So, as Holmes used to say, the game is afoot.
The republicans came out in record numbers last night up in the land of corn and hogs. It's a statistic both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders need to be wary off. You can say many things about Ted Cruz and Donald Trump, but you'll have to admit they both know how to whip the hoi polloi up into a blood thirsty frenzy and drive them into the process.
So what did we learn from the whole, overpriced, affair? First off we know Mike Huckabee finally came to his senses and dropped out. He did so after garnering 1.8% of the vote. That slim number meant he ended up with no delegates to the national convention from a state he won eight years ago with 34.4%.
Others taking it on the chin in Iowa, unlike ol' Huck, have yet to throw in the towel. The reasons mostly revolve around available reserves of cash and the scale of their political organizations working as busy as beavers in places like New Hampshire. Although in the case of Rick Santorum there is a distinct possibility hallucinogenics are involved.
Jeb Bush and Rand Paul each pulled in one delegate apiece, leaving them both only 1,190 short of the number needed to win the nomination. The ever crafty Paul has a backup plan though. Besides running for the GOP presidential nomination, he's also a candidate for re-election to the U.S. senate in Kentucky. In other words he's running two separate races at once. Which, of course, begs the question, how much more time and energy will he waste on what increasingly seems like a hopeless quest for the White House instead of concentrating on retaining his day job?
Bush, on the other hand, seems lost in denial, or at least a dense fog of disbelief. The pedigree is there, as well as an extensive network of establishment contacts. In addition, from day one, he's had his hands on hundreds of millions of dollars. When he declared he was running you could almost hear a collective groan coming from the rest of the field. And now, at least so far, Bush III has proved himself to be the best financed and well connected dud in the history of republican presidential primaries. The guess here is, thanks to money and hubris, he'll hang on until the day after Super Tuesday, then withdraw after a heart felt thanks to family and friends.
Then we come to the case of Dr. Ben Carson. He won 9.3% of the vote. Previously, as his poll numbers sank, he told the media that after the Iowa caucuses he'd take a couple of days off down in Florida before attending a prayer meeting in Washington.
God bless the naive.
The Cruz campaign seized on the statement, fanned out over the Iowa landscape yesterday, and told everyone who would listen that a vote for Carson was a waste of time because he was dropping out of the race before the New Hampshire primary.
Today, Carson is screaming foul, because according to him, he has every intention of heading to New Hampshire after his three days off from politicking. He was quoted as saying, "For months my campaign has survived the lies and dirty tricks from opponents who profess to detest the games of the political class, but in reality are masters of it."
Cruz's communications director, no doubt a lawyer, claimed it wasn't a dirty trick at all Rick Tyler said the vile little Canadian's organization was led to believe the good doctor was dropping out before next Tuesday, because of his earlier public statement to the press. That's right, it was all in good faith because they just assumed Carson was quitting.
All of which brings us to Cruz, who punched the seemingly run away train known as Donald Trump squarely in the nose by scoring a three point plus victory. His big night also gave us a glimpse of what we should expect from him in the future. Not only did his people tell everyone Carson was dropping out, but last week the campaign sent out a mass mailing with an official looking letter head. It instructed Iowans that if they didn't participate in the caucuses there would be exquisitely vague legal ramifications involving some mythical point system which no one on earth, not to mention the United States, has ever heard of.
After the smoke settled, the big story of the night wasn't that all the Trump hysteria didn't translate into the landslide he and the national media believed it would. No, it was the abject inaccuracy of the pre caucus polls. Prior to yesterday, Florida Senator, Marco Rubio's best showing in surveys of Iowa voters was 15%. Last night he pulled in 23.1%. In fact he was closer to Trump's total than Trump was to Cruz.
Yes, the herd is being culled and many will fall to the side of the trail in the next few weeks. In the mean time--right now--it's too early to tell if Rubio is simply a loser who will find himself permanently stuck in third place, or if the GOP establishment will abandon Bush and the rest and coalesce around him in the face of the brute, yet vacuous, evil of Cruz and the overt and equally vacuous fascism of Trump.
Next up is New Hampshire, then South Carolina and Nevada. If, Donald Trump can't win in at least two of those states his fifteen minutes of fame will be rushing pell-mell to a close.
And that--in the end--is what we finally learned from Iowa last night. You can bet on it.