Republican caucus-goers cast their ballots at Pella High School in Pella, Iowa, Feb. 1, 2016. (Eric Thayer/The New York Times)
Donald J. Trump has been saying all along his opponents are idiots. They're all losers, he says. And now, of course, he's lost the Republican caucuses in Iowa, the first real delegate-choosing election of the 2016 campaign. Mr. Trump is a loser, and that's something loud-mouthed demagogues can't abide.
"I don't feel any pressure," he told reporters in New Hampshire, the second stop on the long, winding trail that will terminate at the Republican convention in Cleveland in July. "We'll do what I have to do." For the first time, though, he seemed tired and lacking in his usual bombast, reporters said.
It seems to me, viewing this from my own living room, that Iowa showed to all of us that the billionaire wears no clothes. He is, one pundit said, a phony.
The winner in Iowa was Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, who did what Mr. Trump should have done. He put together a professional army of Iowa foot soldiers who managed to get out the vote. Mr. Cruz's appeal in Iowa was directed at the state's large body of evangelical Christians, who won't figure so prominently elsewhere.
Coming in third was Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, who (when he isn't playing up to the Tea Party) seems to make some sense. He is, everyone says, the candidate to watch. Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey indicated a likely line of attack. "I'm not the boy in the bubble," he said, suggesting that the senator isolates himself from voters. "This isn't a student council election, everybody," Mr. Christie said.
Jeb Bush, once long ago the favorite to win this nomination, came in sixth in Iowa with 2.8 percent of the vote and a single delegate. He and his super PAC spent a staggering $14 million for TV ads, more than anyone has ever spent in Iowa. That works out to something like $2,800 per vote. Most candidates would throw in the towel, but Mr. Bush, with millions left to spend, says he will soldier on.
On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton won. "She not only got more votes than Bernie Sanders but got more votes than any Republican candidate, and she become the first woman ever to win the Iowa caucuses," Dana Milbank, the Washington Post's liveliest columnist, said. "Let's cut her some slack."
Iowa did, however, reveal a glaring weakness – her inability to attract much support from younger voters. In Iowa, they voted overwhelmingly for Mr. Sanders.
Why? He is, after all, 74 years old, a little cranky, and an avowed democratic socialist, whatever that is (he's been, officially, a Democrat since last year). He propounds "revolutionary" changes in government policy, none of which has a snowball's chance of being enacted. So what's his secret? Young people, I read the other day, think he's "cool." And Ms. Clinton isn't. Cool, that is.
James M. Perry, a prominent veteran political reporter, contributes regular observations to post-gazette.com. Mr. Perry was the chief political correspondent of The Wall Street Journal until his retirement. Prior to that, he covered national politics for the Dow Jones weekly, The National Observer.