BY LUKE WATHEN
The Iowa caucuses yielded many highlights for the Republican Party. The anti-establishment Ted Cruz managed to win the state from Donald Trump, the national frontrunner and beacon of controversy, while lesser polling candidates Rand Paul, Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum finally admitted defeat and bowed out of the race for the White House.
What may be most interesting about the caucus is not who won or lost, but who won third place.
Marco Rubio, a capable yet often overshadowed senator from Florida, has more or less been flying under the radar this election. Despite being more popular nationally than opponents such as Ben Carson and Jeb “Seriously? Another one?” Bush, Rubio has failed to capture the same level of attention that Trump and Cruz have garnered.
That was, until the Iowa caucus.
While media outlets paraded Cruz’s three percent win over Trump, some completely ignored how close Rubio was to winning second place. Trump managed to beat Rubio for second place by the skin of his teeth, with about one percent more of Iowa than Rubio.
These results can be interpreted many ways. For one, Donald Trump has demonstrated that he is not as infallible as he and the media make him out to be. Losing the first primary, let alone to someone as polarizing as Ted Cruz, is sure to have a negative lasting effect on Trump.
Second, the win in Iowa is obviously important to the Cruz campaign. While winning the Iowa primary hardly means securing the Republican nomination (Mike Huckabee won Iowa in 2008 and Rick Santorum won the state in 2012. Neither of them received the Republican nomination for their respective year), it will no doubt bolster his support.
The third and most important thing to take away from Iowa is the performance of Rubio. Barely losing the second place spot to national-frontrunner Donald Trump is as surprising as it is impressive and it shows that though he may not currently be the most popular pick, Rubio is not leaving anytime soon.
With nine months until this year’s presidential election, the GOP pool is still a hotbed of excitement. With candidates dropping out left and right, the race is narrowing and Trump, Cruz and Rubio seem to be leading the pack. It remains to be seen whether Rubio’s third place finish in Iowa will lead to pain or gain but one thing remains certain: the nomination is still anyone’s game.