Donald Trump answered a question from Barbara Walters on ABC News not long ago that largely went unnoticed. She asked, “If you lose the Republican nomination, are you a loser?” Trump answered, “In a certain way, yeah. Hate to say it. If I lost the nomination, yeah, I guess I’d call myself a ‘loser.’ I’ve never said that about myself before.” The New York Times reported on Tuesday that Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, powered by an “Obama-like” grassroots campaign and a strong surge of support from evangelical Christians, dealt a humiliating defeat to Donald J. Trump in the Iowa caucuses on Monday, causing the New York Times to “Question the depth of support for Mr. Trump’s unconventional candidacy.” Politico called it an “unsophisticated, shoe-string campaign” that finally caught up with Trump.
This begs another question: Did Trump’s ducking the last final Republican Fox News debate contribute to Trump’s defeat? In retrospect, it probably didn’t help, but because of the strength of Cruz’s ground game and the non-existence of Trump’s ground game, it would not have made a difference in the outcome. Cruz would have still emerged. In yet another humiliating defeat for the big “loser” of the night, Donald Trump, Florida Senator Marco Rubio came in a very strong third place in winning seven delegates and gaining 43,132 votes (23.1 percent). Second-place Trump also won seven delegates and gaining 45,416 votes (24.3 percent). The night’s “winner,” Ted Cruz, won eight delegates and gaining 51,649 votes (27.7 percent).
Cruz’s victory was all the more impressive considering the relentless attacks against him by Trump in questioning whether Cruz was “constitutionally” qualified to be president because of his birth in Canada. Iowa’s longtime governor, Terry E. Branstad, came out against Cruz and many Republican leaders in Washington have been warning Cruz would lead the Republican party to electoral disaster this fall, according to CNN. Branstad was particularly offended by Cruz stance on ethanol subsidies, a state where farming and agriculture are hugely influential industries.
Gov. Branstad said about Trump, “Iowans learn about his anti-renewable fuel stand, and that it will cost us jobs, and will further reduce farm income, I think people will realize that it’s not in our interest.” He added: “I don’t think that Ted Cruz is the right one for Iowans to support in the caucus.”
In Cruz’s victory speech, he said, “To God be the glory.” Cruz then told jubilant supporters. “Tonight is a victory for the grass roots. Tonight is a victory for courageous conservatives all across Iowa and our great nation.” The thinking was that a large turnout would benefit Trump, but the record turnout of 185,000, clearly benefited Cruz.
For his part, Marco Rubio remarkably proclaimed victory, even though he finished in third-place. And maybe he had a point. In fact, Mediaite pointed out that Rubio’s “victory” speech was similar to Obama’s 2008 victory speech in Iowa. One that Obama actually won. Jon Favreau, a speechwriter for Obama, tweeted, “He could’ve at least thanked Obama for the opening line.” The same could be said of Cruz’s grassroots efforts in getting the voters to the caucus sites.