As a pundit, I should not admit this, but it is much more interesting when
actual voters express themselves in an election, and particularly, in a
presidential election. Not only is it more interesting, it is much more fun.
We pundits are really a dour lot who tire ourselves out by wagging our
fingers at the candidates and everyone in sight (that is, when we are not
simply holding up our fingers in the air trying to determine political wind
direction and velocity).
Now, of course, comes the heavy lifting, i.e., interpreting what the voters
mean by their votes (as if we can’t take their selections at face value).
It is, to be fair, worth trying to translate a result in the Iowa caucus, where
there are multiple candidates who will get a noticeable percentage of caucus
votes, and the winner will likely receive only about a quarter of the total.
The sober news is that despite their huge egos which propelled them into the
race in the first place, several candidates will call it quits after Iowa, or soon
thereafter, not only because of a poor showing, but equally or more
importantly, because they are out of cash (and unlikely to receive much
Cash is not so important in the long run-up to Iowa and New Hampshire,
especially after the 2012 cycle innovation of numerous pre-primary/caucus
debates, most of them telecast nationally. The biggest winner of that
phenomenon in 2011, Newt Gingrich, will now see if it pays off when
votes are cast. In 2004, Howard Dean was the sensation of the internet
phenomenon of that cycle, but fell short when the votes Iowa came in. On
the other hand, Barack Obama got attention in the grass roots cycle in
2008, won Iowa, and took it to the White House.
But cash is very important as contending candidates go from primary state
to primary state, states which offer little time or opportunity for “retail”
Several pundits, myself included, have offered up the possibility that the
2012 Republican nomination contest might go on longer than expected,
even (horrors!) possibly all the way to Tampa and the GOP convention.
It’s still possible, but the (brief?) Ron Paul bubble has sobered up the
conservatives who want, most of all, to replace Mr. Obama with one of
their own, and a coalescing around the two leading candidates, Mr. Romney
and Mr. Gingrich, seems to be taking place. If I might guess, Mr. Romney
has the advantage in this process, although Newt-as-Lazarus cannot be
be finally dismissed until (if you will pardon the adaption) the elephant lady
If Mr. Romney does win the Iowa caucus by whatever margin, he will win
New Hampshire the next week by a much bigger margin, and then head into
South Carolina with a full army. General Gingrich will then have to re-stage
"crossing the Delaware" to a state that does not resemble colonial New Jersey,
and win there so to fight credibly soon after in Florida (which resembles no
state in American history) with its large sub-groups of the elderly, several
generations of Cuban-American refugees, recent South and Central American
emigres, Jewish retirees from further north on the East Coast, American
blacks and Haitian-American settlers, Panhandle blue collar whites, Seminole
American Indians, and outposts of very affluent voters on both the west and
east coasts of the peninsula.
Neither a General Washington, Grant nor Marshall would be able to stop
one candidate’s tidal wave, should it develop.
Hurricanes form suddenly in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean or the Gulf
of Mexico before heading to the mainland on an unpredictable course.
The storm of the 2012 election is now forming in the midwestern state of
Iowa. Because the primary/caucus season has a known itinerary, we know this
storm’s course, but we don’t yet know its name.
Copyright (c) 2011 by Barry Casselman
All right reserved.