Little Time To Celebrate Iowa; It's On To New Hampshire
DAVID GREENE, HOST:
And I'm David Greene at a coffee shop in Des Moines, Iowa. Well, caucus night is over. Ted Cruz was the winner on the Republican side. Hillary Clinton won on the Democratic side by a razor-thin margin. And then came this ritual in American politics - a caravan of planes left Des Moines and headed overnight for Manchester, N.H. I am joined in this coffee shop in Des Moines by two of my colleagues who cover politics, Susan Davis and Don Gonyea. Hello to you both.
DON GONYEA, BYLINE: Glad to be here.
SUSAN DAVIS, BYLINE: Hey, David.
GREENE: So Don (laughter) you just drove through what looks like a blizzard outside to get here in time to go on the air. I just wanted to make that clear to people. How was it?
GONYEA: It got worse as I drove. And about halfway through, I thought I couldn't go back.
GREENE: Oh, yes...
GONYEA: So here I am.
GREENE: Well, we're glad you did, you crossed that halfway point. You know, that caravan I mentioned of those planes going from Des Moines to Manchester, you have made that trip.
GONYEA: Eight years ago after Barack Obama won the Iowa caucuses, you had the big speech at the convention center downtown. We loaded into vans and flew overnight from Des Moines to - I think we went to Portsmouth or somewhere. We didn't go to Manchester. But there's that moment where you're sitting on the tarmac and you think the day is done. But actually, the next day has already begun because you know you won't sleep on the flight.
GREENE: There's no sleep.
GONYEA: And I seem to recall as we were on the tarmac that night, you were on the tarmac that night as well...
GONYEA: ...On the Hillary Clinton plane.
GONYEA: The Obama plane, the candidate and the staff were much happier than the guys you were covering were.
GREENE: Much happier indeed. The Clinton campaign was not happy 8 years ago, but they sounded happy last night. And our colleague Tamara Keith was on that Clinton Campaign plane just as the final results were coming in. And we spoke to her just as she landed in Manchester.
TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: There was no Wi-Fi on the flight. And when we landed, it took a minute for everybody to turn on their phones and then a round of applause when the front of the plane where the staff was seated. Then the press secretary came on the loudspeaker and announced the Iowa Democratic Party had declared Hillary Clinton the winner in Iowa, and the staff applauded once again.
GREENE: Well, what happens now as we move to New Hampshire? I mean, this is a place where Bernie Sanders has been ahead in the polls. He's from right next door in Vermont. I mean, this could be tough territory for Hillary Clinton if she's coming out of Iowa with such a narrow victory and in a state that she might not win.
KEITH: It is incredibly tough territory for Hillary Clinton. And her campaign has sort of been downplaying expectations here in New Hampshire for a couple of months now. They really feel like those polls that show Bernie Sanders way ahead, they're onto something. And that's why the campaign has been repeating this line - well, you know, he is from the neighboring states, hoping to not make it look like there's too much Bernmentum if he does ultimately win New Hampshire. But, you know, she's planning to campaign hard here. She has two events here later today.
GREENE: And you were last night, Tam, in a room full of Clinton supporters. And we should say at a time when it looked like the race was a virtual tie. It hadn't been declared for her yet. What was the mood at that point?
KEITH: They were in a fairly good mood. I talked to a man named Chris Hopkins (ph). He came in from Austin, Texas. He has a pro-Hillary blog and asked him how he was feeling.
CHRIS HOPKINS: Well, I keep hearing that it looks like it's a done deal, and she did say she breathed a sigh of relief. So I'm just - I'm waiting on the results like everybody else. It's so close. It's amazing.
KEITH: And that just gives you a sense of the great uncertainty that there was well after she left the ballroom last night.
GREENE: And tell me a little bit about what Hillary Clinton had to say, Tam. Again, we should say at a time when, you know, the results were not clear.
KEITH: Yeah, she came out on stage and said that she was breathing a sigh of relief and that she was looking forward to a very serious debate with Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. And now that Martin O'Malley is out of the race, it will be a one-on-one matchup where they will be able to in upcoming debates and stump speeches on the trail debate ideas.
GREENE: All right, we should say, as you said, Sam Sanders is with Bernie Sander's campaign, and we're going to be hearing from him and get a sense of the mood from that campaign elsewhere on the show. Martin O'Malley, as you mentioned, former Maryland governor, was the third candidate in this race. He has now dropped out. Just briefly, Tam, what happened to his aspirations?
KEITH: You know, it was sort of a failure to lift off. He really never got above low single digits. I think that Bernie Sanders took a lot of the steam away from him.
GREENE: There you go, all right, NPR's Tamara Keith on very little sleep has landed with the Clinton campaign in Manchester, N.H. Thanks, Tam.
KEITH: You're welcome.
GREENE: All right, I'm here with two of my other colleagues, Susan Davis and Don Gonyea. And let's turn if we can to the Republican race as it moves to New Hampshire. And Sue, you've been covering Marco Rubio, who, even though he finished third, it seems like it was a strong third. And he has some - there's some expectation that he might be able to sort of carry this establishment candidate mantle as things move on to New Hampshire.
DAVIS: Right. And there's this question of all these lower-tier candidates that are still in the race. So they look in New Hampshire - look into Iowa and going into New Hampshire and start to move towards Rubio. An important thing to know about New Hampshire that's different than Iowa is if you don't get 10 percent in the state - that's the threshold - you get zero delegates. So in that sense, New Hampshire is going to be another winnowing of this field. So for Rubio, better than 10 - which he's kind of at 10 right now - anything above is going to be good for him. He needs to be above that 10-point mark. And all these guys in the single digits, if they can't get better - they didn't do well here - if they don't do well in New Hampshire, then maybe we do get closer to this being a strictly three-person field as we go into South Carolina.
GREENE: Don Gonyea, one person who is polling well above that threshold right now in New Hampshire is Donald Trump. But disappointment that he did win here in Iowa after leading in the polls these final days?
GONYEA: Oh, absolutely disappointed. They, you know, wanted to win. They probably expected to win because I think they just expect to win. But this - the caucuses and the vote last night showed that, you know, a great on-the-ground organization, which Ted Cruz had - which Ted Cruz has here works. And the Trump campaign was not - you know, he didn't wander into a coffee shop like this one. He didn't hit the bookstore. It was all those big events with maybe 1,000 or 2000 or in some cases 10,000 or 12,000 people. The big question was will so many of these people who were new to the process, energized by his celebrity, his message, whatever it was - would they turn out? And it's not that they didn't, but the Cruz folks, especially the organization and the help of the evangelical groups, really, really, really did that job.
GREENE: All right, well, let's hear from the winner, Sen. Ted Cruz. Our colleague Sarah McCammon spent last night at Cruz headquarters.
SARAH MCCAMMON, BYLINE: Ted Cruz got to make the victory speech he was hoping for last night. He started by thanking God and praising the grassroots organization that helped him win.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
TED CRUZ: Iowa has sent notice that the Republican nominee and the next president of the United States will not be chosen by the media.
MCCAMMON: In a room full of hundreds of cheering supporters on the Iowa State Fairgrounds, Cruz repeated themes from his stump speech, taking on both the media and the Washington establishment. He said the next president will be chosen...
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
CRUZ: By we the people - the American people.
MCCAMMON: Cruz ran a textbook campaign for a Republican caucus winner in Iowa, building a network of thousands of volunteers, tapping into support from evangelicals and visiting all of Iowa's 99 counties. In the week before the caucuses, Cruz made as many as half a dozen stops a day while Trump was back and forth between Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. At the campaign's election night headquarters, communications director Rick Tyler said Cruz's strategy worked. And Trump's massive rallies didn't deliver a win.
RICK TYLER: People turned out for these huge events and - but they don't turn out to vote. So, you know, the reality has hit the reality star.
MCCAMMON: Political observers had speculated that a large turnout would be a good sing for Trump. But Republicans turned out in record numbers and gave Cruz the win.
TED STURGELL: We feel great.
STEVE BOGIS: Feeling awesome, great night, awesome night.
MCCAMMON: Ted Sturgell (ph) and Steve Bogis (ph) were celebrating with the campaign. Bogis said he was drawn to Cruz's conservative Christian message and his reputation for taking on the Washington establishment.
BOGIS: He's solid and he fights. He doesn't give up. He won't back down.
MCCAMMON: Cruz will have to fight hard in New Hampshire, which holds the nation's first primary next week. Trump is way ahead in the polls, and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio has picked up momentum after his strong third-place showing in Iowa. Sturgell said if anyone can take down Trump, it Cruz.
STURGELL: The polls were wrong at Iowa.
STURGELL: Iowans came out and proved the pollsters wrong, so anything is possible. You've just got to believe.
MCCAMMON: Believe and campaign hard. That's why Cruz wrapped up his victory speech and got on a plane to New Hampshire. Sarah McCammon, NPR News, Des Moines.
GREENE: You know, this campaign in Iowa has been full of so many magical moments. I saw one last night. I was at a caucus, and the undecideds were in one part of the room. And the chair said, undecideds, do you have someone who's going to be your chair? And they said, we can't decide.
GREENE: Don Gonyea, any moment stand out to you in Iowa?
GONYEA: Well, it's an undecided thing. I was in Johnston, at a middle school and so many people I talked to hadn't decided until just in the past couple of days. We hear that, but it was really striking, and a lot of those I talked to went for Rubio. So I came out of there feeling this could be a good night for him.
GREENE: Sue Davis?
DAVIS: I was at the Machine Shed yesterday morning, a restaurant here near town.
GREENE: A well-known restaurant with very good food.
DAVIS: Yes, and I met a kid who is from New Zealand, and he paid his own way to come to Iowa because he was so enamored of this process and the state to be here. And it was nice to be reminded that, you know, our politics often seem negative but they can be really aspirational - inspirational to a lot of other people.
GREENE: I bet it was worth the trip.
DAVIS: Yes, he was very happy to be here.
GREENE: My colleagues Sue Davis, Don Gonyea, joining us here as a blizzard is outside at Smokey Row Coffee shop in Des Moines. Thank you both.
DAVIS: Thanks David.
GONYEA: It was fun.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.