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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, February 5, 2016 - Volume 44 Issue 06
Upset in Iowa: how and why did it happen?

Hillary feels the Bern, Cruz trumps Trump
Section One
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Upset in Iowa: how and why did it happen?

Hillary feels the Bern, Cruz trumps Trump

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Defying polls that showed them trailing their parties' frontrunners, both Bernie Sanders and Ted Cruz outperformed expectations in their respective Iowa caucuses February 1.

On the Democratic side, Sanders surfed a youth wave to a virtual tie with frontrunner Hillary Clinton.

According to reports from the caucuses, Sanders won an overwhelming 84% of voters 29 years old and under, swamping Clinton by 70 percentage points in that demographic. By comparison, Obama beat Clinton among the 17-29 crowd by only 43 points in 2008. Among all first-time caucus-goers regardless of age, Sanders won by 22 points. Obama won by only 14 points in 2008.

Indeed, had the number of young and first-time voters equaled their share of the 2008 Democratic caucuses, Sanders would have beaten Clinton just as Obama did. This year voters 29 and under made up just 18% of the electorate, a four-point drop from 2008. The percentage of first-time voters was only 44% this year, 13 points less than in 2008.

Clinton's margin among older voters and experienced caucus-goers did not equal Sanders' share of young people and new voters, but it was big enough for her to eke out the narrowest of victories. She won among those 65 and over by 43 points and carried Democrats who had caucused before by 24 points.

Nevertheless, Clinton came away with 28 convention delegates to Sanders' 21 only because she secured pledges from so-called 'super-delegates' - Democratic party officials and officeholders who get a free pass to the national convention.

Going forward, Sanders has a big potential base. A Gallup poll taken late in 2015 shows that 44% of Democrats identify as 'liberal.' That number has been on a steady rise since 2000, when only 29% identified in that way.

In the upcoming New Hampshire primary, polls give Sanders an overall 15-16-point advantage over Clinton, according to the Real Clear Politics averages. In national polls, however, Clinton leads 52% to 37%.

The problem for Sanders is that his current 37% to very close to the 44% that makes up his natural base - the Democratic party's liberal or progressive wing. That means he will have to add new voters to his column in order to beat Clinton.

He was able to do this in Iowa and almost upset his rival. Will he be able to do it in Southern and Western primaries?

Donald Trump is a loser!
On the Republican side, the story was also all about first-time caucus-goers. In contrast to the Democrats, Republicans turned out more new voters than their last contested caucus in 2012. In fact, they posted a seven-point increase over four years ago.

Pollsters had predicted that a large turnout of new voters would benefit Donald Trump, who was favored to win the contest in Iowa. However, Trump won new voters by only seven points, taking 30% to Ted Cruz's 23% and Marco Rubio's 22%.

Meanwhile, among the 54% of Republicans who had caucused before, Cruz beat Trump by 13 points. In 2012, Mitt Romney narrowly won this group over eventual caucus winner Rick Santorum, by four points.

In other words, so-called 'establishment' voters were even less enthusiastic about Trump in 2016 than they were about Santorum in 2012, and this may be a sign that Trump's appeal has a ceiling among those who most often turn out and vote in a GOP primary.

While Trump and the 'anti-establishment' wing of the GOP have captured the headlines, the party seems divided on the issue of prior political experience.

In September 2015, a national Pew poll found that just 29% of Republican voters thought that having 'experience and a proven record' were the most important qualities for a presidential candidate. Meanwhile, a whopping 65% believed that 'new ideas and a different approach' were the most important qualities for a presidential candidate to have.

Under that scenario, a Trump victory looked probable. However, polling in Iowa showed a Republican electorate that was evenly divided on the question of insider vs. outsider. Forty-six percent wanted a president who had 'experience in politics' while 48% wanted a candidate who was 'outside the establishment.'

Among those who valued experience, Rubio narrowly led Cruz by 39% to 35%. Among those voters, Trump took only 3%. Among those who valued an 'outsider,' Trump was dominant, taking 46% to Cruz's 19%.

However, the fact that almost as many Republicans want 'experience' as opt for 'outsider' status suggests that going forward, Trump may turn out just as many people fearful of his inexperience as those who are attracted to it.

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