Live Free or Die. That is the motto of The Granite State, whose primary is Tuesday, February 9. In Iowa, it is Grow Corn or Die. Well, not really, but Iowa is in the rear view mirror now anyway. NOT.
Before heading to New Hampshire, a quick review and some news. Once again, after a ridiculous Iowa caucus process, there were not just answers but also questions.
Did former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton really win? It was a razor thin 49.9% to 49.6% margin of victory. That is way too close for a system where there were very large caucus crowds – the participants being hand-counted again and again, where many inexperienced precinct captains weren’t sure of what they were doing, and where some delegates were decided by a coin toss!
That’s democracy for you, Iowa caucus style. The media and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders cried foul, so after first refusing to review the results, the Iowa Democratic Party chairwoman said she would look at any concerns raised. Sanders may end up with a delegate or two more, but I think the vote result will stay the same.
It really doesn’t matter. Hillary may have eked out the official win, but Bernie won psychologically by coming so close. Hillary limped out of the frozen corn fields and headed for New Hampshire as Bernie stayed alive.
By the way, former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley withdrew from the race after receiving only 0.6% of the vote. As if anyone cared.
On the Republican side, winner Texas Senator Ted Cruz confounded the pollsters who had businessman Donald Trump leading by up to eight points within a few days of the caucuses. Trump’s no show in the Iowa debate didn’t help him but I think he would have lost anyway. Just as importantly, Florida Senator Marco Rubio came in a strong third, and for that moment in time, made himself the “establishment” alternative to Trump and Cruz.
Realizing they had no path to anywhere, Senator Rand Paul, former governor Mike Huckabee and former senator Rick Santorum suspended their campaigns.
The Republican process did have problems as well, not because of the caucus system, but because the Cruz campaign decided to take advantage of CNN ineptitude when its correspondents reported former neurosurgeon Ben Carson was “taking a break” to go home, and made it appear he was pulling out. The Cruz campaign sent word to its caucus staff all over Iowa to tell supporters of former neurosurgeon Ben Carson that Carson was probably out and they should therefore caucus with Cruz supporters.
Nasty stuff, as politics tends to be. Still, the campaign could have and should have checked with Carson’s campaign before pulling that nonsense. And even as Ted Cruz was apologizing to Ben Carson, his communications director defended the ploy.
Ted Cruz blaming CNN and feigning ignorance and righteousness otherwise as he did, is like Hillary Clinton last week, when defending taking $675,000 in speaking fees from Wall Street (Goldman Sachs for three speeches), saying she didn’t know she would run for president again. Yeah, right. It’s no wonder people don’t find these two candidates likeable or believable.
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The citizens of New Hampshire are a fiercely independent lot. In fact most registered voters there, 44%, are “Undeclared,” meaning they are not Democrat (26%) or Republican (30%), but, for all intents and purposes, Independent. New Hampshire is a semi-closed primary state where, while Democrats and Republicans must vote in their respective primaries, the Undeclared can vote in either. Many other states do not allow Independents to vote in party-specific primaries.
Independents are the key to victory in New Hampshire, and pollsters and pundits have been trying to predict where these mostly moderate voters will go. Both races are interesting, but because it looks like Sanders will beat Clinton handily, most Independents will likely cast their ballots on the Republican side.
The current as of Sunday morning RealClearPolitics (RCP) average of polls for the Democratic primary shows Sanders up by 13.2 points. Clinton is lowering expectations reminding everyone that Sanders is the senator from next door Vermont.
That may make some difference but more than that, New Hampshirite demographics and political views actually more closely match those of an outsider, anti-establishment guy like Sanders much better than an insider like Clinton – even though Clinton tells people she is the ultimate anti-establishment candidate because she is a woman, as if her gender negates her long Washington history.
After New Hampshire, the Democrats vote next in Nevada (February 20 caucuses) and South Carolina (February 27 primary) where Clinton should do well with large blocs of Latino and black voters in those two states respectively.
I wrote last week that I thought Clinton might be panicking too early, and although the latest Democratic nomination poll showed a dramatic tightening between Clinton and Sanders, I still believe she has an easy path to the nomination. That polling is not state by state, but an overall snapshot. I think only US Attorney General Loretta Lynch can stop the former Secretary of State. In any event, the unexpectedly tough race is certainly taking a toll on Clinton, making her general election viability more questionable.
(Some pundits are saying the FBI will recommend an indictment related to Clinton’s emails and her mishandling of classified information, but that the Justice Department won’t indict. Obama wouldn’t allow it. It would still hurt, but in an effort to inoculate herself against a possible recommendation, Clinton has been attacking the investigation, comparing it to the Republican Benghazi investigation. Last I checked though, the FBI was part of the Obama administration.)
The current as of Sunday morning RealClearPolitics (RCP) average of polls for the Republicans shows Donald Trump ahead by 16.2 points. The polls have been coming in fast and furious and the number two and three slots have alternated between Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and Ohio Governor John Kasich. Rubio did get a bump after Iowa, moving into second place in the average. Trump has been leading there almost from the start of his campaign and unless there is some kind of political earthquake, he should win.
The top vote-getting establishment candidate is very important for this primary. That person might be the one to take the nomination should Trump or Cruz falter or split the votes in upcoming states.
Note: The polls to this point do not yet reflect surveys done since Saturday night’s Republican debate. The important second and third place slots remain fluid, and Marco Rubio did himself no favors in the debate. Timing sometimes, is everything.
New Hampshire does not have a large evangelical demographic, so Cruz does not have the advantage he had in Iowa. Even if he comes in third or lower, he still moves on because the next voting takes place in South Carolina on February 20 where he has a larger constituency. The clearest path to the nomination unfortunately is easiest for Trump or Cruz, but hopefully common sense will prevail.
Speaking of common sense, those who know me know that Ohio Governor John Kasich has been my favorite, and my first choice, even before he announced he was running. Kasich is a non-extreme, conservative-moderate. He is inclusive, and he spends more time touting his many accomplishments over the years – including excellent executive experience in one of the most important swing states in the country where the governor is popular even among Democrats – than attacking his opponents.
The general election cannot be won without Ohio and without the other swing states and their moderate voters, and Kasich would be viewed very positively by those voters there who will decide who becomes president.
In this year of the anti-establishment outsider, experience has become an orphan, something anathema, especially to Republicans. That’s too bad. The truth is the Democrats fear John Kasich the most because he has a record as a true compassionate conservative who could resonate throughout the country. Kasich is not a bomb thrower; he is a mentsch with a positive outlook on how to fix things, and he has been the adult in a room full of angry, sniping candidates.
In Saturday night’s Republican debate, the standouts were Rubio and Kasich. Rubio because he did poorly – this may very well hurt him in the primary, and Kasich because he did well – and I very much hope his performance will have vaulted him into first place in the establishment lane. That would in effect, be a win and a big boost forward.
If Kasich or New Jersey governor Chris Christie do not place ahead of Rubio or former Florida governor Jeb Bush, they will recognize they are done and will go home. Bush and Rubio can, and probably will, continue the race. Carson and businesswoman Carly Fiorina might continue as well.
OK, that’s all for now.