11:43 – Cruz is still talking. Started off strong, but it’s going very long now. Even his supporters seem to have lost some of their initial energy.

11:20 – Cruz declares a “victory for the grassroots … for courageous conservatives.” He also swipes at the national media, saying Iowa has declared that the nomination will not be chosen by the media, the establishment, or the lobbyists. Emotional speech, with a rough edge in his voice from campaigning on the ground over the last several weeks and months.

11:12 – CNN reports that 187,000 turned out for the GOP tonight — a new record — but that didn’t translate into a groundswell for Trump.

10:53 – Trump gave a remarkably short but still gracious speech. Professed his love for Iowa, jokingly suggests he might buy a farm there. Remake of Green Acres?

10:47 – Rubio’s speech clearly aimed at reuniting the GOP, but it’s a little early for that. He made a couple of references to faith, thanked Huckabee, and congratulated Cruz. Didn’t have much to say to Trump, however.

10:37 – An ebullient Marco Rubio offers up a big “I told you so” to nay-sayers. He’s still technically within reach of a second-place finish. He’s fired up and so are his supporters, and he’s claiming momentum rolling into New Hampshire.

10:30: Huckabee suspends his campaign.

10:27: CNN calls it for Cruz, too.

10:25: Fox calls it for Cruz, and predicts Trump will hold off Rubio to finish in second place. No call from CNN yet.

10:21: With 99% of the precincts counted, it’s pretty clear that Ted Cruz is cruising to a win. However, there are more votes – 99% reflects the percentage of the expected vote, and the turnout was huge tonight. Rubio’s within a percentage point of Trump, just barely out of second place.

9:57: CNN reporting that Martin O’Malley will suspend his campaign in the next 40 minutes. Will anyone notice?

9:42: 50% of the precincts reporting, it’s now 29-25-21, Cruz-Trump-Rubio. If Trump loses to Cruz, it will call into question his choice to skip the debate. But it will still show that Trump’s celebrity/earned-media strategy is working more than people thought it would.

9:37: With about 43% of the vote in for the GOP, the top three candidates are all in the 20s now. Carson’s out of double digits. The Democratic race is now 51/49 Hillary, but Sanders has picked up a little momentum in the past few minutes. Interesting — especially if Cruz ends up with the W.

9:22: With 25% of the vote it, CNN has it Cruz at 30%, Trump 27%, and Rubio 19%. Carson still hanging in double digits at 10%. The medalists are pretty clear, as we expected.

Update, 9:08 ET: Lots of commentary, not so much solid numbers yet. However, looking beyond IA, Rubio will get Tim Scott’s endorsement in South Carolina. Interesting. Meanwhile, CNN’s entrance poll shows that evangelicals in Iowa split nearly evenly between Rubio, Trump, and Cruz. However, Cruz at this point leads the actual count that has come it, with about 14% of the precincts reporting.

Original post follows …

For the first time in the 2016 cycle, voters get to participate in a poll that really counts. At least, they will in this cycle for Republicans, after the RNC stepped in to end a ridiculous charade that ended up embarrassing the party in 2012. Prior to this, the Iowa caucus did not bind delegates to any presidential candidate; those got chosen at Iowa’s state conventions later, usually held in June, long after the primary races have been decided. Rick Santorum narrowly won the GOP’s caucuses in 2012, but 22 of the state’s 28 delegates went to Ron Paul after his followers succeeded in seizing control of the state convention. The RNC passed a new rule that Iowa must now cast its 30 delegates in proportion to the outcome of the caucuses on the first ballot, at least among those candidates remaining in the race.  Had they not agreed to that first-ballot commitment, the RNC would have withdrawn its recognition of the event.

For Democrats, who have 44 delegates at stake, the split is a little more complex:

Iowa Democrats award delegates proportionally, based on the statewide vote as well as the vote in individual congressional districts.

Candidates must get at least 15 percent of the statewide vote to win any statewide delegates. They must win at least 15 percent of the vote in individual congressional districts to win the delegates allocated to those districts.

The threshold could be a problem for former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, who is polling below 15 percent in pre-election polls in Iowa.

In a tight contest, it is possible for two candidates to split the delegates evenly.

Republicans will hold only one round of voting and use that count for the overall delegate assignment. Democrats in some caucuses will have to hold two or more rounds after eliminating O’Malley, so it may take a little more time to know who won.

Allahpundit gave his prediction earlier today: Trump 30, Cruz 28, Rubio 17. I’m loathe to predict either order or percentages, but those three clearly will be the medalists, and between them should take up about two-thirds of the vote. Who drops out after this? Not Jeb Bush, who has money and New Hampshire to fight yet, and probably not John Kasich or Chris Christie either, neither of whom put much effort into Iowa anyway. Absent a huge surprise, we can expect to say bye-bye to Santorum, Huckabee, Fiorina, Rand Paul (who needs to start working on his Senate campaign), and possibly Ben Carson too, whose campaign is falling apart. Jim Gilmore would say goodbye if he ever really said hello in the first place.

Still, Donald Trump told ABC News this morning that he’s a bit nervous:

Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump admitted this morning he’s nervous heading into tonight’s Iowa caucuses.

“You have to be a little bit nervous but you have to want to win,” Trump said in a phone interview on “Good Morning America.”

“I just hope everybody is going to be able to get out and vote.”

Even if his top-level, celebrity-driven campaign model fails to turn out the vote, Trump has time to correct for it in subsequent states. He has a big polling advantage in South Carolina, and can start doing some hiring if needed. His funds are practically unlimited, an advantage that he still hasn’t had to play as yet in this race against the other Republican candidates. It’s inconceivable that he’d finish lower than third, and almost inconceivable that he’d drop below second. The top three in Iowa basically all have bragging rights, and Trump’s no different in that respect.

What about the Democratic caucuses? I’d bet on Bernie Sanders taking an edge over Hillary Clinton, but the Democrats’ superdelegate structure might push the count narrowly back in Hillary’s favor. Anything less than a blowout for Hillary will look like a loss, though, especially since she’s about to lose New Hampshire in a very, very big way. And here’s another thing to watch — the total turnout for both parties. Iowa is a swing state, and if the GOP has a significantly better night than Democrats in a caucus where both nominations are up for grabs, then Debbie Wasserman Schultz will have her work cut out for her in November. If it goes the other way around, the same can be said for Reince Priebus.

Townhall will have the primary results here. We’ll offer some updates as the night wears on, but the GOP results shouldn’t take long to come in — they’re expecting to know them by 8:30 pm CT or so, possibly earlier. Stay tuned.

Update: “This is very unusual, to announce that you’re going home to rest for a few days…”

Update: The Carson campaign is saying this isn’t a change, and that Carson always planned for resting a couple of days after Iowa. Well, perhaps, but that’s a curious strategy for a primary coming up in eight days.

 

Tags: caucuses Iowa