Yesterday was the first primary election of the 2016 presidential cycle, giving what is an extremely small percentage of the electorate’s opinion even more attention than it probably deserves. From NPR:
“The really important thing to remember about Iowa is not that it’s first because it’s important. Iowa is important because it’s first,” said Kathy O’Bradovich, political columnist for the Des Moines Register.
The big news of the night is that Republicans chose Ted Cruz over Donald Trump by a solid three percentage points. He was declared the winner early in the night, and Trump’s speech was surprisingly conciliatory and not very Trump-like. Marco Rubio came in third, only trailing Trump by 1 percent.
Democrats Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders were basically tied by the time 95 percent of precincts reported their votes at midnight. She was declared the winner later this morning, but by a very slim margin and through coin tosses—a strange Iowa caucus tradition where voters flip coins to break ties. Clinton reportedly won six of the six tosses, albeit in competitions for county delegates, who are less important overall.
Democrat Martin O’Malley and Republican Mike Huckabee both ended their presidential bids after barely registering any votes in the Iowa race.
It’s important to acknowledge just how different the Iowa caucus tradition is from other primaries around the country. To participate in the caucuses, select Iowans have to congregate at 7 p.m., and after vigorously lobbying one another they make their choice by moving to a candidate’s corner of the room. It’s also important that the population of Iowa (and other early primary states like New Hampshire) are overwhelmingly White and not reflective of the greater population of the U.S.
Lots of election analysts like to look back and show how winning or losing in Iowa shapes whether a candidate secures their party nomination. But it’s hard to say how much that is tied to the way media narratives about candidacies are shaped by Iowa results. Only 1 percent of the delegates needed to win the primary nomination were decided yesterday.
The New Hampshire primary is up next on Tuesday February 9.