After months of campaigning (years really in some cases) Monday night’s Iowa Caucus marked the official kickoff to the 2016 presidential election. And in an election year unlike we’ve seen before where “outsider” candidates like Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders (while a 20+ year vet of Congress he’s still considered to be an outsider by many) have done remarkably well, it’s been rather interesting to see how it would all play out. Which only added even more intrigue heading into last night.
Well, after a lengthy vote-counting process it finally seems to be official: as most of the polls have indicated for the last several months, Hillary Clinton emerged victorious in Iowa, giving her campaign a much-needed victory to recapture some of the momentum they had lost over the last several weeks with Sanders closing the gap on her both in Iowa and nationally. Though it should be noted that the race was much tighter than most people had expected. So tight, in fact, that the Iowa Democratic party says it was the closest result in the history of the Iowa Caucus – 700 to 695 seems to be the final count (with Martin O’Malley getting 8 votes). If you ask me, it’s a testament to the fact that Democrats have two great candidates running for the party’s nomination.
(On a personal level, I can’t help but laugh at a certain pro-Sanders “journalist” who laughably predicted that Clinton would finish third last night, behind Martin O’Malley who actually suspended his campaign Monday evening because he performed so poorly in the state. But I digress.)
While I’m sure many in the media will play this up as a bigger deal than it is, based on what the polls have been telling people for months, Clinton’s victory shouldn’t really come as a huge surprise. Sanders did make the race much closer than it had been even just a few weeks ago (which is evident by how close the numbers were) but nearly all the latest polls Real Clear Politics tracks had shown Clinton winning last night. Even respected polling statistician Nate Silver’s website FiveThirtyEight.com gave Clinton a 67 percent chance of winning Iowa.
While the polls had definitely tightened up over the last several weeks, all indications were that Clinton still remained the favorite heading into Iowa.
Now the question is, what does this victory mean for Clinton? Historically speaking, not much. This is the problem with Iowa and New Hampshire being the first two states of any presidential election – they’re terrible at being solid representations of how the rest of the country will vote. While it’s nice to get a victory because typically candidates do get a “bump” from winning the first caucus, several former presidents have lost Iowa (Reagan in 1980, Clinton in 1992) yet went on to win their party’s nomination fairly easily. So, while victory is something that should be celebrated, if for nothing more than to energize supporters and reward the people who’ve worked hard to achieve that victory, last night’s Iowa Caucus is just the first step of many we’ll all take going forward in determining who represents the Democratic party this November.
That being said, I would like to congratulate Hillary Clinton and all those who worked tirelessly in Iowa, and around the country, to help her get a hard fought win. Bernie Sanders and his volunteers deserve to be congratulated as well for making it the closest result in the Democratic party’s Iowa Caucus history. Even though Sanders lost the overall vote total by a hair, he should still see some momentum heading into New Hampshire, which will most likely be an easy victory for his campaign. It’s the states that follow which will present Bernie Sanders with his biggest and most vital challenge if he wants to knock off Clinton and win the nomination.
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