Opinion: Trump lost, thank God, and other campaign observations

Good morning. I'm Paul Thornton, The Times' letters editor, and it is Saturday, Feb. 5. Eight years ago Friday, California's primary actually mattered. Here's a look back at the week in Opinion.

You don't read this often in a Times editorial: Thank you, Ted Cruz, for your service to America.

Donald Trump, the heretofore clear Republican frontrunner, heads into the New Hampshire primary still the favorite to win that contest, but now with the label he and his supporters detest: loser. His disappointing second-place finish in Iowa last Monday is a victory for Cruz — and the country, says The Times editorial board:

As much as he excites hard-right conservatives, Sen. Ted Cruz remains a problematic potential presidential nominee for many voters — including Republicans who want to win the White House in November. But even some of Cruz’s critics have reason to celebrate the Texas senator’s first-place finish in the Iowa caucuses. By denying Donald Trump a victory — by turning him into what he most despises, a loser — Cruz may have helped not only his party but also the country dodge a lethal bullet.

Iowa may be just the first of many states to stage a pre-convention contest, but a victory for the boorish and bigoted real-estate mogul would have been a seismic — and embarrassing — event. In some respects, Cruz is just as extreme as Trump, and may even be more vulnerable in November’s general election. And far from campaigning against partisan paralysis in Washington, Cruz has championed it. But by besting Trump, he has slowed what some in the party feared was a runaway train, creating space not only for himself but also for other, less divisive candidates, notably Sen. Marco Rubio.

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Rand Paul's out, and that's a bad thing. Jon Healey, The Times' deputy editorial page editor, laments the Kentucky senator's departure from the GOP campaign, noting that Paul was that rare candidate who highlighted the substantive differences he had with the rest of the Republican field: "While other Republicans called for increasingly extreme military action against Islamic State (with Sen. Ted Cruz winning the prize with his promise to drop enough bombs to make the sand glow), Paul stuck to his position that American intervention in the Middle East had only made matters worse there. And when other Republicans pledged to spend a king's ransom "rebuilding the military," Paul chastised them (and especially Sen. Marco Rubio) for running up the national debt." L.A. Times

Iowa shmiowa, say readers. And for all the usual reasons: It's a small, overwhelmingly white state; victory there rarely leads to victory in November; and we're Californians, so why should we care? Letter writer John Trask of Thousand Oaks sums up the broad reader sentiment nicely: "It boggles my mind that the media place so much importance on such a tiny victory in a small state known primarily for growing corn." L.A. Times

Jeb Bush: great governor and administrator, terrible presidential candidate. He entered the Republican race with more money and connections than any other candidate, and will probably soon leave with nothing to show for it. Matt Latimer, a speechwriter during the presidential administration of Jeb Bush's older brother, says the former Florida governor simply doesn't understand that the race for president is as much a personality contest as it is about competence: "Does anyone other than Jeb Bush believe that Americans marvel at how efficiently the president cleans out his inbox? Or applaud him for successfully refereeing a dispute between the secretaries of commerce and agriculture? The voters aren't looking for an administrator-in-chief." L.A. Times

Gerrik Thomas: a black life that you haven't heard about that ended but still mattered. The 21-year-old was killed on a South L.A. street last month, but there were no protests organized in his memory. That's probably because he wasn't killed by a cop, just like several other killings of young black men that didn't receive much attention L.A. Times

It's raining (and snowing) in California, but don't stop conserving water. The editorial board of the San Diego Union-Tribune helpfully reminds its readers that although the snowpack in the Sierra Nevada is deep and its local water agency has so much water that it's dumping off excess supply, "now is not the time to ease up on water conservation efforts, in San Diego or elsewhere." San Diego Union-Tribune

Will L.A. finally make some progress on homelessness? The editorial board's series on the area's intractable problem and civic shame continues. Carla Hall shares the story of one man's move off a street corner and into a shared apartment, Robert Greene examines the complicated shifting of homeless individuals from incarceration to freedom and Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich defends his colleagues' efforts to address mental illness, drug addiction and other problems linked to homelessness. Click here to read more of The Times' series, "Is this the year L.A. finally takes homelessness seriously?"

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