During the depths of the Second World War, the British army in North Africa secured a decisive victory over Nazi Germany in the Battle of El Alamein. In response to the victory, Winston Churchill delivered one of the most lyrical orations of the 20th century: “The Bright Gleam of Victory.” In this speech, Churchill uttered one of the most famous lines of the war: “Now is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.” As we emerge from the national variety show that was the Iowa caucuses, Churchill’s words echo loudly. Monday night’s caucus represented the end product of months of campaigning, over $70 million in advertising and almost a dozen debates. As the politicos navigate the waters of a post-Iowa world, one can only come to the conclusion that Monday was the end of the beginning.
On Monday, after nearly a year of polls that documented Donald Trump’s meteoric rise, Iowa voters cast the first ballots of the 2016 presidential election. And he lost. This defeat, of course, marks the beginning of the end of his candidacy, the restoration of order to the Republican Party and paves the way for a nominee who can win in November. Or at least that’s how some pundits have portrayed it. Yet, as Trump has just learned, repeatedly saying something still doesn’t make it true.
The campaigning in preparation for the Iowa caucuses has rewritten the traditional playbook for how to win a presidential election. Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, the $100-million man who smashed previous fundraising records when he declared his run for the nomination, has struggled to register in national and statewide polls. Senator Ted Cruz, the architect of the 2013 government shutdown and a Senator with virtually no congressional allies, has benefited from the contentious political environment and found traction in Iowa and throughout the SEC primary states. Governing experience is a liability, and policy rollouts have proved trivial. A billionaire businessman and reality-TV star is about to find out if his frontrunner status is built upon his celebrity or actual votes.