4 things to know after the Iowa caucuses

Ted Cruz addresses the audience at his rally Sunday night
Ted Cruz addresses the audience at his rally Sunday night in Davenport, IA (Raquel Zaldivar/MEDILL).

By Max Greenwood

The Iowa caucuses are over, but the 2016 primary calendar is just beginning. The candidates are focused on New Hampshire ahead of Tuesday’s primary. Before the caravan moves on, here are five things to know coming out of Iowa:

1. Cruz won, but the race is just getting started

After defying expectations with his victory over Donald Trump and Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz can celebrate the first victory of the 2016 primary calendar. But that doesn’t mean the road ahead will be easy for him.

Iowa isn’t necessarily an accurate predictor of the eventual Republican nominee. In 2012, Rick Santorum carried the Republican race in the state, and in 2008, the win went to Mike Huckabee. Both appealed to an evangelical Christian voter base that traditionally has a strong showing in Iowa, but struggled to gain traction elsewhere. Neither went on to win their party’s nomination.

In fact, Iowa has only chosen the eventual Republican nominee in two of the last six caucuses in which an incumbent wasn’t running. If that trend holds true, Cruz will have to fight to keep his momentum in states like New Hampshire and South Carolina.

2. Rubio outperformed expectations

Rubio may have come in third Monday, but he outperformed expectations. A Des Moines Register/Bloomberg Politics poll released 48 hours before the caucus predicted a third-place finish for the Florida senator, but it put his support at 15 percent – significantly lower than the 23 percent he won in the caucus.

Not only did Rubio exceed expectations, he emerged as the strongest establishment candidate in the Republican race. As the race for the GOP nomination turns to New Hampshire, Rubio will try to pick up supporters of “the three governors” – former Florida governor Jeb Bush, Ohio Gov. John Kasich and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie – giving him a much-needed boost.

3. Bernie Sanders turned out first-time caucus-goers

Clinton’s victory over Sanders Monday was a narrow one. But the caucuses were a test of Sanders’ ability to bring out new voters.

Sanders fared better than Clinton among first-time Democratic caucus-goers, according to a Quinnipiac University poll. But would they turn out?

The fact that he closed a 50-oint gap against Clinton, finishing less than one percent behind, suggests that Sanders can turn out those first-time caucus goers. He’s already leading Clinton by a wide margin in New Hampshire polls, and if his ability to turn out new voters holds up, that could translate into a sweeping victory in the Granite State.

4. Clinton’s victory wasn’t a big one

Clinton’s small lead over Sanders in Iowa won her 700.59 state delegate equivalents, while Sanders received 696.82. That sets them up to receive 23 and 21 of Iowa’s delegates to the Democratic National Convention respectively.

Of course, Clinton ultimately won two more delegates than Sanders, but because there are 4,763 delegates to the convention, a candidate will have to take 2,382 during the primary season to win the Democratic nomination.

The two-delegate difference between Clinton and Sanders in Iowa accounts for less than a tenth of a percent of the delegates needed to actually take the nomination. The next state to hold its primary, New Hampshire, has 32 Democratic delegates up for grabs, and Sanders is leading Clinton broadly in most polls.

The close race in Iowa Monday likely sets the two Democratic hopefuls up for a drawn-out nomination process.

Photo at top: Ted Cruz addresses the audience at his rally Sunday night in Davenport, Iowa. (Raquel Zaldivar/MEDILL).