There’s little question that Rubio is the candidate of choice for the Republican establishment. He’s young, he’s got clear, conservative ideals that he’s willing to fight for, and he’s got a background that brings some into the Republican fold that have long since been scared away.
So perhaps that’s why people were quick to call Rubio’s finish in Iowa on monday night a “third place victory”, rather than what it actually was – the second runner up.
A lot of that has to do with the two man who came in front of the Florida senator. Rubio came runner up, not only to a man described as a “wacko bird” by his Senate colleagues, but he also came runner up to Trump. So if Rubio’s really trailing behind two other candidates, (and it looks that way for New Hampshire too), then why are people still touting him as the likely nominee?
Well the reasons for this are most likely twofold:
Firstly, unlike those that he lost out to, Rubio looks capable of controlling enough center ground in the American political landscape to be considered competitive in the general election. And with Clinton looking to be the likely nominee on the Democratic side, the Republicans are going to need to fight for the center during this election.
Secondly, unlike Bush, Kasich or Christie, Rubio appears to be the only “establishment candidate” capable of polling nationally at numbers anywhere near those of Trump or Cruz. So what this suggests is that those that are currently polling ahead of Rubio aren’t able to win in the long run, and those that are capable of winning in the long run, aren’t able to beat Rubio.
All of this would be true, were it not for the fact that Rubio still looks to be trailing Trump in New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada. And indeed, to paraphrase the former Australian Prime Minister John Howard, “politics is brutally governed by the laws of arithmetic”. Meaning that you can make as many different arguments as you like about why Rubio should be the nominee, but if he continues to come in third in every primary, it’s going to be pretty hard for him to get the nomination.
So what then, could take Rubio from 3rd place to 1st, in the current Primary season?
Well, to answer this question it’s important to consider a few things.
- Iowa is old and white.
It’s long been documented that the Iowa caucus isn’t an effective indicator of how the country is likely to vote because it is older, whiter and more religious than the rest of the country. What this means is that while a Cruz victory in Iowa shouldn’t be overlooked, it means less for him, than for those like Trump who with little investment in the region, and little evidence of a deeply held religious conviction, nevertheless managed to come in second.
- Caucuses are a low turnout phenomenon.
Taking longer than an ordinary poll, caucuses tend to discourage people from voting. This means that candidates who rely on voters to get out and vote, often get underrepresented in states such as Iowa. People who invest in a good “ground game” are effective at getting people to polling booths. Cruz’ ground game was so good that it mailed voters a report card of their previous voting patterns, grading them on how often they voted.
- Candidates are going to start dropping out soon, and when they do, their voters will have to go somewhere.
This is perhaps the most important point in the piece. As candidates like Jeb Bush go back to their super PACs and explain why they invested almost $3,000 per vote in Iowa, many are going to start realizing that they can’t sustain this much longer. As they start to drop out, their supporters will have to look for someone else to rally behind. And with the current Republican candidate pool about as diverse as the country itself, it’s not easy to predict where the voters will go.
What is clear is that among the top three candidates from the Iowa caucus, there’s little that unites them. Sure, Cruz and Trump both represent a reaction against the current political system, but beyond that, there’s daylight between them.
Running as a current Senator from Texas, Cruz is far less likely than Trump to pick up the voters from fellow anti-establishment characters such as Carson. Similarly, Trump looks likely to pickup the support from those looking for a business-minded President. These voters include those backing Carly Fiorina, and indeed, some behind Rand Paul. Admittedly, Cruz can expect to collect the evangelical voters that supported candidates such as Rick Santorum, but with Santorum garnering less than a single delegate from Iowa, this not likely to mean much.
So where does that leave Rubio?
Well it’s hard to say for certain. But as Trump picks up the anti-establishment vote, and Cruz collects the religious, it looks as though Rubio just might be left with the rest. And with a wide range of voters backing Christie, Kasich, Bush and others, it clearly looks like Rubio’s in an enviable position.
Indeed, this might just be the reason that despite coming in behind two other candidates on the first major night of this election cycle, Rubio’s betting odds dropped from $3 to $1.90 overnight.
There could be a range of reasons leading bookmakers to adjust their odds after Iowa. And there could be any number of events that lead them to be adjusted again as the election cycle continues. But with current polling putting Trump, Cruz and Rubio as the likely three leaders in the next few polls, it’s clear that these are going to be the candidates toughing it out over the coming weeks.
The only danger facing him now is that somebody else, Christie, Kasich, or Bush, snatches the establishment vote from him.
So what happens from there is anybody’s guess. GLOBALO IS guessing that as the chips start to fall, they will start to fall towards Rubio.