After months of media attention, relentless campaigning and a plethora of hotly contested debates, the 2016 presidential election saw its first actual voting take place on February 1st. The ironic location of this monumental mark in what has been the most fierce campaign season in history was in the relatively quaint, midwestern state of Iowa. The state of 3 million people became ground zero in the political world as historic numbers of people turned out to caucus and decide who would receive the lion’s share of the 30 republican delegates and 54 Democratic delegates up for grabs. Both parties experienced tight contests, fueled by massive amounts of public discord, millions of dollars spent on advertising, and a sensationalized race for the White House which has at times seemed more like a reality show. After an unpredictable campaign season that saw many candidates rise to prominence and others fall from grace, Iowa voters turned out in record numbers to elect Republican Ted Cruz and Democrat Hilary Clinton.
The reversal of fortunes for Ted Cruz was particularly noteworthy, as he had peaked in polls early in January by touting his Christian, Conservative platform, only to see his numbers slide as criticisms of his Canadian birth and undisclosed loans from Goldman Sachs surfaced. Clinton, who has long been thought of as the likely successor to President Obama, saw Sanders and his Socialist message resonate with voters amidst concern about a scandal that has arisen in regards to her sending classified information using a personal email. Many pundits argued that record voter turnout in the caucus would serve to benefit the outspoken candidates like Trump and Sanders who were largely pandering to first-time voters. However, in an election season where all basic political reasoning and pundits have been wrong, it was only fitting that this prediction proved incorrect as Cruz and Clinton claimed victory.
Although it is the first real test of this year’s race for the White House, the modern Iowa caucus is hardly the political kingmaker it was in years past. The winner of the Republican Iowa Caucus lost the nomination in both 2008 and 2012. While Democrats who won Iowa have fared better, Bill Clinton proved in 1992 that a loss in the state does not necessarily entail the downfall of a campaign. One thing that is for certain, though, is that if the Iowa Caucus is any indication of the race to come, the action and surprises are just getting started.