Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Quickies: The Iowa Caucuses And What Will Follow

     Just a few quick thoughts about last night’s developments.

     Ted Cruz’s first-place finish in Iowa isn’t easily dismissed, but Iowa, though the first state to hold primaries, has misled American poll-watchers before. Rick Santorum squeaked out a narrow victory there in 2012, before going down for the third time and never being heard from again. What Iowa does tell us is that a “retail” operation, well staffed and ready to engage voters one at a time and in the smallest groups, remains an important facet of politicking in our era – perhaps the most important one.

     The media are lavishing disproportionate attention on Marco Rubio for finishing third, just behind Trump. This might be their Plan B for the collapse of Jeb Bush’s campaign. Remember that the media are wholly aligned with the Democrat Party. Thus, when they favor one Republican over another, it’s because they believe their chosen Republican is the one the ultimate Democrat nominee will find easiest to defeat. Rubio, whose Senate career started with much fanfare, since then has demonstrated a willingness to waffle, to fudge on the facts, and to trim his sails for votes and favorable coverage. These are not general-election assets for a Republican candidate.

     The most interesting news of the evening is, of course, about the contest between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. At this point (5:30 AM) it remains uncertain, with a small fraction of a percentage point separating the two.

     The significance of Sanders’s strong showing cannot be denied. His candidacy once looked like a joke, which it clearly is not. His support was supposed to come from fringe elements, e.g., aging hippies and granola faddists, yet a great many younger voters have flocked to his banner. Given the slimness of Clinton’s lead over him in a state not nominally favorable to his message, his tally, whether it places him first or second, will be a blow to Clinton’s candidacy.

     It still seems unlikely that Sanders will get the Democrats’ nomination. However, should he get it, his strength in the national election must not be underestimated. Republicans must take whoever the Democrats nominate quite seriously. Remember their Secretary of State project, and their success at winning several regional elections through vote fraud.

     At this point, the winnowing of the Republican field will begin. Candidates with 1% or 2% showings in Iowa will find their funding squeezed as their backers grow willing to consider other candidates. Thus, we may expect the “undercard” candidates to wind up their campaigns fairly soon, along with one or two of the lower-placed “marquee” aspirants.

     However, beyond the departure of Martin O’Malley, donor infidelity is unlikely to affect the Democrats. Clinton has immense backing that will remain faithful to her, for reasons not entirely derived from her prospects for victory. Sanders’s financial support arrives in dribbles, but the multiplicity of its providers raises it to a flood. Money will not be the deciding factor on the Left.

     Of course, innumerable persons, some with regular bylines in major periodicals, will be asking themselves “What does this mean for Trump?” Given the oddity of his Iowa campaign, which had essentially no retail component and was “timeshared” with his many visits to other states, that remains to be seen. But while Trump is many unfortunate things, he’s not unintelligent. He’ll draw the moral from his second-place finish. Will he act on it, given the size of his ego and his reluctance ever to admit a mistake? That, too, remains to be seen – but it’s the most important element in the constellation of factors that will determine the future of his campaign, and this time around he seems serious about wanting to be president.

1 comment:

Bruce said...

Iowa picks corn. New Hampshire picks presidents.