Primaries begin with a bang

On Monday, Iowa, who holds the distinction of being the first in the nation to cast ballots, held their Democrat and Republican caucuses.
In the grand scheme of things, Iowa is, of course, just one state with a fairly small pool of voters. However, the results of this state can have a dramatic impact on the election.
For instance, in 2008, President Barack Obama’s victory over Hillary Clinton and John Edwards in Iowa may well have made his eventual nomination possible. As for 2016, however, the results were a potential game changer on the Republican side, and an absolute nail biter for the Democrats.
Despite holding a steady lead in the polls, the controversial Donald Trump was defeated by Sen. Ted Cruz by about 6,000 votes. This came as something of an upset.
Besides being down in the polls, six-term Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad had spoken out against Cruz due to his opposition of ethanol subsidies, an important issue concerning Iowa’s agricultural interests.
Due to how Iowa awards delegates, however, the victory was not absolute for Cruz. He was awarded 8 delegates. Trump was awarded 7, and Sen. Marco Rubio 7 as well.
Additionally, on the Republican side, former Gov. Mike Huckabee’s poor showing has led him to suspend his campaign. This was a big disappointment for Huckabee. Despite winning Iowa in 2008, this year he garnered barely more than 3,000 votes.
Due to poor showings, one can also expect vultures to begin circling Rick Santorum, Jeb Bush, Carly Fiorina and others, making more dropouts likely. On the Democratic end of the aisle, supporters of  former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders had to wait well past midnight before a winner was declared.
All through the night, Clinton led Sanders by a paper-thin margin. Once all the totals were in, Clinton was declared the victor by a few decimal points.
If Democrats in Iowa used paper ballots rather than a convoluted method of debate, headcount and delegate selection, one could expect calls for a recount. Due to the extreme closeness of the results, Clinton was awarded 22 delegates and Sanders 21.
As such, debate will now center on whether this represents a tie, or if it will be deemed a win regardless of the margin. The Sander’s camp has called the results a tie, and one is hard pressed to argue with that analysis.
While things would of course be more heated had the Clinton camp outright lost the state, this is still a less than ideal result given that Sander’s is very popular in New Hampshire — the next state to cast their votes.
Democrats also saw a candidate exist the race. Former Gov. Martin O’Malley, whose role has basically been to be a traditional Democratic alternative to Clinton, has suspended his campaign.
O’Malley was the last man standing for Democrats not yet sold on Clinton or Sanders, and his departure has made this officially a two-person race. Next week, New Hampshire will cast their ballots and all eyes will be on Trump and Clinton as they try to regain their front-runner status.

Kevin Spann
Political Columnist

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