Conventional wisdom was that huge voter turnout in the Iowa caucuses would indicate a Trump victory. So much for that: huge voter turnout, and Trump underperformed by several points.
I have to hand it to Ted Cruz, whose character I dislike: he did the hard work of retail politics and earned his victory. More than that, he won on principle -- another casualty of conventional wisdom is the proposition that you can't oppose the ethanol subsidy in Iowa(and a popular governor!) and win. But Cruz did it, and that does cause me to think again about whether he could win a national election.
Yesterday before the voting I watched this video, and it explains the Cruz win, I think. An angry farmer confronts him about ethanol and Cruz keeps his calm, doesn't back down, and actually persuades the guy. If this is the way he interacted w/ people all over the state, no wonder he won. This person could be president (really: watch! He shows us how it's done). I could wish THIS Cruz would show up for debates and speeches.
Alas, just as I was softening toward him, he took the stage after his big win last night and stomped all over his own victory by being unable to be gracious or even to enjoy his own moment. He launched right into a way-too-long 32-minute speech that seemed not unifying but divisive and sour. If you arrived late, you'd be forgiven for thinking it was a concession speech.
Hugh Hewitt tweeted last night, in contrast to my opinion that the longer Cruz spoke, the worse he did for himself, that since Cruz was the last to speak, he knew people would be channel surfing and it was wise to take advantage of free media for as long as possible. I learn a lot from Hewitt, but I think he's wrong about that, because what Cruz said was suitable only for his volunteers in the room, not the larger public, and certainly not all the Huckabee-Bush-Christie voters who will be deciding where to land.
Cruz is just not capable of framing anything in terms other than he and his people are courageous fighters with knives in their teeth (he actually said that), which leads everyone else to conclude he thinks what about them? And he's always telling you about his war wounds from the past rather than painting a picture of the future. The longer he spoke, the more I thought, " Nope, this is not a president talking."
By contrast, Rubio's succinct, sunny, forward-looking remarks seemed gracious, canny and presidential. And by effectively tying Trump (same # of delegates) and surging 10 points in two weeks, he showed he, too, can do retail politics. Marcomentum! I only wish Rubio would stop saying "they said we couldn't do this, they said my hair didn't have enough gray and I should wait my turn." He can keep the black hair -- it fits with his theme of capturing the American future. But he should stop saying some people think he should wait his turn, because it reinforces that idea rather than quelling it.
Here's a powerline post from last night. Couldn't agree more w/ the final update at the bottom:
Marco Rubio has just finished his “victory” speech on Fox News. He killed it. I pray–literally, not figuratively–that the Republican Party has the good sense to nominate him to run against the corrupt septuagenarian Hillary Clinton.
Update: I forgot to name two other observations. High turnout in the GOP race w/o a Trump win means a huge GOP crowd came out to vote AGAINST Trump. And the massive turnout there, plus Sanders tying Hillary on the other side means last night there was an incredible repudiation in both parties of Barack Obama's policies. Voters are energized for NOT what Obama gave us.