,” he said.
Whereas Trump’s lead in Iowa, though consistent, was in the single digits before the votes were actually counted, his lead among New Hampshire Republicans has averaged about 20 percentage points in recent polls.
His second place finish in Iowa, however, could change how supporters view him, perhaps affecting that lead, Lesperance said.
“One of the dangers of making your entire campaign your brand, if your brand is about strength and about being a winner is that when your brand falters, your campaign falters,” he added.
As of Monday morning, the Iowa Democratic Party chairman had not declared a winner in the tight race between Clinton and Sanders. Sanders is still favored to win New Hampshire, but primaries are fluid and media narratives create momentum.
“The math doesn’t matter, the number of delegates doesn’t matter,” Lesperance said. “What matters is what does that headline say in the morning going forward into New Hampshire.”
According to Lesperance, the Clinton campaign can write off New Hampshire to the Vermont senator and work to consolidate leads in later states.
“They basically have the excuse, the explanation written in: ‘Sanders is from the neighboring state, everybody knows him in New Hampshire, no big deal, by the way, Hillary won in 2008,’” he said.
Not only does Clinton have a strong polling lead in Nevada, South Carolina, and beyond, but her campaign also still has nearly $38 million left to spend, according to the most recent Federal Election Commission filing. Plus, her super PAC has another $35.8 million on hand.
That said, Sanders’ small donor base could be more sustainable; more than half of Clinton supporters maxed out their legal contribution amount.
Still, a win in Iowa and a loss in New Hampshire would be “a wash” for Clinton.
“She’s got the money and the organization going forward that she’ll be fine,” Lesperance said.
In Iowa, neither Jeb Bush, John Kasich, or Chris Christie received more than 5 percent of the vote Monday night. Not that it was a surprise. Kasich didn’t travel to Iowa for caucus night, and Bush and Christie were on flights back to New Hampshire from Iowa before caucusing even began Monday.
But it isn’t election results or poll numbers that decide when candidates drop out—it’s cash. And some of the candidates who sacrificed Iowa to hang their campaigns on New Hampshire don’t have much left.
According to their year-end FEC filings released Sunday, Kasich’s campaign had $2.5 million left to spend and Christie had $1.1 million at the end of 2015. Kasich’s super PAC had $1.9 million left and Christie’s had $3.2 million left.
The two governors literally cannot afford an Iowa-like result in New Hampshire.
Bush, who already has his sights on South Carolina, has the resources to continue past New Hampshire, regardless of his results there. Despite his flailing poll numbers, the former Florida governor’s campaign and super PAC, Right to Rise, together have more than $66 million left to spend.
“Bush can run as long as he wants to stay in,” he said. “That’s not true of the others … There’s no path forward. They really have no operation in South Carolina. They’re betting the farm on New Hampshire.”