Trump secured 35% of the vote in the crowded GOP field, largely confirming the polls. Coming in second was John Kasich, a self-described "angel of light" and moderate candidate who has a woeful record on immigration and seems to have attracted the votes of those angered by Trump's brash style. Third place was almost too close to call, but as of this writing it appeared Ted Cruz had edged out Jeb Bush, who in turn defeated Marco Rubio by a slim margin.
Arguably, as predicted yesterday, this is the best case scenario for Trump. Rubio's fifth place finish (assuming it holds through the night) significantly reduces Marco's "existential threat" to the historic American nation. Only a few days ago, Rubio looked poised to consolidate the Republican Establishment behind him. Instead, the Establishment (by which we mean the group in the Republican Party pushing for open borders) goes into South Carolina hopelessly divided, with Jeb Bush, John Kasich, and Marco Rubio all still in the race. With none of the candidates having a real reason to drop out, they'll tear each other apart as they did in New Hampshire.
What's more, Trump's Narrative of inevitability is re-established. Trump was accused of "whining" when he repeatedly brought up how Ted Cruz's campaign told Iowa voters Ben Carson had dropped out of the race. But Trump's move was strategic. Cruz's Iowa victory has an asterisk now, while Trump can boast a decisive victory in the first primary of the campaign.
What about Ted Cruz? He should be feeling good about the results tonight. Cruz's superior organization and appeal to self-defined "very conservative" voters allowed him to secure third place, but it also showed the limits of his coalition. Still, he should do better in the South, where there are more evangelical Christians and "very conservative" voters.
Immigration patriots can rejoice. If one year ago, someone had said both the winner of the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary would be opponents of amnesty, we would have been thrilled. Marco Rubio, the Establishment's great hope, has been humbled. If it's a Ted Cruz vs. Donald Trump race, immigration patriots win either way.
However, it's becoming clear something more is at stake. Trump promises to redefine the Republican Party altogether, transforming it through nationalist policies on trade, immigration, and foreign policy. In contrast, Ted Cruz is running as a "right of the right" movement conservative. To Trump, issues like immigration and trade are defining elements of his coalition, with the latter being especially emphasized in his victory speech tonight. To Cruz, they are simply items on a long checklist, somewhere behind eminent domain, eliminating ethanol subsidies, and moving the American embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.
Movement conservatism may not be enough to cut it anymore. The other big news of the night was the outright Socialist Bernie Sanders's crushing victory over Hillary Clinton. Conservatives shouldn't snark. They should take Sanders seriously.
The American people are frustrated with the System that rules them and impatient with an economic order they see as fundamentally unjust. The Beltway Right is fooling itself if they think there's still a market for a platform of tax cuts for millionaires, open borders, and a neoconservative foreign policy. And as New Hampshire showed tonight, there may not even much of a market for the Conservatism Inc. platform in the Republican Party anymore.
It's time for a change, not just in Washington DC, but within the American Right.