Robert Costa, who has taken his intimacy with Republican contacts from the National Review to The Washington Post to NBC/MSNBC, let out a secret on MSNBC this afternoon: Iowa is only the first inning.
Practically no other journalist or pundit, recognizing that there are eight innings beyond the first, has admitted as much.
It's not as if all states are created equal. The Iowa caucus (and the New Hampshire primary) in all likelihood will prove more important than votes in California, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Dakota, and South Dakota, which bring up the rear on June 7.
Consider the Democratic caucus. If Hillary Clinton wins, she makes it even tougher for Bernard Sanders. However, the Vermont senator is reputed to be well ahead in New Hampshire which, as in 2008, will not take its cue from Iowa. If Sanders wins in NH after Clinton wins in Iowa, he remains in the running- and still will be an underdog.
If Sanders wins in Iowa, he is likely- but far from certain- to win in New Hampshire. Yet, even if he wins in both Iowa and New Hampshire, he still will be an underdog, though not the decided one he is now.
Admittedly, if Donald Trump loses the GOP primary, he is done. Done, because his campaign is partially based on the idea that he is a winner and everyone else is a loser and it would call his organization into serious question. However, every poll shows him ahead, and in at least one poll well ahead. Further, if he does lose, the GOP race is thrown into disarray, assuming that Ted Cruz,hated among his colleagues, wins.
If Trump wins, he will be even more of a favorite in New Hampshire. However, whether Trump or Cruz comes in first in Iowa, the GOP will face the issue of whether it wishes to lose disastrously with the first, or risk backing the second and his far-right movement which threatens run roughshod over opponents and upend the Party. Ted Cruz, it is understood, has a lot of scores to settle.
So if either Trump or Cruz wins, the GOP is unlikely to take it lying down, whether it is moved to action immediately, or waits till after New Hampshire, when panic sets in. Having a standard-bearer with a history of outrageous or damaging remarks can prove inconvenient. ("I don't bring God into that picture" of asking forgiveness, an admission even some atheists wouldn't make.) Losing the presidency is one thing, but the electoral math favors the Democrats in the Senate, and a historic loss at the top of the ticket would be accompanied by loss of the upper chamber and even a possilbe loss of the House. And then the top dogs in the GOP would have to decide among John Ellis Bush and John Kasich, whom the popular base wouldn't accept, Chris Christie (who is still vulnerable over the George Washington Bridge scandal), or Marco Rubio.
Enjoy watching the Iowa returns, as I will. Then in a day or so,we can enjoy the media telling us that New Hampshire is oh, so important. But after these two are done, the Democratic race is not over unless Bernie Sanders loses in both, and the GOP primary season will have just begun. In the latter contest, South Carolina and Florida will be most important, as usual.
Maudlin though it is, when I think of Iowa,I think of..