Ted Cruz won last week's Iowa caucuses, exceeding expectations and capturing an impressive 27 percent of the vote. Donald Trump took second place, while Marco Rubio took third.
What happened next? There was a massive wave of media coverage about how "Marco Rubio was the real winner in Iowa." By exceeding expectations, the argument goes, Rubio generated positive buzz that will help him raise money, recruit volunteers, and win later primary contests. That, in turn, could consolidate his status as the choice of the party's mainstream.
The betting markets mirror this conventional wisdom. Before Iowa, markets thought Trump was most likely to win, followed by Rubio and then Cruz. After Cruz won Iowa, Rubio's odds on one market surged from 34 percent to 61 percent. But Cruz remained mired in third place — with the same market giving him a 12 percent chance of capturing the nomination.
Then in Saturday's Republican debates, Rubio had his "glitch," repeating the exact same two sentences three times in five minutes. Rubio's odds fell from 60 percent to 44 percent, while Trump's rose from 22 to 32 percent. But Cruz's odds remained stuck at 12 percent.
This is ridiculous. Getting third place in Iowa is pretty good, but getting first place is better. And there's no good reason to simply assume Cruz is going to be a one-state wonder. Cruz is in a dead heat with Rubio in national polls taken since Iowa. And he's only about 2 percentage points behind Rubio in New Hampshire polls, a state whose Republican voters are known for supporting more centrist candidates.
Of course, nothing is certain in a race as chaotic as this one. But elite pessimism about Cruz says more about the biases of media and Beltway insiders than it does about the Republican primary itself...