The Iowa Caucus: Determining Nothing

Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton are essentially tied at 49% and change, each. As of Tuesday morning, Clinton appears to have a minimal lead. It’s somewhat inexcusable, since Clinton has been running for President since 2007 and lost Iowa in 2008. One would expect her to learn from the 2008 primary, and would have used the following 8 years to anticipate how to deal with a surge from a surprise candidate like Bernie Sanders. Clinton is five votes ahead, and has one more delegate than Sanders, so far.

Can someone explain why O’Malley was still in the race at this stage, given his ridiculous showing?

Make no mistake, though, Democrats. You might be rooting for Sanders, you might be rooting for Clinton. You might be in Sanders’ camp because of Clinton fatigue – getting past the 90s, for instance. You might find Hillary Clinton untrustworthy, unlikeable, susceptible to attacks based on scandals old and new. But never forget this fundamental truth:

Even among those who don’t believe in the phony scandals, there is, as there was in 2008, a desire for someone new, who they imagine won’t bring out all that ugliness. But of course they’re wrong: if Sanders is the nominee, it will take around 30 seconds before Fox News is nonstop coverage of the terrible things he supposedly did when younger. Don’t say there’s nothing there: a propaganda machine that could turn John Kerry into a coward can turn a nice guy from Brooklyn into a monstrously flawed specimen of humanity in no time at all.

It will take 30 seconds before Fox News whips out the mothballed red stars and hammer and sickle graphics, because smears are the name of the game over there.

Here’s what happened on the Republican end:

All you Trumpistas – bored with winning yet? Because America’s own African dictator lost to the far better organized and exponentially more unlikeable Ted Cruz, with Marco Rubio coming up right behind him. That translates into a big win for Cruz and Rubio; the former for obvious reasons, and the latter because he out-performed expectations.

Trump, on the other hand, is a loser, looking now for New Hampshire voters to bail out his campaign much like a Saudi prince bailed out earlier failures. What happened? From the Washington Post:

Donald Trump may have been hampered by two unexpected factors: Weaker than expected performance among new voters and a late surge by Marco Rubio. In the last Des Moines Register/Bloomberg poll in Iowa, Trump led Cruz among first-time caucus-goers by 16 points. On Monday night, Trump’s margin among this group was closer to half that. Rubio earned about as much support from new voters as did Cruz, and was the preferred candidate of about 3 in 10 Iowa Republicans who made up their minds in the last week.

The article goes on to say that fully 45% of Republicans made up their minds in the last week. Just 14% of them went for Trump. Cruz won among evangelicals and movement conservatives.

It’s not over for Trump, though. Cruz will do poorly in New Hampshire, where his brand of obnoxious, Christianist brand of conservatism won’t play as well as in Iowa. Recall that Huckabee won Iowa in 2012, and Santorum won in 2008. This last week, they sheepishly shared a stage with Trump at his “screw you, Fox News” rally.

Polling in New Hampshire shows Trump at 33%, with Cruz, Bush, and Kasich trailing at 10 – 11%, and Rubio at 9.5%. Expect Iowa to give Rubio to get a bounce, and a second look from New Hampshire voters. Trump’s lost his sheen of invincibility, and that might hurt him with the low-information crowd who find his boasting about poll numbers to be substantive and compelling.

After New Hampshire come Nevada and South Carolina, where the results will be much more interesting to watch.

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