Ted Cruz didn't defeat Donald Trump Monday night in Iowa.
Trump defeated himself.
I have no doubt that polls showing Trump leading in Iowa — and across the nation — have been largely accurate.
Trump is fresh, bold, brash and brave. His message is resonating with millions of Americans.
In some ways, he could be starting a Great Awakening in American politics, paving the way for "outsiders" to finally have their voice heard in Washington.
If Trump were elected president, it would be historic — the first "Citizen President." Every president to date has been a politician or general.
But Iowa underscores that Trump's great strengths can turn into fatal weaknesses, and this phenomena will make his gaining the nomination difficult.
Trump lost Iowa largely for one reason: he crushed Ben Carson.
Remember the likable doctor who was leading in Iowa polls?
Trump hit Dr. Ben hard, questioning his integrity and even his medical acumen.
Trump, as we know, is a super-effective communicator. Perhaps the best communicator ever fielded in a GOP race.
Trump used his verbal powers and eviscerated Carson. Carson's poll numbers collapsed, his campaign staff quit and his fundraising machine ground to a halt.
But it was a Pyrrhic victory for Trump because the Carson voters didn't back him — they switched to Cruz!
Poll numbers show Cruz's dramatic rise right after the Carson collapse.
Trump effectively defeated Carson to elect Cruz. Had Carson remained higher in the polls,
he would have become Cruz's target, and the pair would have divided the evangelical vote, paving the way for an easy Trump win.
The lesson of Iowa is this: Reagan's 11th Commandment makes great political sense.
Reagan's directive famously said, "Thou shalt not speak ill of a fellow Republican."
The idea is that GOP rivals can and should vigorously disagree on policy matters — but personal attacks should be avoided at all costs.
Reagan himself fought a bitter primary against Gerald Ford in 1976. But Reagan's campaign was a battle for his ideas — never a personal attack on Ford.
After Iowa, I have little doubt that Donald Trump will continue to lead the GOP field heading into New Hampshire's primary.
But Trump has to remember that as every candidate drops out – especially grassroots conservatives like Rand Paul, Ben Carson, Mike Huckabee, Carly Fiorina, and Rick Santorum — their supporters have to go somewhere.
Trump's sharp attacks on his fellow GOP rivals will make capturing these voters difficult. For the moment, Ted Cruz seems more inviting to them.
Back in November, after Trump had dominated the polls for so long, he should have made a strategic pivot to reach out to critics and take the high road.
He waited until tonight to do so. His concession speech was terrific, with a perfect tone.
"I love the people of Iowa," Trump said as he graciously congratulated Ted Cruz.
If Trump takes this new tack in the wake of Iowa, he just may win this yet.
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