Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Iowa caucus post-mortem

The Dems: Hillary won! Bernie beat expectations! Bullshit happened at caucus sites!

I am sure at least two of those things are true. The most interesting take I heard from another poll aggregator, Professor Sam Wang of Princeton, is that Bernie needed to win by at least ten to be viable. I'm not sure I agree Iowa has that much effect on the rest of the races, but I respect Wang and we will see how this plays out.

I'd also like to give O'Malley props for dropping out. There are so many hopeless candidates still walking around with no clue that they are dead meat. 

The effect on New Hampshire: Sanders has a big lead and I don't see Clinton spinning this into anything like the kind of positive story she needs to move forward there. South Carolina and Nevada are where she needs to do well.

The GOP: Cruz won! Rubio beat expectations! Trump is an old ugly loser!

I am sure that all of those statements are true. By the way I counted the average of the pools from the last week, only Cruz and Rubio did better than expected - Cruz by about 3 points and Rubio by a remarkable 8 - and everyone else did worse.

For the GOP, winning Iowa is no predictor of getting the nomination or winning the presidency. The guy who did both is George W. Bush in 2000. Reagan lost Iowa in 1980 to George H.W. Bush and Bush lost to Dole in 1988. As for just winning the nomination and not winning the presidency, Dole won in 1996 and Romney tied Santorum (?!) in 2008.

If I'm going to give props to O'Malley, it's only fair I do the same for Huckabee. A concession speech that includes the sentence "the voters are sick of me" get high marks for honesty. He put out a campaign video that used parody lyrics of Adele's Hello and people who disagree with him politically excoriated it, but I'd like to say it was an honest comment on how exhausting it must be to campaign when everything is going nowhere. You are literally out in the cold giving it your all and getting so little back can't be fun.

The effect on New Hampshire: Just like on the Democratic side, I would be surprised if this changes things much. Trump has a big lead and the folks in the Granite State are historically unmoved by the results from Iowa. From my point of view, the big story is who finishes above 10%. The two ways I would spin it are:

1. If New Hampshire isn't a hy-uge win for Trump, somewhere in the neighborhood of a 20% lead over second place, it's a loss. Anyone who gets under 10% in New Hampshire has to considered quitting very seriously.

Next week, we start looking at Nevada and South Carolina. The road show moves on.

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