Prediction – Iowa Winners Will Be: Cruz and Sanders

The big day is finally here.

Iowa again marks the beginning of a new beginning (as President Obama cannot run for office again) and with that, Americans will be subjected to an exhaustive gauntlet of campaign ads, calls, and donation requests.  Iowa also marks the point when we, as Americans, start to get some real data about who the next leader of our country will be.

Prior to actually voting for someone, all we have had to go on are the polls conducted by research groups and media organizations.  While these polls give some insight into the general state of mind of American voters, we have also seen that one debate performance can launch a candidate into a leading position for a time being.

This is especially true with the leaderless Republican party.  Through the summer and fall, Republican voters have acted like middle-school children trying to figure out who they wanted to date.  First it was Bush, then Fiorina, then Carson, and now Cruz (all while maintaining a huge crush on Donald Trump).  None of these “picks” lasted longer than a a few months as the spotlight tends to reveal the truth and subsequently forcing those candidates back down the charts.

So who will win in Iowa?

For the Republicans, the winner with be Senator Ted Cruz.  Looking at maps of previous caucuses in the state, it becomes obvious that Iowans love both Evangelical and Libertarian leaning candidates.  Rick Santorum and Ron Paul, being the best examples.  Cruz represents both to some extent and is also currently tied with Donald Trump in the national polls, lending to votes by name recognition.  Second place will go to Donald Trump and third place will go to Ben Carson, who remains very popular with the very religious.

For the Democrats the race is less a race and more a head-to-head competition.  Hillary Clinton leads Bernie Sanders going into today’s caucus (though the difference is close to margin of error).  Sanders, though, has a message that has been building quite dramatically over the past 6 months and strong support from millennial voters.  If (and here we are assuming they will) those millennial voters turn out, Sanders will narrowly win Iowa.

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Gov. Scott Walker Ends His 2016 Bid

Running a national campaign is not cheap and for Gov. Scott Walker, the expenses finally caught up with him.  Choosing to end his bid now does highlight a smart financial decision on the part of the Governor.  Rather than hanging on to a lost cause and racking up mountains of debt, the Governor is taking a path that better positions him to be a Vice President.

Noting as much, Gov. Walker stated in his suspension speech:

I encourage other Republican presidential candidates to consider doing the same so that the voters can focus on a limited number of candidates who can offer a positive, conservative alternative to the current front-runner

While this is a direct attack towards Donald Trump, it can also be seen as a show of support for Gov. Jeb Bush.  Gov. Walker understands that positioning is everything and the GOP, rightly, understands that Gov. Walker has a very attractive “conservative” record (one that made him an early front-runner).  He also, correctly, recognizes that dollars sent to candidates at the bottom of the polls are being wasted if the candidate is just going to drop out in a few months.

A Bush-Walker ticket would look very good on paper to some members of the Republican party.  Trump, Fiorina, and Carson all lead the pack, but when push comes to shove, these individuals may not represent what the GOP is looking to present to the country.

Of the potential VPs currently in play, Gov. Walker has to be considered the leader of the pack.

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South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham Offers Something No One is Asking For: War

In a speech to a crowd of mostly Republican voters, South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham continued the singular thread of his campaign to date: advocating for a ground war in Iraq.  The Des Moines Register Soapbox stage is a forum for Presidential hopefuls to meet and interact with potential 2016 voters.  Gov. Scott Walker and former tech executive Carly Fiorina have also stopped by to share their stories, but their speeches focused on more mainstream topics such as the disfunction in Washington and on the promotion of the economy.

Sen. Graham’s rapid beating of the war drum will likely only register with a small number of voters.  The Iraq and Afghanistan wars are viewed by many to be expensive failures that cost the lives, limbs, and minds of too many young Americans.  The idea of a new ground war  in the Middle East as the center of one’s campaign will not be enough to accumulate any level of influence the Senator.

Why Sen. Graham has taken this angle is not known.  His campaign is polling poorly and has not raised nearly enough funds for the long haul.  Our projection is that Sen. Graham will drop out of the 2016 race relatively early.

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Trump, Carson Top Latest Iowa Poll

In a new round of polling conducted by Public Policy Polling, Donald Trump and Ben Carson have claimed the number one and two positions, respectively, in the GOP running.  Trump (19%) has been the outright leader in the polls for several weeks despite a run of controversial remarks that would have derailed many other campaigns.

Carson (12%), who was not an unknown to Conservative voters, didn’t have a strong showing at the GOP Debate overall, but did enough to excite his followers.  Carson remains an interesting candidate for the GOP.  His credentials are impressive on paper and his personality is very likable, but he does struggle in debates where more practiced politicians do not.

The frustration that many voters have expressed with more traditional politicians has been loud and clear to the Republicans.  Gov. John Kasich noted during the debate that despite Donald Trump’s politically incorrect delivery, he has ‘hit a nerve in this country, people are frustrated with Washington.

Perhaps, then, this is the reason for the current standings.  With Trump, Carson, and Fiorina (9%) leading at this stage, are we seeing a rejection of those politicians who have been closer to Washington? Or is this just another early poll that is biased by more vocal respondents?

Time will tell.

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Carly Fiorina Continues to Impress at RedState Gathering

Coming off a strong performance at the Happy Hour Debate on Thursday, Carly Fiorina continued to show that she belongs in the mainstream GOP conversation.  In her RedState gathering speech, she focused on two messages: “Hillary is wrong for America” and “The Democrats want you to know that they know what is best for you.”  Her focus remains strongly on the left side of the political spectrum as opposed to the other GOP hopefuls.

There appears to be a belief among many political analysts that results in genuine shock when a non-politician is a great public speaker.  They will use descriptions like “refined” and “polished,” but in a way that indicates “she shouldn’t be.”  Given that Fiorina was the CEO of one of the largest technology companies in the country, it should come as no surprise that she understands how to work a crowd.

In this 25 minute speech, candidate Fiorina repeated some of her top lines from the Happy Hour Debate to great applause.  She is well within the “branding” phase of her campaign so these 3-7 second clips are very important to have consistent.  From them, we regularly hear the words “Leadership” and “Conservative.”  Both good words to pull from a campaign and these will resonate strongly with the Republican base.

For comparison, in the Obama-McCain campaigns, Obama’s branding word was “change” and McCain’s was “maverick.”

Fiorina is currently riding a wave through the GOP, but with that exposure will come renewed interest into her track record at Hewlett-Packard where she was the CEO.  In 2005, the USA Today ranked her as one of the worst CEOs of all time for her performance at HP.  Her competition will certainly bring this up and it will be important that her campaign is ready to deal with the fallout.

How Fiorina deals with the criticism remains to be seen, but until that point, she is taking advantage of her growing popularity among the Republican voters.

Image: Times Union

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Happy Hour Debate – Fiorina Shines Amongst the Boys

As predicted by many, all seven candidates played toward their conservative-base values.  Social issues (Marriage Equality, Planned Parenthood) dominated the debate with equal time spent on Iran and ISIS.  There was less of a focus on issues such as the economy and job creation despite these topics being rated of higher importance to working-class Americans.  Only the former Texas Governor Rick Perry stressed a pro-economy platform when he, smartly, noted the positive job creation and education numbers from his home state.

The candidates were a bit rough in their respective deliveries.  Some of this is probably related to nerves, but as viewers we should hope that the candidates attempt to answer questions more directly rather than bend rehearsed statements into their responses.  Some of the misfires were certainly related to picking a response as opposed to just giving a response.

While the candidates took some shots at Donald Trump, President Obama, and Hillary Clinton, overall this debate was about establishing a perspective for each individual campaign.  For some of the more well-known and consistently positioned politicians (specifically Rick Santorum), this debate could have been used to point out flaws with the other candidates instead of rehashing older campaign lines.  This may turn out to be an opportunity lost.

Biggest Surprises?

The performance of Carly Fiorina was very sharp.  Candidate Fiorina was well-spoken and direct in her statements.  With six other candidates that had more accomplished debating records, her performance had a crispness to it that some of the others lacked.  Had this been the primetime TV slot, this performance would certainly have resulted in a bump in her campaign.  There still may be a jump, but likely not to the same level.

Additionally, Senator Graham’s dedication to sending troops back to Iraq to defeat ISIS was not expected at the degree to which he pushed that agenda.  It will be interesting to see how this plays with the general population – especially military families – who are weary of prolonged wars and the mountains of debt that are associated with them.  Americans are concerned about terrorism, but another trillion dollar war is going to be a tough sell.

Overall

For the moderate American, this debate probably left something to be desired.  While the candidates stressed that they would be strong on Iran and ISIS (pointing toward a Pew Research Poll that ‘Terrorism’ was the number one concern of voters), the focus on social issues trumped many others that are more pressing on a daily basis: the economy, jobs, and education.  It will be interesting to see if the primetime debate follows a similar course.


 

Be sure to follow @TCR_Show for real time analysis and feedback during tonight’s Republican debate presented by Fox.

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