Saturday, February 06, 2016

Race for the White House Volume 58

The voting is underway and so much is going on in the Presidential race as the candidates have moved on from Iowa on to the First in the Nation New Hampshire Primary.  The fields have narrowed and are sure to do so further in the weeks ahead.

Iowa saw some historic results and high turnouts. In both parties, the second place finisher has taken some issue with the results. Will more surprises me present in New Hampshire?

The best way to do this and to have my thoughts as organized as possible is to just list all the Iowa candidates from bottom to top and have some quick thoughts and what happened in the past week and where things stand for them as of late Saturday afternoon.


Martin O'Malley- the former Maryland Governor was never truly in the contest dominated by Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. While some continue to hold out hope for other Democrat entrants, O'Malley did not reach any sort of viability numbers in Iowa and ended his campaign that evening.

Bernie Sanders- It is likely he received the most Democrat votes on Monday night, but in a weird process, Iowa Democrats do not release those totals, but just list the delegates won, which went very narrowly to Hillary Clinton with the help of a tremendous amount of lucky coin tosses, etc. Sanders went to town though in winning younger voters, and had Iowa college students voted from their hometowns instead of college campus precincts, his vote would have been spread out more and he likely would have won more delegates. People are divided as to who got the better of the first one on one debate of the cycle, between Sanders and Clinton in New Hampshire. There is little doubt that Sanders leads in his neighboring state though and it will be beyond a major upset if he loses on Tuesday.

All things considered, a virtual tie in Iowa was a pretty strong result for Sanders, but the overall odds for the nomination remain way against him. His expected appearance tonight on Saturday Night Live, hosted by Larry David, who plays Sanders, will surely go viral. It should also be pointed out that Sanders (while non-practicing) is the first Jewish-American Presidential candidate ever to apparently win delegates to a convention of a major party.

Hillary Clinton- She claimed to have breathed a sigh of relief after Iowa, but she might be in for a tough night in New Hampshire, as well as seeing national polls showing her advantage seriously eroded. Most believe that Nevada and South Carolina will be far more favorable to her and will help her regain an edge.

As mentioned, there was a lot of luck involved in Clinton walking away from Iowa with slightly more delegates, but questions have arisen about the process and its transparency. In many ways, the closeness of Sanders-Clinton resembled Romney-Santorum on the Republican side four years ago. Clinton's "victory speech" in Iowa, before victory had been called, was fairly brief and also seemed pretty angry. She kept the intensity on in New Hampshire ans she and Sanders argued quite forcefully over who is the true progressive in the race. All of this makes Republicans believe that the eventual winner is going to have a hard time moving to the middle for a general election. Clinton also brazenly insisted that nothing will ever come of the investigation into her emails and she has nothing to worry about.

I think it is fair to suggest that there may be some late day and late hour movement towards Hillary in New Hampshire, much like there was eight years ago. It will probably not be enough for her to win, but I would be surprised if she gets decimated there.


Jim Gilmore- He received 12 votes and technically remains in the race. Somehow, I wonder if I could have won 12 votes if I tried to in Iowa.

Rick Santorum- The technical winner of the last Iowa Caucus finished 11th this time around and after some mixed messages, was out of the race within a couple of days. Perhaps a bigger surprise than Santorum's weak showing was that he endorsed Marco Rubio for President, immediately upon exiting, lining up with the choice of many in the GOP establishment. Santorum made more news by going on MSNBC and struggling to identify any Senate accomplishments of Rubio. That uncomfortable moment was quickly inserted into New Hampshire ads by two of Rubio's Republican rivals.

Chris Christie- the New Jersey Governor is one of those rivals, and nobody has been targeting Rubio as much. Despite what has to have been a worse than expected showing in Iowa, Christie has insisted that it is all about New Hampshire, and the battle is really between him and Rubio and nobody else, putting aside all the others in the field who beat out Christie. Despite all the tough talk from Christie about Rubio being a "bubble boy" and overly scriped, Christie's New Hampshire numbers appear to be slightly on the decline, signaling that some of his supporters might have already moved to Rubio. His performance in tonight's ABC New Hampshire debate will be highly anticipated.

Mike Huckabee- the candidate who easily won the 2008 Hawkeye contest, found no magic this time around and was out of the race the same night. Other candidates paid tribute to him in their speeches. Weeks ago, Huckabee said he would have to finish in the Top 3 in Iowa to move on, and obviously fell well short.  I am perhaps most surprised that he did not quickly endorse Donald Trump, despite the fact that he had sent some signals along those lines.

John Kasich- to be sure, the Ohio Governor's finish in Iowa was very bad, but he was already out of the state by that point and is looking to make a major stand in New Hampshire, where he has appeared to have gained traction with moderates. Interestingly enough, he will be competing with Bernie Sanders for votes on Tuesday. Polls show though that Kasich is a contender for second place in New Hampshire and that would generate a lot of attention for him, even if he has real path after the Granite State to the nomination. He would have to rely on another candidate faltering. I think the reason that Kasich does not seem to be losing support in New Hampshire to Rubio, as a couple other Governors might be is that many of Kasich's backers think Rubio is too conservative for their tastes.

Carly Fiorina- Despite outpolling Christie and Kasich in Iowa, Fiorina is being excluded from tonight's debate, despite some public pleas by figures such as Mitt Romney. Fiorina is understandably upset and calling ABC the "Anybody But Carly" network. Her Iowa totals were anemic of course and while she might do better in New Hampshire, it will not be by that much. She certainly had her moment in this campaign in the late summer and early fall, but never took off after that and people have moved on. That has her coming across as somewhat desperate in her campaign rhetoric of late.

Jeb Bush- the former Florida Governor and the candidate who raised the most money in the race was not expected to do well at all in Iowa, but even his backers like me would have hoped for a little bit more than the 3 percent he received. As is the case with Christie and Kasich, Bush is looking far more towards New Hampshire, where he could have a respectable showing. The polls of the last few days though show his support decreasing a bit and probably moving towards Rubio. Bush is walking a bit of a tight-rope in criticizing his former Florida protege, but is not doing so as forcefully as Christie has been. The debate tonight might be his one chance to try to go after Rubio's experience or credibility, but in spite of everything, and in spite of my strong belief that Jeb Bush is the best prepared to be President out of anyone who sought the office this cycle, he appears to have just had the luck of being the wrong kind of candidate in the wrong time.

Regardless, Bush is utilizing his mother Barbara, as the 90 year old Former First Lady campaigns with her walker in the snow of New Hampshire. The Jeb Bush SuperPAC has a new ad in which former President George W. Bush vouches for his younger brother. For a long time, Jeb was reluctant to campaign as a Bush, but has nothing to lose at this point. He has the resources to continue on to South Carolina, and perhaps his family ties would do better for him there, but as a supporter, I think he really needs to get third place in New Hampshire to have any foreseeable path forward.

Rand Paul- Fifth place in Iowa was not enough to save the Paul campaign. His father placed third there four years ago. A year ago, the younger Paul was someone whom many expected would do well in the field, but circumstances changed, and he never took off. The Kentucky Senator now has a Senate reelection campaign to focus on. He should win that, but my hunch is that if he ever runs for President again, it will be because he thinks he is expected to more than he really wants to be President.

Ben Carson- the one time Iowa frontrunner finished in fourth place, and not quite in double digits. It is hard to see how it gets any better for him moving forward, but he is doing so, despite some controversy surrounding his seemingly incompetent campaign operation, which is being seriously downsized.

Right before the voting was about to get underway in Iowa, it was announced that Carson would take some time off the trail to return to his home in Florida to pick up some fresh clothes or something like that. While it did not suggest he was leaving the race, it was sort of an odd announcement that lead some to speculate as such. The Cruz campaign pounced on it and had their people in Iowa tell Carson supporters that the Doctor was about to leave the race and they should switch over and vote for Cruz instead.

Maybe it netted Cruz some votes, but Carson finished in Iowa just about where the polls said he would. Still, Carson is very mad at Cruz, despite a half-hearted apology from the Iowa 2016 winner. He would not be the candidate doing the most crowing about this development though.

Marco Rubio- No Iowa bronze medal winner since Michael Dukakis has ever had a reason to be so happy. Yes, third place is third place, but all things considered, this was a very strong result for Rubio in Iowa, where he got 23 percent, and was just one point back of second place. He is tied for delegates with Donald Trump at 7,with only Ted Cruz ahead at 8.

The Florida Senator gave a strongly received "victory" speech on Caucus night and the voting has shown that he has perhaps shown the ability to unite the party behind him. This is also becoming apparent in New Hampshire and national polls. Expectations now are that Rubio needs to come in at least second in New Hampshire. He might even win it in my view, but he could also finish as low as fourth, since so many polls are close. Much of the week has seen Rubio's opponents, with the notable exception of Donald Trump target him, and if Rubio becomes more of a frontrunner, the heat will be turned on further. He will be closely watched in tonight's debate, but I will suggest nobody had a better week politically than Rubio.

Donald Trump- So much for being a "winner." I did expect Trump to win Iowa, based on late polls, but his ground game was not what it was claimed to be and he lost to Ted Cruz. That made me very, very happy. It also looks like late deciding voters who had leaned towards Trump in the suburbs and among non-Evangelical voters, decided at the end to vote for Rubio. That's a good sign for Rubio and also a sign that voters may have spent a lot of time flirting with Trump and all he represents, but when it comes time to vote, they looked for someone more serious to be President.

Will Trump win New Hampshire? Well, it's far more likely than not. The state is a better match for him than Iowa and his lead in the Granite State is higher than it ever was in Iowa. If he somehow loses to Rubio or Cruz, his candidacy is in serious danger.

Trump's concession speech on Monday evening was brief and even gracious. I was surprised. I thought he would be a sorer loser than Newt Gingrich. I should have just given it some time. After a period of curious Twitter silence, Trump emerged in a big way, accusing Cruz of "illegally" stealing the Iowa Caucus and calling for him to be disqualified or for a new election to be held because of the "dirty trick" played against Ben Carson, the man whom Trump had months ago suggested was a psychopath.

"The Donald" is dropping F bombs in his New Hampshire speeches and doing what he has to do to remain in the media news cycle. Many eyes will be on him in tonight's debate. Is he so mad at losing to Cruz, that will focus on Cruz, or will he shift to Rubio, or just attack Jeb Bush as the supposed easiest target? So much more I could write, but I need to try to wrap all this up.

Ted Cruz- Credit has to go to the Texas Senator and his team for doing what people did not think could be done, and winning (by four points) a record turnout Iowa Caucus. Cruz and his ground game, especially among Evangelicals was truly impressive. He gave a 45 minute victory speech though that was widely panned and seen as evidence that Cruz is just not very electable for the fall and is going to have nowhere near the appeal in New Hampshire than he did in Iowa.

The historic aspect of Cruz's victory has to be mentioned though. He is the first Hispanic-American ever to win a Presidential contest. He may quickly be joined by someone else on that list though. I will also point out that 60 percent of the Iowa GOP result went to Hispanics or an African-American, while two white Democrats bickered in their debate like a senior citizen married couple.

As most know, I am definitely not a fan of Ted Cruz, but am glad he beat Trump in Iowa. Did his campaign utilize hardball tactics to maybe get a few Carson supporters on their side? Sure. Politics is a dirty business though and I cannot help but be unimpressed by any suggestion this was a "scandal" or anything illegal. I would expect a serious Presidential campaign to play to win and leave no stone unturned. The message of the Carson campaign is to blame for the confusion and Trump has no ground to complain. Carson voters had the chance to switch to Trump if they wanted to, but did not. Cruz's winning margin was more than enough to suggest he still would have beaten Trump. Instead of Cruz turning his message against Rubio in New Hampshire, he has largely been sidetracked by Trump's broadsides this past week.

Cruz may get second place in New Hampshire, which would be a strong result for him. He could also finish as low as fifth. He has maybe gotten some momentum out of Iowa, but not all that much. People like me who were happy to see Cruz beat Trump in Iowa, but wants neither of them to be nominated, now has to hope that Trump beats Cruz in New Hampshire, which is very likely to happen.

The contest will go on from there with many ups and downs, but I am feeling a lot more upbeat about things than I was a week ago. Yes, the candidate I really want to win came in 6th place with just 3 percent of the vote, and yes he seems to be stalling a bit in New Hampshire and may very well be out of the race this week, but Donald Trump losing is very good news for the GOP and America.

Hopefully, that trend will be revisited shortly, regardless of what happens in New Hampshire, but in Iowa, we can always remember the night that Donald J. Trump got shlonged by a Canadian maniac.


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