Rubio finishes strong in Iowa, heads to NH 

Printed from:

Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who emerged from the first Republican presidential nominating caucus in Iowa as the leading alternative to conservative senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and real estate mogul Donald Trump, entered New Hampshire with momentum Tuesday, ready to face a field of establishment rivals whose prospects in the Granite state are stronger than they were in Iowa.

Rubio, 44, earned 23 percent of the vote in Monday’s Iowa republican caucuses, just one percentage point less than Trump, who had been heavily favored to win the Hawkeye state.

In Iowa, Rubio and Trump each earned seven delegates to the Republican nominating convention in July, meaning that the two men virtually tied for second place in Iowa.

Cruz, 45, won the Iowa caucuses with 28 percent of the vote, four points ahead of Trump and five points ahead of Rubio.  Cruz’s victory on Monday earned him eight delegates.

In a triumphant speech Monday night, a smiling Rubio sounded more like the winner of his party’s nomination than the third-place finisher in a small caucus state.

As has been his mantra on the campaign trail, Rubio promised to unite his party to beat Hillary Clinton and to grow the conservative movement by taking his message to voters outside the party and to Americans long disenchanted by politics generally.

Rubio thanked Iowans, whose support he hopes will grant him legitimacy ahead of New Hampshire’s Feb. 9 GOP primary.  He closed by telling Granite State voters, “We will see you in the morning.”

Whether Rubio can surpass expectations in New Hampshire, as he did in Iowa, remains to be seen.

Trump, 69, is heavily favored to win the first in the nation presidential primary. The latest RealClearPolitics average of New Hampshire presidential polls puts Trump up by 22 points. RCP shows Rubio in a virtual dead heat for second place with rivals Cruz, Ohio governor John Kasich, and former Florida governor Jeb Bush.

Rubio, Cruz, Kasich, and Bush are the only candidates who are averaging double digit polling numbers in New Hampshire, all hovering around 10 points and within the statistical margin of error of one another.

Republicans have 23 and Democrats 24 delegates up for grabs in New Hampshire, where the electorate is less religious and less conservative than in Iowa.

That might spell bad news for Cruz, who launched a scorched-earth, fire-and-brimstone campaign in the hope of capturing evangelical voters in Iowa and South Carolina, which will hold its GOP primary on Saturday, Feb. 20.   But those same New Hampshire demographics might be good news for so-called establishment candidates like Kasich, Bush, and New Jersey governor Chris Christie, all of whom are expected to fair better in this next contest.

Rubio, who had more fundraising success in the final three months of 2015 than Kasich, Bush or Christie, is hoping that his momentum coming out of Iowa will help him break out of the pack in New Hampshire.  During the last quarter of 2015, Rubio raised $14.2 million. Those who do well in the early presidential nominating contests can ordinarily expect a subsequent boost in donations to their campaigns. After his showing in Iowa on Monday, donations for Rubio are expected to rise significantly.

Polls show that over half of New Hampshire’s Republican voters have not yet made up their minds. This may favor Rubio, who did well among late decision-makers in Iowa. More than 28 percent of voters who did not decide whom to support until the week leading up to the caucuses broke for Rubio. No other GOP candidate did as well among late-breaking voters.