Tuesday, February 02, 2016

A Few Words On Iowa

The Iowa caucus is over and the results are in...sort of.

On the Republican side, Ted Cruz ended up winning by just over three points, earning 8 delegates. Donald Trump finished second earning 7 delegates and Marco Rubio had a surprisingly decent third place finish, finishing about a point and a half behind Trump and also earning 7 delegates.

The Democrats are an entirely different story, although the contest was officially called for Hillary Clinton..so far. She ended up with 49.86% to Bernie Sanders 49.57, but there were apparently a few irregularities. The Microsoft app used to tally votes for the Democrats failed utterly in some areas, the vote tallies from something like 90 precincts were mysteriously delayed, and six precincts were literally decided by coin tosses...all of which Mrs. Clinton somehow won. Just try replicating that one in your own home. If you manage to get it right six times in a row, don't waste your time reading this any further. You're obviously telekinetic and should head to Vegas and the roulette wheel as fast as you can!

In any event, Bernie Sanders is understandably calling for access to the raw votes. Of course, by the time he gets them, the caravan will probably have moved on. At any rate, just like Mrs. Clinton's e-mail irregularities, this is probably just that vast, right wing conspiracy in action again, yes?

All that aside, what can we take away from all this?

In spite of the outsized coverage Iowa doesn't mean much in the big picture except to political junkies, pundits and media talking heads. The state is small, largely rural and mostly white and retail politics matter more here than in larger, more urban states where the population is more diverse and the media markets more important. And there's the unique caucus system where actual votes can be overridden by sheer organization that skews results. Nevertheless, it is still an important testing ground for the appeal of candidates and ultimately, a battle ground state in the general election to come.

Ted Cruz's victory here is a testimony to the fact that organization and a ground game matters in these affairs. Cruz had 12,000 volunteers in Iowa, 1,000 precinct captains, and a pair of old college dorms, “Camp Cruz” to house them. His followers here were in place earlier and far more organized than anyone else's and it showed in the results, particularly among Iowa's Evangelicals. And given that the state has such a relatively small voting base, it was enough to win. Whether he can reproduce that elsewhere and whether it will work as well as it did in Iowa is an open question.

If I'm Donald Trump, I'm looking at this and learning a huge lesson. He expected to win here based on his media footprint and outsize persona, and invested comparatively little in ground game and get out the vote efforts. While second place here is nothing to spit on, I have a feeling that in spite of his gracious remarks afterwards his competitive spirit is fairly fired up, and his morning after discussion with his advisers is centered on exploring which experts are tops at putting a ground game together and on contacting, interviewing and hiring them ASAP. He's fairly far ahead of Cruz in New Hampshire, so that gives him a short breather of 3 weeks or so to put this together before South Carolina and the other primaries with more delegates at stake. If he isn't having this conversation and putting a ground game together accordingly, he probably won't win the nomination.

Marco Rubio's third place finish came at the expense of the other establishment candidates still in the race. He's now the Chosen One of the GOP establishment to carry the banner and preserve their perks and their continuing flow of cheap labor.

His third place finish came courtesy of some heavy donations from the expected sources which allowed him to carpet bomb Iowa with media advertising...you could hardly turn on a radio or a TV without hearing him. Chris Christie, John Kasich, and Jeb Bush will start being pressured to exit the race and make room for Rubio unless Christie manages to pull off a miracle in New Hampshire.

If Rubio's smart, he will pretty much ignore New Hampshire where he has little support and concentrate on South Carolina. He won't win it, but he's local,and some hard work and another infusion of donor cash could get him to the next stop. The idea, after all for the GOP establishment to knock out Trump first and then Cruz, with Rubio as the new GOP 'product.'

The surprise in the Democrat fold is the close finish. Actually,it shouldn't be.

For Mrs. Clinton Iowa was a major trial, because it involves on the ground, retail politics. Hillary despises the little people unless it's carefully scripted and controlled, and that was evident in Iowa.
She was aloof, visibly uncomfortable and even lost it a few times. Mr. Bill and Chelsea tried, but failed to help her much. She has plenty of money to spend and a good ground game, but pulling off a statistical tie with the likes of Bernie Sanders with all the advantages she had probably has a lot of people wondering how she'll do in the general.

Bernie Sanders now has a good understanding of the Clinton machine and how it works, but he isn't going to be able to do much about it. New Hampshire, a state with demographics like Iowa's right next door to his home state of Vermont will be his high point. It's all downhill from there.

The Democrats depend on big turnout from two key groups as part of their coalition, blacks and Muslims. Neither will vote for a Jew, even an irreligious, anti-Israel Jew like Bernie Sanders. The last time the Democrats put a Jew on their national ticket was in 2000 with Joseph Lieberman. George W. Bush carried 40% of the Muslim vote that year and that might very well have cost the Democrats Florida and the election. As for blacks, according to the Pew Trust, aside from Muslims they are the most likely group of Americans to harbor anti-semitic attitudes. The Democrats aren't going to make the mistake they made with Lieberman

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