The Morning After Iowa 2016

Quick hits on last night (without the benefit of editing):

  • Maybe Trump shouldn’t have skipped that last debate.
  • Trump had been consistently leading in the GOP polls (per RCP).
  • Clinton had been consistently leading in the Democratic polls (RCP).

Given the fact Trump lost and Clinton won by a coin flip (or five) do we worry that the pollsters are wildly inaccurate?

  • For Republicans, this is now a three man race: Cruz, Rubio and Trump.
  • For Democrats, this remains a close two person race.
  • Donald Trump 24% of the votes cast.
  • Bernie Sanders 0% of the votes cast.

Perhaps the media should focus more on Sanders.

  • 60% of the votes cast last night in the Republican Caucus went to minority candidates (Cruz, Rubio, and Carson).
  • 0% of the votes cast last night in the Democratic Caucus went to minority candidates.

Shouldn’t progressives have a hashtag campaign like the one they have for the Oscars (#OscarSoWhite). If not, maybe we should start one #DemocratsSoWhite?

  • Can’t you just picture the rallies in New Hampshire today, “Ladies and Gentlemen, put your hands together for the apparent winner of Iowa, Hillary Clinton!”
  • Martin O’Malley finally figured out people don’t want him to do to the country what he did for Baltimore.

On the Democratic side, Hillary eked out a victory. But it was so narrow (coming down to coin flips), the focus seems to be on how close Sanders came to victory. That gives the impression the Clinton campaign is collapsing. Again. I don’t see how Sanders can win going forward, but his near-victory in Iowa combined with his almost certain victory in New Hampshire gives him staying power that will force Clinton to use resources against his campaign instead of the Republicans. With a possible indictment hanging over her head, the longer that race drags on, the worse it is for Clinton. It gives voters more time to pause and wonder if Clinton’s autumn will be focused on the election or defending a criminal case.

I was mostly right. On the GOP side, Cruz won. Trump narrowly took second, Rubio third, Carson fourth, and Paul fifth. Trump & Rubio were almost a tie. I had thought there would be more of a groundswell for Rand Paul amongst college students. That didn’t materialize. I’ve made no secret of my like of Rand Paul, but this is not his year. Looking at the final debate, Paul would have had more traction if Trump hadn’t been around. I don’t think Paul will drop out yet (probably after New Hampshire), but he has no momentum going forward. A lot of the other candidates really need to have a “Come to Jesus” moment.  Despite Ben Carson showing, this is his ceiling. There is no evidence of any groundswell of Carson mania. Jeb Bush- poured $10 mil into Iowa and got 2%. That’s a poor Rate of Return. Fiorina, Santorum and Christie got 4% combined in Iowa and are polling combine 10% in New Hampshire. There comes a time to realize the voters aren’t interested in what you’re selling.

Kudos to Huckabee to not only realizing he wasn’t going to win, but going announcing his departure with some humor- He announced his was dropping out of the race because of illness- “The Voters are Sick of Me.”

So, what happens in New Hampshire for the Republicans? Building on yesterday, I see four options:

Option 1: Nothing Really Changes– The polls are reasonably accurate. Trump wins, Cruz and Kasich tie and it’s on to South Carolina and Nevada.

Option 2: Ted Cruz, Rising Star: As I alluded to yesterday, Trump wins, but Cruz is a close second and Rubio third. The story coming out of the primary is all about Cruz and the strength of his campaign. Trump then has to use South Carolina as a firebreak. Rubio, despite coming in third in the first two races is seen as the best option for those who don’t want an “Outsider” being the standard bearer. The race is a slog through Super Tuesday, but Cruz eventually starts building up sufficient momentum to ensure he is the nominee.

Option 3: Nobody Likes a Loser, Establishment Edition– Trump supporters, who back only winners, dessert Trump in droves. Cruz wins, but Kasich comes in second. (Trump is third). Suddenly the race becomes the “Outsider” (Cruz) versus the “Establishment” (Kasich). Given how much animosity DC Republicans have for Cruz. (As noted recently in a NY Times piece, high ups in the GOP would rather lose with Trump than win with Cruz), a lot of the party power brokers start banging the Kasich drum. A lot of stories will suddenly appear claiming (falsely) that the party could never win with a firebrand conservative like Cruz. The old “Goldwater on ‘64” story will make the rounds as proof that only a moderate Republican like Kasich could win. Kasich hangs around, wins Ohio. Trump wins some states and no one candidate emerges as the choice, leading to a brokered convention.

(For the record, it wasn’t Goldwater’s conservatism that cost the GOP the ’64 election. It was the death of JFK in November of 1963. As Goldwater himself noted, the US could not stomach 3 Presidents in 12 months (Kennedy, Johnson [elevated to President because of the assassination] and then Goldwater). Had 64 been Kennedy versus Goldwater, it is possible Kennedy would have lost).

Option 4: Nobody Likes a Loser, Outsider Edition– Trump supporters, who back only winners, dessert Trump in droves. Cruz wins, Rubio comes in second. The race becomes a battle between Cruz and Rubio with Trump playing the role of the potential spoiler. A clear winner emerges sometime in the late spring. It is possible that if Rubio wins, Cruz is offered the VP slot and vice versa.

The Polls over the next few days will suggest which way the race is heading. My instinct at the moment is option 2.

But for now Iowa, America’s Brigadoon, disappears from public consciousness for another 4 years and New Hampshire gets its 15 minutes of fame.

 

[Note: I’ve updated the post by correctly John Kasich’s name.]

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