Monday, January 2, 2012

What Will Iowa and New Hampshire Foretell?

The Iowa Caucus is two days away. What will 120,000 or less “Republicans” (120,000 would be a record turnout. tell us about the Republican nominee? Who will be The Man or the Woman?

Iowa will not decide the nominee. Neither will New Hampshire. Iowa's winner gets a boost in New Hampshire, but only a boost.

The potential for political mischief is great since both are in essence “open” venues. A Democrat can walk into an Iowa caucus, register as a Republican, vote in the caucus and then become a Democrat again the next day. 5,000 faux Republicans can have a tremendous impact, indeed anointing an unelectable caucus winner.

Iowa and New Hampshire do not usually decide either the nomination or general election. Senator Obama was an exception to this political reality four years ago. Governor Huckabee won the Republican caucus four years ago. It did not propel him to the nomination. George H. W. Bush won the Iowa caucus in 1980, not Governor Reagan.

The trek through Iowa and New Hampshire is often criticized because these two small, Frost belt states are unrepresentative of American’s demographics. Even if that statement were true, it's irrelevant.

The strength of Iowa and New Hampshire is that they winnow the field. Those that fare poorly often fold their campaigns as financing and media attention dries up. Candidates who cannot convince the voters of Iowa and New Hampshire, after a year of up close and personal, probably cannot appeal to the broader American populace.

They are a test of whether a candidate is ready for prime time. They show us how the potential president responds to crisis and bad news (Cain). Do they have the fire in their belly? (Thompson and Perry). Iowa and New Hampshire size up a candidate for America.

Iowa often produces a surprise because of the small turnout in the dead of winter to spend hours discussing each candidate before voting.

Thus, success usually depends upon an organization turning out a dedicated core of supporters, or in the case of Senator Obama, a community organizer “organizing” often with non-residents doing the organizing in Iowa and New Hampshire.

Contenders who cannot organize Iowa will be unable to manage a general election campaign.

A twist this year is the millions of Super PAC money invested in the advertising campaign. These ads are not endorsed by Mitt, Newt, Rick, or Michelle. Indeed, by law they must be independent of the candidate’s campaign. By way of example, the “Willie Horton” ad, that Democrats claim defeated Governor Michael Dukakis in 1988, was not by the official Bush campaign, but by an independent group. Similarly, Senator Kerry was “Swiftboated” by Swift Boat Veterans for truth and not the Bush Campaign.

Labor organizations operate the same way in elections funding their own campaigns as does George Soros in funding progressive candidates and causes.

Restore Our Future, a Super Pac on Governor Romney’s belief, has spent millions in attack ads against Romney’s primary opponents. Former Romney aides run the Super Pac. Governor Romney’s reply to Speaker Gingrich’s request to stop the ads is that he legally cannot, which is true. Thus, a candidate like the Governor can have it both ways. He runs a principled campaign while others do the hatchet job. That’s certainly not unusual in elections.

The First Amendment protects a vigorous debate on the issues and candidates. Free speech is great.

Don’t run for President if you can’t take the heat.

Whiners and criers usually lose, as did Senator Muskie in New Hampshire.

Gingrich saw the nomination in his sights. It was there, but now it’s slip sliding away. He also lacks a strong organization or dedicated core support.

Iowans justly resent candidates who are caught on video years earlier trashing the Iowa Caucus (Remember Howard Dean - the presumed 2004 winner in Iowa?)

Citizens of Iowa have little regard for those who bypass the beautiful state (Check out Mayor Giuliani and Governor Huntsman).

What will Iowa and New Hampshire foretell?

Will this year’s Iowa surprise be Bachman, Perry, or Santorum?

Does it reaffirm that money is the mother’s milk of politics?

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