Friday, February 5, 2016
One weekend before the New Hampshire Primary: what the Iowa Caucuses Result Can Teach us about political campaigns and messaging?
Keywords or terms: Iowa caucus; New Hampshire primary; Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders; Ted Cruz; Donald Trump; Marco Rubio’ Republican Party; Democratic Party; Quinnipiac University; Box of Chocolate; Forest Gump; and 2016 White House Race
If you were listening to Public Radio and Cable News Network announcements of the result of the first 2016 Iowa Caucuses, it is more than likely that you felt a sense of dismay regarding what polls’ predictions had been and what the actual results of candidates’ performance and nomination process were revealing. Since the beginning of 2016 White House campaign, Americans had been exposed to a lot of polls' predictions that were either over-zealously over-inflated or under-inflated depending on your choice of preference among slate of political party candidates, Republican or Democrats, seeking to occupy the White house oval office come January, 2017.
Some polls’ predictions had distorted the level of support for particular aspirants, while others had placed the cart before the horse, speculating that a particular candidate was going to have a run-away performance than their rivals in either major party. Republicans argued the time has come for them to shake-off the baggage of the last Republican Administration and choose a new leader, where their first preference is probably an outsider to mainstream American politics; Democrats on the other hand, have largely deferred either to a candidate that wanted to maintain the progressive ideology of the current White House or a revolutionary, some say reactionary, independent Senator who had introduced some level of excitement for his candidacy among the young folks, and objected to the business as usual approach to addressing many national issues. Incidentally, Monday’s caucuses’ results for the Republican party were somewhat eye-popping; surprising or euphoric for many pundits that had speculated a huge runaway victory for an outsider, until Republican Ted Cruz overturned the conservative populism of Republican Donald Trump in Iowa; and laid to rest doubts about his candidacy, and hopefully, his qualification to become US President. On the Democratic side, the results were mixed, essentially turning up to become, or close to a head to head performance; however, the edge was given to Democrat Hillary Clinton, with Bernie Sanders winning rather closely than the front-runner could have imagined; and leaving behind Governor O’Malley, to throw in the towel in the fight for the White oval office.
Raw poll’s data showed that Democrat Bernie Sanders did very well among Iowan youths under the age of thirty and Hillary Clinton far outstrip Sanders’s performance with voters in the over fifty age group. Overall, Bernie Sanders has been able to narrow Clinton’s lead throughout the nomination process; and, closed whatever institutional gap Clinton had had at the start of the whole exercise. Day by day, it appears Sanders’s pragmatic populism campaign messaging, contrary to Clinton’s campaign assessment, has been resonating with Iowan Democratic voters. More than anything else, this is what past objective predictions had expected with the rise of clear straight talking Sander’s style of campaign messaging. Over the weekend leading to the Iowan caucus, independent polls’ takers close to Iowa grassroots politics, had predicted there was going to be a tough fight for the hearts and souls of Iowan democratic voters, as the youths’ excitements and candidate of preference, Bernie Sanders, was laying more inroad to the democratic Iowan hearts and the reciprocal love from the youths of that state, getting fever pitch than had earlier been imagined around the Iowan prairie.
Establishing a dominance of one campaign over another had been difficult in the 2016 Democratic Party, as the two leading candidates in polls, Clinton and Sanders, perceived each other as less of a progressive. Clinton had lambasted Sanders as a ‘one-message or topic’ candidate, while Sanders had returned the favor with, the “Unstainable-Traditional-Wall-Streets-Big-Money-Funded” candidacy of Hillary Clinton. Each, arguing that their brand of progressiveness is more attuned with what the voters wanted; and, maintaining that the progress that is required today in America is one that addresses the issues of: 1) unwieldly and unshared economic growth among households; 2) disparate wealth inequality since the nineteen twenties; 3) unshared economic prosperity even within same income groups; 4) the excessive and growing income gains gaps between the top one percent of American households and the rest of the nation; 5) behemoth student loans to wealth ratio; 6) having more than one in five American child living in abject poverty; and, 7) having Average American holding less wealth than their counterparts in other advanced economies, among others.
Without equivocation, Bernie Sanders had campaigned, it is going to take an ethical revolution to overturn the disparities in wages and income, wealth and quality of life, and other associated setbacks facing the average American. While Hillary Clinton acknowledges some of elucidated issues and problems highlighted by Bernie Sanders, she continues to averrer that the better way to address these issues and problems, is to continue in the path of the current White House’s progressive policy initiative, contrary to what the Vermont Senator was articulating. In the opinion of Bernie Sanders, if democrats are to move America forward, it is time to abandon compromise policies that hardly differentiate the party from Republicans; accent new progressive policies that are reflective and substantial; and, work against calamitous economic and political arrangements that continue to marginalize millions of Americans.
What we learned from the Iowa Democratic Party caucuses is that the gap in support between Clinton and Sanders are eroding and it was more of a head to head competition between both campaigns last Monday. If the Sanders’s campaign has not already overtaken the Clinton’s campaign by a two to one margin in next week’s slated primary in New Hampshire, it is possible that that primary’s result is likely, a watershed in the Democratic nomination process; with growing support and favor-ability going to Sanders as he appears to be positioned to win, contrary to the results from the Iowa caucuses. For now, depending on what statistics and results you identify with, it is permissible to give the Iowan caucus competition to Hillary Clinton. Contrarily, the New Hampshire’s results and performance are going to be more different and glaring; with many polling groups already reporting greater advantage to the Vermont Senator.
With Quinnipiac University pollster reporting this morning, February 5, 2016, that the flow of support is probably going to be significant for Bernie Sander’s campaign in New Hampshire; and, the results are probably going to propel his campaign to a stronger position than what he had in Iowa. A more optimistic polling from Quinnipiac says that Bernie Sanders has virtually closed the 30-point gap between himself and the former US Secretary of State, at the national level. Reporting further, Quinnipiac University pollster are showing a momentum for the Vermont Senator over the nomination exercise and showing a hypothetical match-up that arguable gives the toss up to Sanders at the National level in the coming months. With this type of predicted national level support, Bernie Sanders may just be able to accomplish the rather impossible or unfathomable, overcoming the traditional mainstream democratic party members’ support and monetary advantage of Hillary Clinton prior to the beginning of the national primaries and caucuses.
Bernie Sanders once insisted that he is among friends who really wanted a revolution to overturn the current status-quo of corporate-bought elections that Hillary Clinton’s campaign is bestrewn and one that dynamic progressives find abhorrent and distasteful. Maybe the results from Iowa caucuses prepared Bernie Sanders to fight harder for recognition of his ideas and ideals; maybe his continued hammering of the business as usual type of campaign strategy from Secretary Clinton is paying off as it continues to endear him to a broader audience and supporters; however, what is probably known across mainstream politics is that it will be an uphill battle for a Democratic Socialist to win a general election. However, you heard here before: “Miracles do happen!” The once young Jewish boy from Brooklyn borough, New York, may yet get his shot at the golden prize in American Politics. A day may come in American Politics where those messaging that have since endeared youth to Bernie’s campaign may turn national, universal and potentially propel him to the White House’s oval office.
What Republican Ted Cruz achieved in Iowa caucus was an outstanding grassroots effort to get his brand of conservatism messaging to voters. Some political strategists maintain Cruz’s campaign and get out the vote strategy to overcome his opponents were sound, no matter what Republican Donald Trump says about them. In most Iowan neighborhoods and counties, Ted Cruz proved he had the boots on the ground and words out, that ultimately endeared him to amass Republican supporters and voters that allowed him to triumph over his new arch enemy, Donald Trump. Candidate Marco Rubio’s third place performance was notable and may end up becoming, an exemplary strategy of working your way up the political champagne ladder when all seems to have written you off; in other words, the fight for the eventual party nominee on the Republican party side, may end up being a toss-up between Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, just in case reality-show host Donald Trump, falters.
Maybe that was why the second day allegation against Ted Cruz that he was a fraud in the way he won the Iowan caucuses may be making sense to the ardent supporters of the reality show host, Donald Trump; however, many onlookers just wimp at that suggestion. The question of the missing prescient result that was claimed to have tainted the Democratic party exercise, where Clinton had eked out a slim victory of 699.57 (Clinton) over 697.77 (Sanders) count, appears not to be present with the Republicans. The Associated Press reported result vote spread are as follows: with 100% precinct reporting, Ted Cruz (27.6%); Donald Trump (24.3%); Marco Rubio (23.1%); Ben Carson (9.3%); Rand Paul (4.5%); Jeb Bush (2.8%); Carli Fiorina (1.9%); John Kasich (1.9%); Mike Huckabee (1.8%); Chris Christi (1.8%); and, Rick Santorum (1.0%). The conventional wisdom that the ground game is important in running a political campaign was not only telling and affirmed in the Iowan caucuses results, it challenging assumptions of many pollsters that, what a candidate has to bother about is opinion polling in determining their chances of winning an election.
In part, the assumption that heavy turnout in elections means more votes for every candidate, while true in many and most instances, there are occasions in which some favorable candidates by prior polling and strategists’ expectations fail to meet up to their initial pronouncements. Late surging is known to occur even for long chance candidates, as long as those candidates continue to make inroads and emphasize the ground game in reaching voters who end up supporting their causes. Ted Cruz outlasted Donald Trump, even though the projection was that the reality show host was going to outdo every other contestant. Although first-time caucuses goers increased in number because of animation with Donald Trump’s candidacy, the beneficiary of the first time participants ended up benefiting Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, with some polling results indicating a 23% first time cause goers supporting Ted Cruz and 22% of them supporting Marco Rubio. Many late deciders threw their support behind Marco Rubio and the huge evangelical groups in Iowa, favored Ted Cruz, whose father, a pastor, did some leg walk among the evangelical groups in the State.
Results from Iowa caucuses show that there are still a lot to learn in political campaigns and messaging. For example, despite Iowan Republican governor’s opposition and repudiation of Ted Cruz for his anti-Renewable Fuel Subsidy (RFS) program, Ted Cruz still overcame this opposition and topped other Republican candidates in the state. Further, despite the fact that Marco Rubio only concentrated his campaign efforts to Des Moines urban center and immediate counties, relatively avoiding other counties of the State, he was still able to garner enough votes to remain competitive in the race. In addition, neither the two front runners and winners, Ted Cruz and Donald Trump, paid much attention to the heavily populated Republican Northwest Iowan counties in their grassroots campaign efforts. To a greater extent, the competition for all the candidates was evident from the urban centers to the rural areas; and, only the more proactive better organized grassroots campaign efforts paid off.
In part, the results of the Republican efforts in Iowa, point the finger at the difficulty of assuming that earlier polling data may skew election to a particular candidate. If Marco Rubio was pleased that he was able to interest most late deciding Republican voters, so can Ted Cruz claim that his early outreach to the evangelical groups in Iowa was a great strategy. Specifics and organizational strength of most campaigns are somewhat driven by early opinion polling(s); however, any candidate that rely solely on these types of polling(s) may fall short of expectations when it comes to the final or general election. Political campaigns are like a box of chocolate, you never know what you are going to get, my apologies to Forest Gump.