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Saturday, November 15, 2014

Iowa Caucuses 2016 - Is Hillary Clinton Inevitable?

Let me share with you the best article I've read so far on the Hillary Clinton phenomenon and the Iowa 2016 Caucuses.

Ryan Lizza, "The Inevitability Trap," writing in the New Yorker (Nov 17, 2014) analyzes the prospect of Hillary Clinton being the Democratic Party nominee for President in 2016 with her "coronation" rather than as a result of a vigorous primary season.

The basic premise of the article is that "In every fight for the Democratic Presidential nomination in the past five decades, there has come a moment when the front-runner faltered."

1. In 1984, Walter Mondale seems inevitable until Senator Gary Hart suddenly surged as a serious threat to the "inevitable" Mondale. Hart faltered because he had a poor organization for harvesting delegates and Mondale prevailed.

2. In 2000, Vice-President Al Gore was on a glide path to the nomination until New Jersey Senator and former basketball start Bill Bradley challenged Gore and the Clinton Administration's coziness with Wall Street which had upset liberals in the Democratic Aprty.

3. In 2004 on of a group of experienced politicians especially John Kerry were expected to easily win the Iowa Caucuses until Dr. Howard Dean, a virtually unknown ex-governor of Vermont electrified the progressive wing on the Democratic party and gave Kerry a good run for the money. While Dean excited his large horde of followers, like Hart, he did not have a good organization to thrust his campaign forward. On caucus night Dean promised to continue the fight for nomination but at a rally of his supporters he excitedly shouted into the microphone which produced what has become known as the "Dean Scream"

4. In 2007 Hilary Clinton was the clear favorite and most deeply funded contender for the Iowa Caucuses and the nomination. Leading into the 2008 caucuses she was suddenly faced with a surging young Senator from Illinois Barak Hussein Obama. We all know that Obama pulled a surprise victory in Iowa and continued to pursue Clinton in ever subsequent primary and caucus all the way to June when he had accumulated enough delegates to win the nomination.

In 2016 Lizza argues that Clinton will find herself challenged for the nomination by at least three interesting Democrats who would appeal to different wings of the Democratic Party which, like the Republicans, is a loos coalition of several tendencies. The three likely challengers are Martin O’Malley, governor of Maryland, Former Virginia Senator Jim Webb, and Senator Bernie Sanders, "a democratic socialist and the longest-serving independent in Congress, is seventy-three; he speaks with a Brooklyn accent that is slightly tempered by more than two decades of living in Vermont, where he was previously the mayor of Burlington and then the state’s representative in the U.S. House."

I will blog more in the near future on this very interesting prospect of a vigorous Democratic contest for victory or even second place in the 2016 Iowa Caucuses. 

For the full read of Lizza's piece go to The New Yorker:

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Election 2014 and Iowa Caucuses

After the Tsunami 2014- Now What? On to The Iowa Caucuses
Steffen Schmidt

The annoying political ads have disappeared from our TV screens. Iowans can now set aside their anti anxiety medications and get back to what really matters; family, friends, faith, work, deer hunting, health, Christmas shopping.

The outcome was of course a tsunami that swept away many Democrats not just in Iowa but across the nation. After this rout the Republicans have control of the Senate by at least seven votes with Kentucky’s Mitch McConnell replacing GOP punching bag Harry Reid as Majority Leader. Most significantly the GOP has the largest majority of any party in the House since the Great Depression.  When all the outstanding races are called the Republicans may have more than seven Senate gains.

For Democrats Jean Shaheen’s victory in New Hampshire against Scott Brown and Virginia Mark Warner’s probably victory (there will be a recount it was so close) may be the only bright spots for the Democrats.

The Republicans have been fighting President Obama since his swearing in and the 2014 race was seen as a rejection of Obama’s policies. Obamacare has certainly been a contentious policy even though many parts of the healthcare law are very popular. If this election was a rejection of the Obama-Democratic policies there was actually no one to explain and defend the many potentially popular and successful policies. Saving the country from a depression, bringing down the price of energy, creating jobs and bringing down unemployment, stimulating economic growth to the point where the US is now one of the leading growth economies in the world.

The Democrats ran away from their President and from the very policies they had supported in the hope that they could distance themselves from these laws. That of course was a foolish idea.

In Iowa more than Obama explains the significant successes of the GOP.

First, Terry Branstad is a political machine covered in Teflon. Nothing negative about his administration sticks and he attracts independents which accounts for his juggernaut. His opponent Senator Jack Hatch was a low energy contender whose campaign never really began to roll out. He often seemed as though he actually hoped he would not win. When he was seen walking his dog in his bathrobe we knew it was all over.  Shades of Bill Murray.

In the first district Democratic legislator Pat Murphy was slow in ramping up his campaign and lagged in fundraising. He seemed to never be able to switch gears  from being a State House candidate to a contender for a national position. Republican businessman Rod Blum simply ran a better and more robustly funded campaign. 

In the second district  the Republicans decided that maybe the third time would be magic for Mariannette Miller–Meeks against incumbent Democrat Dave Loebsack. That of course did not work and the Democrats retain he only national position  for Iowa.

The Third District race was close but  Staci Appel who had lost her reelection to the Iowa Senate in 2010, was disadvantaged. I am reluctant to say so but since no one else has the guts I ‘ll say so her commercials where poorly crafted. Her hair, a trivial part of any political choice to be sure, was the subject of comment and therefore was a distraction to her message. It was actually mentioned for months in Facebook and Twitter threads.

The Fourth District once again proved to be Steve King country. He barely ran any commercials but really didn’t need to. His opponent, veteran Jim Mowrer ran a weak campaign which was so disoriented that he failed to mention directly and clearly that he was an Iraq war veteran serving in the Iowa National Guard until the end of the campaign. 

The US Senate race in Iowa was a mismatch. Republican Joni Ernst proved to be a terrific candidate. She is photogenic, spoke directly into the camera and ta voters, spun a humorous and edgy campaign with her hog castration ads.  It helped immensely that she is a Colonel in the Iowa national Guard ad served in Iraq and that she was able to project a “macho” Gal image with her Harley, leather jacket, and shooting at the gun range. 

Congressman Bruce Braley suffered form very unfortunate Karma. Running unopposed for the nomination he missed the chance to sell himself throughout the state. Instead, the campaign got of to a very late start and then was plagued by foot-in-mouth issues of which his unfortunate fund raiser in Texas where he seemed to trash Senator Grassley and Iowa Farmers was fatal.  It also did not help Braley that almost every notable who came to endorse him including Bill Clinton and Michelle Obama mispronounced his name making it look like they had no idea who he was (they said Bradley or Bailey). This was capped by Senator Tom Harkin making some dumb comments about Joni Ernst "looking good" on the last day of the campaign for which he had to apologize.

Voters wanted an end to gridlock and by giving the GOP a solid majority in the Senate and the House they may get what they wished for. Now with the GOP in control of both houses of Congress bills will be passed and it’s up to President Obama to go negotiate with his Congress for legislation compromises that he can actually sign.

All of this will have a huge impact on Caucus 2016. The 2014 race was the launching place for the many candidates aspiring to become President in 2016. The 2014 election is a petri dish for studying the electorate, the issues, the mood of the country, and in Iowa to find allies for the crucial 2016 Iowa caucuses. That's why you saw almost every aspiring contender including Hillary Clinton and other Democratic wannabes (Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, etc.) and of course the full Republican field which includes at a minimum, Chris Christie, Rand Paul, Bobby Jindal, Rick Perry, Jeb Bush, Paul Ryan, Rick Santorum, Mike Huckabee, Scott Walker, Carly Fiorina, and two who have already filed with the Federal Election Commission Jack Fellure a retired engineer from West Virginia, 2012 Prohibition Party presidential nominee and Josue Larose a "Political organizer" from Florida.