CNN)Donald Trump must be very disappointed to discover that three quarters of Iowa Republicans are weak, low energy and have no interest in making America great again. The rest of the country, meanwhile, has been reminded that the Iowa caucus is a cruel thing to navigate. Many a high-profile, nationally popular campaign has been destroyed on those rocks. Trump’s ship isn’t sunk, but it’ll be taking on water.

You might ask why so many people are surprised by this result. Ted Cruz was always a strong contender, yapping at Trump’s heels — while Marco Rubio had been rising slowly in the polls for some time. History, as I previously argued, was also on Cruz’s side. A lot of Iowans traditionally make up their minds at the last minute; the state favors religious conservatives; and Cruz had an amazing ground operation where Trump relied too much on national exposure.

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Timothy Stanley
Timothy Stanley
The reason why we were reluctant to tip Cruz as the likely winner, however, was because we were all suckered by The Donald’s hype. Trump — who has never run for office before and, therefore, never actually won an election — did a great impression of someone who was already the nominee. He scooped Sarah Palin’s endorsement, along with a few prominent evangelicals, and oozed that brash self-confidence of a man who is virtually unstoppable.

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And polling suggests that Trump did indeed bring many new people into the caucus process. The problem is so did Cruz and Rubio — resulting in a historically high turnout. And both those men enjoyed an anti-establishment dynamic of their own. Cruz won the votes of those who described themselves as very conservative: he is despised by the Washington elite, is anti-ethanol subsidies in a state that deifies them and has a reputation for shutting down government just to make a point. A vote for Cruz was as much a vote of protest as a vote for Trump.

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