Reprinted from the Ames, Iowa Tribune
The Iowa caucuses on February 1 will launch one to three Republican contenders into the limelight. Iowa is an interesting state because in fact caucus voters I both parties can divide along several preferences.
Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum won the Republican caucuses in 2012 representing the faith based conservatives and the country club establishment. Keep that in mind as you assess the 2016 contenders.
Let’s make it clear. Iowa is VERY important because it’s first and has a great record of pointing to the potential nominee. BUT, how does a candidate actually get nominated?
They normally need to collect delegates in many states before reaching the magic number to get the nomination at the Democratic National Convention. How does that work?
Numbers cruncher Nate Cohn has looked at where the delegates are harvested and found that a Republican contender actually MUST do very well in blue (Democrat) states. In his latest column he writes in the New York Times that
“The blue-state Republicans make it far harder for a very conservative candidate to win the party’s nomination than the party’s reputation suggests. They also give a candidate who might seem somewhat out of touch with today’s Republican Party, like Jeb Bush, a larger base of potential support than is commonly thought.”
His data is compelling and surprising.
“… blue-state Republicans still possess the delegates, voters and resources to decide the nomination. In 2012, there were more Romney voters in California than in Texas, and in Chicago’s Cook County than in West Virginia. Mr. Romney won three times as many voters in overwhelmingly Democratic New York City than in Republican-leaning Alaska.”
As we assess the huge field of presumed GOP candidates it is important to consider these metrics. Perhaps the most surprising piece of information coming from Cohn is the fact that “… 59 percent of Romney voters in the Republican primaries lived in the states carried by President Obama.”
That doesn’t necessarily mean that Iowa’s most conservative Republicans will fold and go for a moderate again in 2016. Remember that the mantra of the GOP is that the party lost two important elections by nominating John McCain and Mitt Romney who were deemed to be too moderate. The strategy for the next presidential contest seems to be to nominate a “true” conservative not a RINO, a Republican in Name Only. Such a candidate it is assumed, would excite the dormant “silent majority” of Americans who don’t bother to vote and who are considered to be more conservative than what the Republicans as well as Democrats have offered up for the White House. We saw that great enthusiasm for conservatives and the disdain for moderates such as Mitt Romney and Jeb Bush at Congressman King’s Freedom Forum in Des Moines.
However the very bluest of blue states – think states like Vermont, California, Massachusetts – actually account for 4 in 10 voters in Republican primaries. In 2008 and 2012 John McCain and Mitt Romney won every single blue-state primary according to Nate Cohn. That is a substantial mountain to overcome by what I call the “hard conservatives.”
In 2016 the Republican candidate who can earn the support of the hard-core conservative caucus voters but also win the vote of blue-state Republicans will win the nomination, and, many analyses suggest also has an excellent chance of winning the general election.