Iowa Caucus Kicks Off Unpredictable Election

Over 300,000 people turned out to vote at the Iowa caucus Feb. 1, kicking off the 2016 presidential election season with wins for Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, prompting student activists to voice their predictions for an increasingly uncertain election.

The Iowa caucus differs from other state primaries in that in each of the state’s 1,682 precincts, voters gather in small locations to cast their votes. Based on these votes, Iowa then allocates delegates to each candidate.

On the Republican side, Cruz won with eight delegates and 27.6 percent of the votes, followed by Donald Trump who garnered 24.3 percent of the vote. Trump and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) were each allocated seven delegates, with Rubio coming in third with 23.1 percent of the vote.

Institute of Politics and Public Service Fellow Patrick Dillon (COL ’99), former deputy White House political director and special assistant to President Barack Obama, emphasized the importance of outreach and voter engagement in ensuring caucus victory.

“I think the caucuses did what they were supposed to do: reward candidates who did the work to get to know voters and build a real organization on the ground,” Dillon wrote in an email to The Hoya. “It wasn’t about who ran the most TV ads or who had the biggest rallies, but about who focused their campaign on field outreach and engaging their supporters.”

Dillon highlighted the strategies employed by Cruz and Clinton that resulted in their eventual victories.

“Cruz beat Trump in part by going county to county and tapping into evangelical leaders who could speak for him everywhere,” Dillon wrote. “For Clinton, in a state almost tailor made for Bernie Sanders to be successful, her deep and strong field organization made all the difference in holding off such a stiff challenge.”

Chairwoman of Georgetown Students for Rubio Alexandra Williams (SFS ’19) said she is pleased with Rubio’s performance in the caucus, adding that she was surprised to see the narrow difference between the percentages of votes won by Rubio and Trump.

“We expected a strong third place but we had no idea he would be so close to second place. That means going forward to New Hampshire, Rubio has an amazing chance,” Williams said. “His momentum has been growing, and although New Hampshire is potentially a more libertarian state, which could harm him, I think he’s going to do well.”

Williams went on to predict that Rubio will continue to do well in the New Hampshire primary Tuesday.

“He’s achieved third in Iowa and now he just needs to get second in New Hampshire. I think he has a great chance going forward,” Williams said. “All the polls you look at, he’s the only one predicted to defeat Hillary Clinton, so we’re optimistic.”

Of the other nine Republican candidates, Ben Carson took third place with 9.3 percent of voters and won three delegates. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), former Governor of Florida Jeb Bush, former Chief Executive Officer of Hewlett-Packard Carly Fiorina and former Governor of Ohio John Kasich each garnered less than five percent of the vote and were allocated one delegate.

During the caucus, former Governor of Maryland Martin O’Malley and former Governor of Arkansas Mike Huckabee suspended their campaigns. Following the release of the caucus results, Sen. Paul and former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) announced the suspension of their campaigns Tuesday.

In a statement released Wednesday morning, Paul said that although he is no longer running for president, he will continue to fight for liberty in his position as senator.

“Although, today I will suspend my campaign for President, the fight is far from over. Today, I will end where I began, ready and willing to fight for the cause of liberty,” Paul said. “I will continue to carry the torch for Liberty in the United States Senate and I look forward to earning the privilege to represent the people of Kentucky for another term.”

In 2012, Santorum won the Iowa caucuses and came in second overall to eventual Republican nominee Mitt Romney. Following the suspension of his campaign, Santorum announced his endorsement of Rubio for president on Fox News’ “On the Record” Wednesday night.

Santorum said that he has decided that the best way to achieve the goals he set out to accomplish would be to end his campaign.

“I think we could be better advocates for that in supporting someone who shared those values and is in a better position to do well in this race,” Santorum said. “That’s why we decided to support Marco Rubio.”

The Democratic candidates saw a tighter race, with Clinton ultimately winning 49.9 percent of votes and 23 delegates and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) garnering 49.6 percent and 21 delegates. In Clinton’s victory speech, she highlighted the importance of solidarity within the Democratic party. “I am a progressive who gets things done for people. We have to be united when it is all said and done. We have to be united when it is all said and done against a Republican vision and candidates who would drive us apart and divide us,” Clinton said. “That’s not who we are, my friends.” Former Georgetown University College Democrats Executive Board Member Scott Lowder (COL ’17) said that he understood why Sanders did so well in Iowa, but that he did not expect Sanders to do as well in other states.

“Going into the election, the polls were very close. I think people are realizing that Bernie Sanders was really well-suited to the state, because it was overwhelmingly liberal and white,” Lowder said. “I think in more diverse states, like Nevada and South Carolina, Bernie doesn’t stand a chance.”

 

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