Donald Trump proved to be too ungodly for Iowa’s Republican caucus voters. Evangelicals lined up for Ted Cruz and handed him the victory in the Midwestern state. But Trump’s defeat sends up red flags about the Republican Party’s ability to win the general election.
Cruz may play well with conservative and religious Midwestern voters, but among all the Republican candidates, he has the least ability to attract crossover voters. He’ll need them to win in November.
In contrast, Trump has the most cross-over appeal because of his celebrity personality and the perception that he will not be held hostage to ideology or far-right conservatism.
Cruz, on the other hand, has inextricably tied his fate to the party’s hard-right religious base. In the process, he’s alienated just about every other voting bloc.
He has little or no chance to woo disaffected Democrats, who may not be able to stomach Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders’ leftish politics.
Clinton held a narrow lead over Sanders and quickly declared victory last night. But Sanders clearly showed he’s capable of making it a race. The Sanders camp called the race a dead heat.
Cruz, a Texas Senator, won 28 percent of the Republican vote compared with 24 percent for Trump. Marco Rubio was a close third with 23 percent of the votes. The biggest loser was physician Ben Carson.
Trump won the endorsement of Sarah Palin, a darling of the religious right, just before the caucuses. But Palin, one of the most polarizing figures in politics, failed to deliver. “Iowa has sent notice that the Republican nominee and next president of the United States will not be chosen by the media, will not be chosen by the Washington establishment,” Cruz said afterward. He tipped his hat to evangelicals in his victory speech. “To God be the glory. God bless the great state of Iowa,” he said.
“Tonight is a victory for the grass roots. Tonight is a victory for the greatest conservatives across Iowa. Tonight the state of Iowa has spoken,” he added. “Weeping may tarry for the night but joy cometh with the morning,” he said quoting a popular Bible Psalm. The crowd responded with shouts of “Amen!” and “Alleluia!” Despite the enthusiasm, 2008 GOP presidential candidate John McCain and running mate Palin proved that it’s tough to win a general election based on a platform that appeals to evangelicals and hard-right conservatives.
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney learned the same thing as the GOP standard bearer in 2012. Barack Obama won both elections by sound margins. But Cruz has doubled down on the same political strategy. If he ultimately wins the nomination, it will be difficult for him to move to the center, whereas Trump already commands the GOP center. Republicans John Kasich, Chris Christie and Jeb Bush were distant also rans in the caucuses, but are expected to fare better in New Hampshire, where the religious right doesn’t hold as much sway.