Nate Cohn makes some very good points about Bernie's "tie" in Iowa. He should have won big in a state with an electorate made for his strengths, and he didn't.
He fares best among white voters. The electorate was 91 percent white, per the entrance polls. He does well with less affluent voters. The caucus electorate was far less affluent than the national primary electorate in 2008. He’s heavily dependent on turnout from young voters, and he had months to build a robust field operation. As the primaries quickly unfold, he won’t have that luxury.
Iowa is not just a white state, but also a relatively liberal one — one of only a few of states where Barack Obama won white voters in the 2008 primary and in both general elections. It is also a caucus state, which tends to attract committed activists.
In the end, Mr. Sanders made good on all of those strengths. He excelled in college towns. He won an astonishing 84 percent of those aged 17 to 29 — even better than Mr. Obama in the 2008 caucus. He won voters making less than $50,000 a year, again outperforming Mr. Obama by a wide margin. He won “very liberal” voters comfortably, 58 to 39 percent.
But these strengths were neatly canceled by Mrs. Clinton’s strengths. She won older voters, more affluent voters, along with “somewhat liberal” and “moderate” Democrats.
This raises a straightforward challenge for Mr. Sanders. He has nearly no chance to do as well among nonwhite voters as Mr. Obama did in 2008. To win, Mr. Sanders will need to secure white voters by at least a modest margin and probably a large one. In the end, Mr. Sanders failed to score a clear win in a state where Mr. Obama easily defeated Mrs. Clinton among white voters.
Mr. Sanders’s strength wasn’t so great as to suggest that he’s positioned to improve upon national polls once the campaign heats up. National polls show him roughly tied with Mrs. Clinton among white voters, and it was the case here as well. It suggests that additional gains for Mr. Sanders in national polls will require him to do better than he did in Iowa, not that the close race in Iowa augurs a close one nationally.
The bottom line is in a 91% white state, Bernie should have won. Instead he got a split. When it comes to states like South Carolina and Nevada, he's going to start losing, and losing handily.
On the Republican side, what does a Cruz win, with The Donald finishing second and Rubio a very, very close third? It means massive pressure on everyone else to drop out and get behind Rubio, but New Hampshire is making that hard.
Whether Mr. Rubio’s showing will be enough to change the race in New Hampshire is hard to say — there isn’t much precedent for a logjam like the one we have in New Hampshire. Four mainstream conservative candidates — John Kasich, Chris Christie, Jeb Bush and Mr. Rubio — have all been clustered near 10 percent of the vote in New Hampshire surveys.
If Mr. Rubio’s performance in Iowa bestows enough media coverage and credibility for him to break the deadlock, it would be a crucial turning point in the race. A strong Rubio showing in New Hampshire could push several mainstream candidates out, freeing up endorsements and fund-raising dollars that have sat on the sidelines. It would also allow him to consolidate the voters who have supported the mainstream candidates.
It would bring about a true three-way race heading into South Carolina.
Rubio's not the establishment lock that people think he is. He still has to do well in New Hampshire, and if he finishes further back than third, suddenly the picture gets all murky again if he gets edged out by Kasich, Christie or Bush (my money's on Kasich finishing third.) Should Rubio collapse in Iowa and finish well out of the running, then it becomes Cruz versus Trump and then who knows?
We'll see in a week.