An old saying exists in military science that says the amateurs study tactics, whereas professionals study logistics. The equivalent in politics is that amateurs study rhetoric while professionals study turnout. Because Ted Cruz had become the master of the latter, he won the Iowa Caucuses when most of the pundits had concluded that Donald Trump was going to edge out the senator from Texas.
Victory in an election contest does not just mean persuading the most people that a particular candidate is best for the office. They must be persuaded to go to the polls – in the case of Iowa the caucus meeting places – and vote for the candidate.
Cruz, no slouch in the rhetoric department, had a turnout organization that was without peer. Thousands of volunteers were tasked with knocking on doors and making phone calls to inform supporters where they must go and what they must do to put Cruz over the top. The system was backed up with data that identified the people who were most likely to support the junior senator from Texas so that they might be targeted.
Humble as he was as a man of faith, Cruz declared, “To God be the glory” as he savored his victory in a lengthy speech before a crowd of his enthusiastic supporters. Donald Trump, who had woken up the day of the Iowa Caucuses thinking that he had the victory in the bag, disappointed his enemies by being uncharacteristically brief and subdued in defeat. Trump did not offer any of his famous meltdowns for the entertainment of the media.
The second happiest politician in Iowa was Marco Rubio, the senator from Florida, who exceeded expectations by running a close second. He delivered an optimistic, fiery victory speech that brought to mind Reagan or JFK at their best, invoking the “second American century” when (not if) he would be elected president.
What Iowa all means, besides the fact that Cruz won, Trump lost, and Rubio exceeded expectations is hard to tell. Will Trump, who is ahead in the polls in New Hampshire and other states, find himself deflated? Will Cruz and Rubio battle it out for the nomination, with the loser perhaps taking the second place on the ticket? What about the also-rans like Bush, Christie, and Carson?