CRUZ WINS IOWA REPUBLICAN CAUCUS; DEMOCRATS CLINTON AND SANDERS IN VIRTUAL TIE

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East County News Service

Update: With all precincts counted, Clinton received 699.57 delegates and Sanders received 697.77 delegates, the Des Moines Register reports. The Register has called for a recount due to numerous irregularities, but thus far the Iowa Democratic Party has not complied.

February 2, 2016 (San Diego) – Last night’s Iowa caucus, the opening of the presidential primary season, has made clear that the competition is fierce on both sides of the political aisle.  On the Republican side, Texas Senator Ted Cruz won an upset victory over frontrunner and business mogul Donald Trump by a 28% to 24% margin, with Florida Senator Marco Rubio at 23% --just 1 point behind Trump, emerging as a viable candidate. Neurosurgeon Ben Carson got 9.3%, followed by Kentucky Senator Rand Paul at 4.5%.  All other candidates had less than 3% .

On the Democratic side, as of this morning the Iowa Democratic Party reports that New York Senator and former First Lady Hillary Clinton has 699.57 state delegate equivalents, while Vermont Senator Sanders was awarded 695.49,  a statistical 50-50 virtual tie, with a handful of votes still to be counted.  Six county delegates were  awarded by a coin toss after tie votes--making this the closest Iowa caucus in history-and the first that may be won by a coin toss, under Iowa's quirky procedures. 

Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, the third Democrat in the race,  received 8 state delegate equivalents, later announcing he was dropping out of the race. Former Arkansas Governor and Evangelical minister Mike Huckabee also withdrew his candidacy after the Iowa caucus.

There were complaints of dirty tricks by candidates in both parties.  Cruz supporters reportedly told Carson supporters at some caucus gatherings that he had dropped out of the race, a falsehood, persuading some to shift their votes.  Sanders supporters at one caucus said after their candidate won handily and many voters left to get home before a blizzard struck, the Clinton camp called for a recount.

Clinton declared victory last night with the vote squarely tied at 50-50, but major media outlets this morning report it is still too close to call. Even if Clinton squeaks out a narrow win by a mere handful of delegates, some won with a coin toss, Iowa can hardly be viewed as the mandate she no doubt hoped for.  The night was clearly a win for Sanders, a Jewish, self-proclaimed Democratic Socialist who has run on a platform of ending the wealth gap in America, reining in big banks and providing universal healthcare for all Americans. 

The big loser, however, is Trump, who was polling far ahead.  So what may account for his sudden drop? 

Turnout on the Republican side was high, and Iowa traditionally has selected evangelicals in recent years, hence the appeal of Cruz. Trump, with multiple divorces and admitted affairs with married women, clearly lacked appeal to the religious right.  But Iowa hasn’t been a good predictor of the nation as a whole; recent Iowa winners included Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee, both of whom failed to win broad support nationwide. 

Another factor may have been Rubio’s purchase of a half-hour infomercial airing on TV networks the eve before the caucuses, laying out his vision for the future and promising not to be a candidate who would embarrass the party, a clear swipe at Trump's bluster and racist remarks.  Rubio, a Cuban-American, may have motivated the growing number of Latino voters in Iowa to turn out, despite his recent shift away from comprehensive immigration reforms he once supported.

The results could be far different in the next primary state, New Hampshire, where Sanders is polling far ahead of Clinton and where the major New Hampshire newspaper endorsed New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, and the third primary location, South Carolina, where a large population of black voters and Southern whites will weigh in.  By the time Californians cast ballots on "Super Tuesday" in June, the pack of candidates for the primary election will no doubt have thinned further, though in a close contest, California's weighty number of delegates could yet be a deciding factor.