What did Iowa mean to the Democratic and Republican race for President? The impact of expectations plays a central role in interpreting the results.
Marco Rubio, who finished third in the race, clearly gained more momentum than Donald Trump, who finished second. Bernie Sanders, who finished a very close second on the Democratic side, clearly gained more than Hillary Clinton, who won.
Who sets up these expectations and why do they seem to overrule the intent of the voters? Once again, polling and the opinions of media pundits figure prominently in the process. These experts interpret the voting results and thus drive public opinion in an influential manner.
Hillary Clinton was touted as gaining momentum in the final days so the fact that the race was so close for so long punctured her air of invincibility and drove the campaign staff into damage control mode. She claimed victory when the final results were far from certain, and the fact that she eked it out in the end did little to boost her campaign.
On the Republican side, finishing first among the Republican establishment candidates gave Mr. Rubio an aura of destiny as the focal point for moderate conservatives, someone to rally around to prevent the more unconventional impact of a Cruz victory.
And what about poor Donald Trump? Someone who promised us victories without end must now contend with being a loser in the first test of his philosophy. Many thought he was “closing” the deal in the final days, that his ferocious attacks on Ted Cruz would save the day. They didn’t.
Now, it’s on to New Hampshire and a more conventional election. We’ll see if Mr. Trump can hold on there in a way he failed to do in Iowa. But the person who told us we would win so much we would become bored with it may find it harder to fulfill that promise.