Media Fall For Rubio's Spin On Iowa Results, Declare Third Place A “Win”

Media outlets fell for Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio's Iowa caucus strategy by calling the presidential hopeful “the unofficial winner” in Iowa and declaring his third place finish a victory for his campaign.

Marco Rubio Came In Third Place In The Iowa Caucus, Trailing Behind Ted Cruz and Donald Trump

Marco Rubio Finishes Third In Iowa Caucus Behind Cruz And Trump. Results from the 2016 Iowa caucus showed that Cruz was declared the winner with 27.7 percent of the vote, Donald Trump came in second with 24.3 percent and Marco Rubio came in third, winning 23.1 percent of the vote. [Wall Street Journal2/1/16]

Huffington Post's Nick Baumann Warns Media: Don't Believe Rubio's Spin, His “Performance In Iowa Doesn't Mean He Won Anything”

Huffington Post: “Don't Let The Media And Marco Rubio Tell You He 'Won' By Finishing Third In Iowa.” In a February 1 Huffington Post article, senior enterprise editor Nick Baumann warned that although Rubio finished third in the Iowa Republican caucus “much of the media will tell you that this means he was the real winner.” Baumann argued that while reporters know “they're being spun,” they shouldn't “take the bait,” adding that “Rubio's performance in Iowa doesn't mean he won anything. It just means he still has a chance”:

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) finished third in the Iowa Republican caucuses on Monday. His campaign and much of the media will tell you that this means he was the real winner of the first-in-the-nation contest. Don't believe them.

College debater-turned-pro Ted Cruz, the Texas senator whom even other senators hate, won the caucuses. Famed racist and lying liar Donald Trump finished second. Rubio finished third.

The news runs on surprise. People click on stories that surprise them. Things that are expected to happen -- like Trump and Cruz fighting it out for first place in Iowa -- are less surprising. Politicians know this and take advantage of it. Politicos call this the “expectations game” -- setting expectations of your performance at a certain level so that you can do “better than expected” and be the focus of the headlines.

The spin is already happening. “This is the moment they told us would never happen,” Rubio saidMonday night. “They told me we had no chance.” His campaign manager, Alex Conant, struck a similar tune. “This is a big night for us,” Conant said. “It's probably a three-person race leaving here. If you don't want Trump or Cruz to be the nominee, you better get on board with Marco Rubio.”

Reporters know they're being spun, but they go with it anyway. “It'll annoy Rubio detractors that his expectations management game worked, he overperformed, and it'll have an impact in his coverage,” Commentary's Noah Rothman tweeted Friday. Experts expect the press to be played like a fiddle. “We can call this right now: Marco Rubio will be the flavor of the week,” election law expert Rick Hasen tweeted Monday.

The press doesn't have to -- and shouldn't -- take the bait.


Rubio could very well be the Republican nominee. He will likely be able to sign up more major donors and score a few endorsements by citing his Iowa results. And he'll have at least one fewer opponent to worry about: Mike Huckabee, the former governor of Arkansas, suspended his campaign Monday night. But Rubio's performance in Iowa doesn't mean he won anything. It just means he still has a chance.[Huffington Post, 2/1/16]

Media Spin Rubio's Third Place Finish As “A Win For Marco Rubio

CNN's New Day: Margaret Hoover: “This Was Absolutely ... A Win For Marco Rubio.” During the February 2 edition of CNN's New Day, CNN political commentator Margaret Hoover declared Rubio's third place finish “a win” and said “if you listen to the words he used in his speech, you would have thought he won number one, not number three”:

ALISYN CAMEROTA (CO-HOST): Margaret, Marco Rubio, was last night a game changer for what happens to him going forward?

MARGARET HOOVER: Yeah. Expectations, expectations, expectations. The expectation was Trump and Cruz. Marco Rubio coming within 2,000 votes of Donald Trump --

CHRIS CUOMO (CO-HOST): Same number of delegates.

HOOVER: That is a win. If you listen to the words he used in his speech, you would have thought he won number one, not number three. This was absolutely, for Marco Rubio coming into new Hampshire wind at his sails, a win for Marco Rubio and now he can actually go back and say I am a viable mainstream establishment candidate giving cause, common cause, for the other candidates and other supporters and donor money to rally around him. [CNN, New Day2/2/16

Vanity Fair: “Marco Rubio Is The Real Winner Of The Iowa Caucuses.” A February 1 Vanity Fair article declared Rubio “the unofficial winner” of the 2016 Iowa caucus, arguing that “his shockingly strong showing, coming in at third place with 23 percent ... immediately changed the dynamic of the race.” The article did acknowledge that Rubio “purposefully downplayed expectations for his campaign leading up to the first electoral test ... setting himself up for the equivalent of an upset victory”:

Ted Cruz was the victor of the Iowa Republican caucuses Monday night, beating Donald Trump by four percent. But the unofficial winner of the night was Marco Rubio. His shockingly strong showing, coming in at third place with 23 percent, only one point behind the presumed front-runner Donald Trump, immediately changed the dynamic of the race by demonstrating that contrary to polls and several op-eds predicting the demise of the moderate Republican, the establishment is alive, well, and very much pro-Rubio.

Rubio, long aware that he had little chance of outright winning Iowa, purposefully downplayed expectations for his campaign in the weeks leading up to the first electoral test of the 2016 presidential race, setting himself up for the equivalent of an upset victory. The Florida senator now heads into moderate-friendly New Hampshire with enough momentum to potentially strip significant votes away from the remaining establishment candidates, consolidating his position as the single viable anti-Cruz, anti-Trump candidate. At the moment, Granite State polls have Rubio running nearly neck-and-neck with John Kasich and handily beating Jeb Bush and Chris Christie. Proving that he could nearly topple Trump in the Midwest will almost certainly propel Rubio to a similarly strong finish in New Hampshire, cementing his status as the best bet for deep-pocketed Republican benefactors, particularly those donors who are already drifting away from Bush's sputtering campaign. [Vanity Fair2/1/16]

ReutersCruz Won, “But There Was Another Big Winner In Iowa ... Marco Rubio.” A February 2 Reuters article declared that while Cruz may have won the 2016 Iowa caucus, Rubio “was another big winner in Iowa.” The article noted that Rubio gave “what amounted to a victory speech” when he took the stage after the results were announced:

Texas Senator Ted Cruz was victorious in the first Republican nomination contest of the 2016 White House race, but there was another big winner in Iowa on Monday night: Florida Senator Marco Rubio and the Republican establishment.

For months, Cruz and Donald Trump's brand of angry, scorched-earth, insurgent politics defined the race for the Republican presidential nomination, while more moderate candidates tussled with themselves to try to mount a challenge to them.

The hope among Republican party leaders has long been for a champion to emerge. And on Monday, that person was Rubio, who finished a hair behind Trump and only a few points behind Cruz.

When Rubio took the stage in a hotel ballroom after the final results were announced, he gave what amounted to a victory speech. “This is the moment they said would never happen,” the first-term senator said. “For months, they told us we had no chance.”[Reuters, 2/2/16]