Iowa sorts out muddled GOP race

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Buzz Cut:
· Iowa sorts out muddled GOP race
· How long will the Berning sensation last?
· Look ahead at New Hampshire
· Whopper of a prank

DES MOINES, IOWA -- Donald Trump’s bid for a leveraged buyout of the Republican Party took a serious blow in Iowa as the other shareholders started to get organized.

Trump has lots to be unhappy about in Iowa, no doubt. He frittered away an early commanding lead here by both failing to get serious about courting voters soon enough, capping it off by snubbing Iowa’s only Republican presidential debate.

He underperformed the average of pre-election polls by more than 5 points, losing despite having led in the final 13 polls.

But despite some of Trump’s past rhetoric about losing losers and the losses they lose, a second-place finish in a state hardly suited to a Northeastern social moderate isn’t a disaster. And in his concession speech, he struck an unexpectedly gracious note about the Iowans who spurned him.

Despite underperforming, Trump showed that his left-right coalition of voters is real and will turn out, even for a caucus. If he is willing to learn his lessons, Trump could be a formidable contender for the nomination. Those lessons include the need to start advertising and organizing (i.e. spending money) sooner and facing down challenges like debates rather than trying to avoid them.

How he responds to this adversity will tell us a great deal. He holds an astonishing 21-point lead in the Real Clear Politics average of New Hampshire polls and can fairly well bank on a win there on Feb. 9. That’s the kind of comeback he needs.It certainly worked for Mitt Romney.

But the real problem for Trump in Iowa was not that he underperformed – hardly surprising given his status as a celebrity candidate with limited organization – but how the rest of his party behaved.

First, what promises to be a sustained anti-Trump effort made its debut in Iowa and obviously did some damage. The Our Principles PAC and other pro-GOP groups will keep the heat on Trump as the race rolls on. It was overdue move for a party on the brink of a crackup.

But that takes nothing away from the victory of Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who out worked, out spent and out hustled Trump. And in so doing, Cruz mopped up the rest of the right-wing vote. Ben Carson, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., former Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who has already bowed out, won’t make it out of Iowa.

With none of them even close, Cruz can keep his focus on Trump. Even with an acceptance speech that seemed like it would go on until the polls opened in Dixville Notch, N.H., Cruz now has the momentum, money and organization to go the distance.

And the same is true for Sen. Marco Rubio, who was the surprise story of Iowa. His rivals, particularly former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush may claim a sixth-place finish after his organization dumped more cash in the state than any other candidate, isn’t relevant to the next round of contests, but you can stick a fork in him.

The same goes for Gov. Chris Christie, R-N.J., whose 10th place showing will dry up support in upcoming states quicker than a roll of Bounty. You don’t have to win Iowa, but you darned well better be on the first page of the results.

What makes Rubio’s third-place finish, just shy of Trump’s second spot, even more significant is that late-breaking voters surged to him. Every poll suggested that a turnout surge like the one we saw would mean a massive Trump win, but Rubio was the real beneficiary.

If the traditional GOP is consolidating around Rubio this soon, that means Trump will find himself unable to continue to make his case to the Washington establishment that he is a better bad choice than Cruz. Rather than forming his unlikely alliance between pitchfork populism and K Street dealmakers, Trump will have to fight a two-front war.

In Rubio, Republicans are finding a candidate they can live with who also stacks up best against Hillary Clinton. And Iowa just made him a very dangerous man for both Trump and Cruz.

While many were either preparing, or hearing endlessly about the massive snowstorm that hit the East Coast a few weeks ago one agency hunkered down. The Atlantic dives deep into the story of how NASA kept watch in the midst of a blizzard: “On Friday, January 22, as the first snowflakes of a historic blizzard began piling atop America’s east coast, a team of more than twenty engineers and scientists hauled food, clothes, cots, and mattresses into a building at NASA’s Goddard Spaceflight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. The team would remain at the facility until well after the snow let up Sunday morning, keeping watch over a giant, humming ‘Space Environment Simulator.’ The simulator is a cylindrical chamber and, as you might expect from its name, it simulates the conditions of outer space…Sitting inside the Space Environment Simulator are the guts of the most far-seeing camera ever built by humans. This camera will soon be launched into deep space, to image the first stars to flare into being after the Big Bang, and maybe, if we are very lucky, the exhaled gases of life forms that live in the atmospheres of distant planets.”

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Cruz 8; Trump 7; Rubio 7; Carson 3; Paul 1; Bush 1 (1,237 needed to win)

DEMS:  Clinton 22; Sanders 21 (2,382 needed to win)

Whatever else Hillary Clinton wants to call it, she did no better than tie Vermont socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders in Iowa. And now she has an outright defeat in New Hampshire to look forward to. Not a cheery way to start her second presidential run.

That is not to say that she is not still the inevitable Democratic nominee, just that she continues to be a disappointment as a candidate.

Clinton can count on black and Hispanic voters in the South and West to arrest Sanders’ forward momentum, but it shouldn’t be this hard.

It isn’t clear how much of her problem in Iowa related to the ongoing, disturbing developments around her secret email server, or how much was Sanders’ crackle with young voters and ultra-liberal Democrats who make up a big part of the Iowa Democratic electorate.

But as she has discovered before, weakness can be contagious. Sanders poses nothing like the kind of threat Barack Obama did in 2008, but he has certainly shown some of her deficiencies with the Democratic Party.

Looking ahead to New Hampshire, a state with 23 delegates up for grabs, Trump is favored again, but this time he might actually be able to pull it out.

The Granite State is most secular of the early contests, and voters mostly shy from social issues. New Hampshire is also the only early voting state in the Northeast, which is clear Trump territory.

Disaffected Democratic voters facing increasing unemployment, and drug addiction, combined with his supporter stronghold, makes this state a must win for Trump.

It looks like he can pull it off. Trump leads the state by a 21-point margin, according to RCP, followed closely by Ted Cruz and John Kasich. Rubio surprised voters here in Iowa with a strong ground game and turnout among last minute caucus goers, and he could have a chance to sway voters in New Hampshire with his image as the new establishment candidate.

On the Democratic side, the state seems to be Bernie Sanders’ to lose. Although Hillary Clinton won New Hampshire in 2008, Sanders is from neighboring Vermont and took the lead early. Voters in New Hampshire have long known Sanders and know where he comes from on issues. Young voters, who have migrated to the state for college or more affordable living than neighboring Massachusetts, will come out in droves for him once again.

KSBY: “A Morro Bay Burger King is expected to reopen Tuesday morning at 6:30 after police say a prank call about a fake gas leak apparently prompted employees to smash all the windows. On Monday, workers were repairing the estimated $35,000 worth of damages. The fast food chain on Quintana Road has been closed since Sunday. According to police, employees received a call Saturday night from someone pretending to be from the fire department, telling them to ventilate the business. That prompted employees to smash the windows. The manager on duty even used a car to ram into the building. The owner of the fast food restaurant says that person has since been suspended.”

Chris Stirewalt is digital politics editor for Fox News. Want FOX News First in your inbox every day? Sign up here.