After the Caucus: A Letter From Des Moines - OZY | A Modern Media Company

After the Caucus: A Letter From Des Moines

After the Caucus: A Letter From Des Moines

By Carlos Watson


Because now the caravan moves on from Iowa. 

Carlos Watson

Carlos Watson

CEO and co-founder of OZY

Say what you want about Iowans, but they do know how to throw a caucus. As I prepare to take a late plane out of the Hawkeye State, eager for a California cure for my frostbitten fingers and face, here’s my first cut at predictions for the rest of the campaign season. 

The Donald Is Done

Hardly anyone thought Ted Cruz was going to win six months ago. (Besides, well, OZY.) His victory tonight ends phase one of the campaign — call it “The Donald” phase — and kicks off what may be an even more interesting second round. Trump will keep running his megachurch campaign, but his candidacy is over, as surely as Hillary’s was in 2008 or Howard Dean’s was in 2004. When an Iowa “front-runner” loses clearly and unexpectedly, it’s game over — even if he or she hangs around for a few more months, just in case. 

Hillary Won the Nomination

Premature? Perhaps. Bernie Sanders has run an insurgency campaign for the ages, with terrific events and a surprising groundswell of enthusiasm. Were he 20 years younger, I think Bernie would have taken it. But time stops for no one, and like Trump, Bernie will soon fade from the scene. Hillary Clinton will be the nominee, and I write that knowing full well that she’s expected to lose New Hampshire (right now, anyway). By the time she gets to the third contest in South Carolina, her best surrogate (Slick 42) will have a chance to help her over the edge in a way that he wasn’t able to eight years ago.

Oh, Jeb!

Wow. I feel a bit like Marlon Brando in The Godfather: Part II, discussing Sonny’s death with a table full of dons. How did it come to this? How did such an immediately presumptive favorite with so many advantages fall so hard? Blame Trump’s brutal nom de guerre for Jeb (“low energy”) — and Jeb’s failure to respond, too. But still: Wow. The former governor has an ample war chest, and so does his PAC, but never mind — this race is as over for him as it is for Christie, Huckabee, Santorum, Fiorina, Paul, et al. Who else did I forget? Oh yeah, Dr. Carson.

The Cuban-American Century

Growing up in Miami, I watched the rise of Cuban-Americans firsthand; they were, and still are, one of the great American ethnic success stories. For many years, their renown was confined to Florida. No more. Now, with strong showings by Cruz and Rubio, Cuban-Americans are this new century’s latest ethnic “it” group, perhaps one day to be called the “Irish of the South.” They built a base 90 miles from Castro and turned political power into economic power into presidential opportunity. Now, either the son of a preacher or the son of a bartender is likely to become the first Latino nominee of a major presidential party.

Take a step back. Rather than a Mexican-American or a Puerto Rican-American politico ascending, the country’s first Latino nominee is likely to hail from the deceptively small, yet mighty Cuban-American population. We’ll be talking a lot about this story in the months to come. And in the years to come? My money is on Indian-Americans. Nikki Haley, rising to the top? Bobby Jindal, back for the win? We’ll have our eyes on you.

Onward… to New Hampshire

With Donald cut wide open, the other “timid souls” will finally get a chance to compete. And it will be a doozy. Here’s my suggestion: Keep your eye on Mitt Romney and John McCain, New Hampshire’s original favorite son. In 2016, former nominees could become the “deciders,” as a former president once said.

It’s now all about New Hampshire for the rest of the candidates, and for OZY politics reporter Nick Fouriezos, who will continue on with them. Christie will get a look only because the media wants him to have one. Jeb may get a look just because it will be so hard to believe that he has no shot. But in the end, Cruz, Rubio and Kasich will be the main focus. And yes, Kasich may well have a miracle left in him.  

One For the Road

As I traveled around Iowa this past week, I could not stop talking about how so few people get to make this first cut. Iowans constitute less than one percent of the country’s population. And in the end, twice as many people will attend the Super Bowl next Sunday as those who voted for Iowa’s GOP winner — just about 51,000. What a decision they get to make! Take, for instance, the rowdy scene at a Des Moines precinct. For two hours, volunteers hand-counted 561 Democratic caucus-goers, trotting them in and out of a stuffy gym three times, including one miscount. As proud Bernie supporter Debbie Slaikeu, 54, put it: “This is democracy.” Yes, democracy in all its sweaty, convoluted glory — and some precincts were even decided by a coin flip.

Over to You

As our team travels the country and covers the election, we would love to hear what you think. Who will win New Hampshire? After what state will the tables irreversibly tip? Ready to throw down on a bet for VP? Send your predictions to!


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