Post-Caucus: How Close It Was!

The Iowa Caucus proved to be more of a thrill ride than anyone expected.  The Clinton-Sanders margin was almost negligible and the GOP had 3 candidates taking the majority of the Republican votes.  In yesterday’s prediction thread we stated that Ted Cruz and Bernie Sanders would be Monday night’s victors.

Ted Cruz did in fact win with Donald Trump taking second place (also predicted) and Marco Rubio taking third place.  Rubio’s strong showing was not expected in Iowa as the Evangelical population pointed more to a strong Ben Carson showing (who finished forth with around 10% of the vote and was our predicted 3rd place finisher).  Rubio’s win was bolstered further by a key endorsement from Tom Scott.  This result for Rubio will likely lead to a major jump in the national polls.

The most disappointing performances within the GOP had to come from Rand Paul and Jeb Bush.  Rand’s father Ron finished in third place during the 2012 Iowa Caucus and there was some thought that he would capture a bit of that magic.  At fifth place with only 4.5% of the vote, the Paul campaign has to be frustrated by their candidates inability to grab real traction within the party.

For all of the disappointment felt by the Paul campaign, the Jeb Bush camp must be in outright panic.  With millions of dollars spent and coming off his strongest debate performance yet, the early GOP favorite had to expect better than 2.8% of the vote.  We may be seeing the last days of the Jeb! experience.

In all, don’t expect the GOP candidates to throw in the towel before next week’s Primary in NH.  NH tends to be more friendly to establishment / moderate Republicans, many of whom were at the bottom of this poll.  After NH, though, we expect several campaigns to close up shop.

For the Democrats, the story got interesting in Iowa.  Martin O’Malley – debt strapped and with little support – suspended his campaign.  O’Malley is often rumored to be interested in a VP nomination, but that may be in doubt now that the Democrat Party has seen what he would actually bring to the table.  Staying in this race through the Iowa Caucus may have hurt O’Malley’s political career more than it helped.

Clinton narrowly defeated Bernie Sanders in a state that she had a decent lead in before the votes were cast.  While this is a technical win for Hillary, it was also a spiritual win for Sanders, though it was not without controversy.  No other candidate has come from the fringe to the mainstream like he has and with a monster lead in New Hampshire, he is going to force Clinton to play major defense over the coming weeks.

One additional point of note about the Democrat voters shown during the CNN broadcast was the difference in voter profiles between those who chose Clinton and those who chose Sanders.  The voters that valued “experience” overwhelmingly chose Clinton, while those that wanted “someone who shares my values” overwhelmingly chose Sanders.  Look for this information to be used by both campaigns going forward.

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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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Why do Gov. Bush and Sen. Paul keep attacking Donald Trump?

Picture an old 1800s victorian house, set at the end of a winding road and overgrown with vines.  Inside this house, the dust has caked-up to cover the furniture and the fixtures, hiding the history of the owners.  On the shelves of the library, though, sits an old book.  Titled How to Defeat Your Opponent and Win an Election, this book was the premier guide to get into a political office, in 1845.

Now this book doesn’t actually exist, but it if it did, would it be shocking to find out that both Senator Rand Paul and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush were reading it?  Both campaigns have been employing a strategy predicated on attacking Donald Trump and both campaigns have suffered for it.  Gov. Bush has appeared confused and inconsistent when praising Mr. Trump one minute only to denounce him the next.

His comments at the RedState Gathering stood moved him far away from his comments at the GOP Debate which was just the night before.  Perhaps this is the double-speak that voters have shown they are tired of.

Sen. Paul has taken just as a proactive approach towards the Trump campaign which has not yielded the benefits that his strategists would have hoped for.  Most recently, Donald Trump wrote to the Washington Post about the Kentucky Senator with an indirect response to an attack posed by the Senator that tired to bring the focus on to Mr. Trump’s evolving positions as a candidate.

Mr. Trump addressed the shifts, noting:

Unless you are a piece of unyielding granite, over the years positions evolve as they have in my case.

This move by Donald Trump’s team is brilliant.  Not only does he deflect Sen. Paul’s attacks, but he also illustrates that he is not claiming to be some infallible being here to save the day.  Mr. Trump is showing that it is okay to change your mind.  To learn something new.  To be different in 2015 than you were in 2000.  This freshness is resonating with voters in the polls.

What started as an attack against Donald Trump flipped around on Sen. Paul.  Donald Trump does not let problems drag him down.  He speaks through them.  He has always done this which makes him appear different than the other candidates.

So different, in fact, that if you were reading How to Defeat Your Opponent and Win an Election and hoping that it will provide the guidance necessary to out maneuver Mr. Trump, you would lose.

Image: It’s About Time

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Digging In: Gov. Christie can Debate, but is there a Story?

Gov. Christie was once touted as the next great Republican.  He had a way with words, was not afraid to challenge unions, and brought the center-right views that many potential voters were looking for.  2010 was a long, long time ago though and the Governor’s potential to be a GOP front-runner seems to be just a dream.  The Governor has posted dismal approval numbers in New Jersey and was wrapped up in a bridge closure controversy that deteriorated his value in the eyes of the Republican Party.

At Thursday night’s debate in Cleveland, Gov. Christie sparred with the other candidates and responded to the moderator’s questions with a level of clarity that is representative of a seasoned politician.  Though his track record in NJ was brought up, the Governor played off the facts by noting “you should have seen it when I got here.”  A truly political answer, but delivered with a believable confidence.

Gov. Christie’s debating with Sen. Paul proved to be one of the better back-and-forth exchanges of the night.  Christie invoked 9/11 to draw from the deep emotion of those attacks when defending his position on the NSA (Supporting expanded powers) vs. Sen. Paul’s position that the NSA ought to be defended and disbanded.  Gov. Christie took the point in this exchange when he called out Sen. Paul’s statement “that we should expand monitoring of terrorists, not every day people.”  The technical implementation of such a strategy likely would not be possible, so Gov. Christie’s challenge to that position was both warranted and deftly executed.

Unfortunately for the Governor, New Jersey is not a shining star to point to.  The state has been mired in in-fighting and stuck toward the bottom of many rankings.  He has been in a constant dogfight with the Democratic Legislature that has pitted him against the powerful NJ teacher’s unions.  While budget-hawk Republicans will appreciate his use of the line-item veto, those that see the cuts to education are less likely to be impressed.

Outside of the bridgegate scandal, Christie’s attempts to reform public pensions in the state have been the cause of many NJ residents outrage.  Since arriving in office, the Governor has attempted to build and implement a plan to address the state’s unfunded pension liabilities.  His administration’s attempts have enraged the teachers unions, put pressure on local governments, and attempted to raise property taxes on individual households.  None of these attempts have resulted in praise from the public or a pension program that could be declared “fixed.”

Without success in NJ to highlight, the Governor will be a bard without a song.  Democratic strategists will have a field day with the issues plaguing the Governor’s tenure in New Jersey much like the Republican Party is going to be able to draw from a deep pool of issues and scandal in Hillary Clinton’s past.  For that reason alone it is hard to see Gov. Christie as the Republican nominee for the Presidency.

Gov. Christie was once the rising star in the Republican Party.  A deeper look indicates that his window may have already been shut.

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