- - Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Iowa, as it often does, offered some real surprises during the caucuses.

The clearest winner was Ted Cruz. He was challenged by everyone including the news media. He spent a year developing an Iowa field organization. He combined the best of traditional grassroots politics with a very sophisticated data analytics operation and extensive use of mobile devices to target individuals and gather information. There is a lot to be learned from the way Mr. Cruz used modern technology to maximize his efforts.

Mr. Cruz was hammered during the last few days going into the caucus by his opponents and the news media. He stood up to it, kept his enthusiasm and his drive, and earned a big victory.

The second big winner of the night was Bernie Sanders. When a 74-year-old Vermont socialist who was 50 points behind just a few months ago can fight the establishment’s candidate to a tie, it is a big victory.

Democrats should worry that Sanders carried voters under 29 by 84 percent to 14 percent. That is a breathtaking repudiation of Hillary Clinton and a powerful demand for the politics of change.

The third big winner was the Republican Party. More than 186,000 Republicans participated in the caucuses — an historic record and an amazing 50 percent jump from the contested 2012 GOP caucuses.

The news media kept saying on Monday night that both parties set turnout records, but that was simply false. The Democrat turnout collapsed from 240,000 in 2008 to 171,000 this year. That is a decline of almost 30 percent.

The chairman of the Iowa GOP, Jeff Kaufmann, has made the point that several thousand voters switched to the Republican Party in the last few weeks. Virtually none went the other way.

The GOP also won in a special way almost no one in the news media has picked up on.

Christina Martin (my former press secretary and an experienced observer of politics) noted that “In Iowa, one of the whitest states in the country, 60 percent of the Republican caucus votes went to two Cubans and an African-American. Who is the party of inclusion and who is the party of old white people now?!”

The fourth winner was Marco Rubio. With Senator Tim Scott’s endorsement coming after South Carolina Congressman Trey Gowdy’s recent endorsement, Mr. Rubio may go into that state in a surprisingly good position.

Mr. Rubio gained significantly from the same pattern that helped John Edwards in Iowa in 2004 and Rick Santorum in 2012. When Iowans see two candidates fighting, they often shift to the nice, pleasant third person who is being positive. This often happens in the last weekend before the vote. While Mr. Rubio was critical and sometimes tough on his opponents, his message is distinctly positive and optimistic.

Meanwhile, the biggest loser was Hillary Clinton.

Three months ago, she was far ahead of Bernie Sanders. She had a chance to isolate him as a wacky, hard-left socialist with impossible proposals. Suddenly she discovered that 43 percent of Iowa Democrats liked socialism. Then she discovered that young people, by more than six to one, preferred Bernie over her. Then she found out that Bernie was raising more money than Obama did in 2008 and that his contributions were $27 on average, so he could go back to his supporters again and again for more money. Mrs. Clinton, on the other hand, has been raising a large portion of her money from rich people who give the maximum amount and can’t give again. She is presently going to be dependent on her SuperPAC to run most of the advertising on behalf of her campaign. That is very expensive, it is less effective, and it will open her up to further attacks from Mr. Sanders for being the candidate of the very rich.

Mrs. Clinton will be drawn further and further to the left to counter Sanders. She will also be physically and psychologically exhausted by a long primary campaign. Mr. Sanders did well enough to raise even more money and cheerfully continues to campaign.

Donald Trump also lost some ground in Iowa. He had an opportunity to win the state and potentially lock up the nomination. He did not spend enough on the traditional ground game with field organizers and precinct organizations. He also skipped the final debate (the only debate in Iowa) and created a vacuum in which Marco Rubio could rise.

Mr. Trump did, however, give a very appropriate concession speech and he was gracious and positive. He left for New Hampshire with a campaign that still has great potential.

The other loser was Jeb Bush, whose SuperPAC spent $14.9 million (the most of any GOP candidate) and won him 5,196 votes in Iowa. That’s $2,884 per vote. If he can’t dramatically improve that in New Hampshire, the writing may be on the wall.

In fact, Messrs. Bush, Christie and Kasich are all under pressure to break out in New Hampshire or face the media’s narrative that the GOP has a three-candidate race going into South Carolina.

It was an interesting night — the Iowa caucuses usually are.

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