February 3, 2016

As the smoke clears away from the 2016 Iowa Caucuses, I think one thing is pretty certain. Donald Trump cost himself a victory there because of his ego and arrogance. After retaking the lead in the Iowa polls from a surging Cruz by bashing him with his Canadian birther routine, Trump weirdly decided to skip the last Fox News GOP debate that was in Iowa for very bogus reasons. As is usually the case in Iowa, there were a lot of undecided voters trying to decide who they loved the most and for Trump, Skipping the debate and using the excuse of getting a nasty tweet from Fox News as the catalyst was probably seen as being very petty by Iowans.

Here's Nate Silver on the undecided voters:

According to entrance polls in Iowa, Trump won 39 percent of the vote among Iowans who decided on their candidate more than a month ago. But he took just 13 percent of voters who had decided in the last few days, with Rubio instead winning the plurality of those voters.

Trump has been such a mammoth personality and presence compared to the rest of the field in the GOP debates, that even if he doesn't say much, he still commanding the room.

And it's not so much the effect his absence had on Cruz and his followers, but it gave Marco Rubio the chance to break free from Trump's aura and steal some of Trump's support which in the end was, in my opinion, the difference.

Most polling had Rubio at around 15%, but after his strong Iowa debate performance, many conservative pundits raved about him. His own attacks on Cruz, were fairly powerful and had an effect in building up his own persona. The media then jumped on Marco's coattails because a) it's another juicy story to cover and b) they are looking for an establishment candidate to rise to the top. It was so ridiculous that they dubbed it Marcomentum!

Rubio wound up scoring 23% of the vote, which cut into Trump's lead and cost him the caucus. Let's face it, Iowa was made for Cruz, and even after he spent a ton of resources down there, he only scored 27%.

Unless Donald tells us, it's uncertain why Trump actually decided to ditch the Fox News debate since he did relatively well in most of them. In politics, you can't rest on your laurels and give others an opportunity to recover. Sitting on a lead is a sure way to lose it and up to that point Trump hadn't done much sitting.

The Fox News Debate also made Jeb Bush slightly relevant again because he was one of the other big winners from the debate and even though the results wouldn't show up in Iowa, they could have an impact in New Hampshire.

Christie, Kasich, Rubio and Jeb are all vying to become the establishment alternative to Trump and Cruz and at least a third place finish in NH is a must if anyone one of them want to keep in the running - at least for a while longer.

Trump has a big lead in New Hampshire, but as we've seen, primary voters can change with the wind so we'll see if his Iowa debacle will bleed into NH.

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