Tuesday, December 29, 2015

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: The Media Monopoly Medium

Hindsight note to failed presidential campaign strategists: If
you didn’t prepare your pre-Iowa/New Hampshire strategy
with your candidate primarily employing the media as the
overture to your campaign, you didn’t have a chance.

There are three stages of a presidential election. The first has
an indefinite beginning date. It ends in the December prior
to the election year about a month before the Iowa caucus.
The second stage is the caucus/primary season itself. It goes
from January to June, The third stage is the general election. It
goes from the party nominating conventions until election day
in November.  While there are many factors is the last two
stages, the major factor is the voters themselves. The first stage,
however, almost ignores the voters. It is managed, displayed,
defined, analyzed and concluded by the media.

If anyone doubts this assertion, I simply point out the clear and
inescapable fact of the first stage of the 2016 cycle just concluded.
Regardless of their experience, resumes, executive abilities or
native intelligence, the most successful figures in both parties
were those who spoke and acted well in and through the media.

Without question, the most successful figure of stage one in 2016
was Donald Trump. Without question, he was the candidate who
most effectively used the media. On the Democratic side, only
Bernie Sanders showed media acuity. He is not leading in the polls,
but he continues to survive heading into stage two against the
most overwhelming Democratic frontrunner in memory. Hillary
Clinton is that frontrunner, and if she had even a modicum of
media skills, she would be the only Democratic candidate left in
the race. In fact, the Clinton campaign has compulsively tried to
hide their candidate from full media view.

On the Republican side, the only candidates left who have a serious
chance to win, other than Mr. Trump, are candidates with
demonstrated media skills, including Chris Christie, Marco Rubio,
and Ted Cruz. Jeb Bush is technically still in the race because of his
name recognition, campaign cash and organizational resources. If
he could have matched his media skills with these resources, he
would be the frontrunner today, Donald Trump notwithstanding.
Two other Republicans, Carly Fiorina and John Kasich, are also
still viable (but barely); yet only Mrs. Fiorina has demonstrated
good media skills in stage one.

Fortunately for the republic, the media plays only a subordinate
role in stages two and three. For this reason, Mr. Bush does still have
a chance to win, however unlikely. For this reason, Mr. Trump is
already fading from his “media lead” of the past several months.
National polls still have him in front, but state polls already have him
behind or narrowly leading.  Mr. Cruz is not only media savvy, he is
very smart. But his appeal, by his own design, has been to only one
segment of his party’s voter base. This makes his quest much more
problematic than it would have been if he had directed his skills to a
broader GOP base.

This leaves Mr. Christie and Mr. Rubio. Each are excellent debaters,
speakers and campaigners. Mr. Christie is perhaps more
experienced, but Mr. Rubio is more glamorous and younger. They
have survived stage one, although neither is a clear frontrunner.
In New Hampshire, Mr. Christie has demonstrated that where he
campaigns in person he does very, very well. Mr. Rubio currently
appears ahead of Mr. Christie in most credible polls, but stage two
is only beginning.

Stage three is too far away to discuss thoughtfully, but we can
discuss stage two as hand-to-hand combat begins in Iowa and New
Hampshire. Mr. Trump, even though he is much less prepared
for the competition in stage two, will not disappear. He has skills and
resources yet to play. I have suggested previously that no presumptive
nominee will likely appear until after Super Tuesday, perhaps not
until May or June. Mrs. Fiorina and Mr. Kasich might surprise in
stage two, but if not, either could reappear as a vice presidential
nominee. Mr. Bush could have an unlikely surprise political epiphany
in stage two. Nothing is decided.

What is decided, however, is perhaps advice to those men and
women now (or later) contemplating a future presidential run.
To wit, don’t consider the race for the nation’s highest office unless
you are prepared to employ, exploit and, yes, outwit the media
institutions which essentially manage and control stage one of an
American presidential campaign. The media, as I have pointed out
is far from dominant in stages two and three, but a candidate must
run the media gauntlet with some success in stage one to get to these
quarterfinals and semifinals and to election day itself.

Copyright (c) 2015 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: The Presidential Election As National Ritual

As 2015 concludes, and the 2016 presidential election cycle
commences with its first primary and caucus voting, it might
be useful to remember how much a vital ritual the democratic
manner of choosing a new president has become.

To  begin with, it is necessary to recall the first U.S. president,
“the indispensable American politician,” George Washington.
A Virginia colonial aristocrat, initially a British army major
who at 21 was sent to spy on the French forts in western
Pennsylvania, Washington, through a subsequent life of
soldiering and running his family estate at Mount Vernon,
established a new principle in the political vocabulary of
national states in western civilization of the late 18th century.

He was, of course, not alone is establishing the unprecedented
American republic. There was a remarkable team of colleagues
that came together from the thirteen original colonies in the
“new world” of the North American continent. Some of them,
including Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and Alexander
Hamilton, were perhaps intellectually “smarter” and better
educated than Washington, but none of them were superior in

There was also “something in the air” in the 1770s, not only in
the British colonies of North America, but in Europe as well, and
by the end of that century, an unquenchable turmoil and upheaval
of the feudal order of the previous millenium was underway.
It continues to this day.

The original notion of most of the founders was for General
Washington, the military leader of the American revolution, to
become king of the United States, Three times he refused this
opportunity. Finally, after an unworkable “Confederation” was
no longer tenable, and a constitutional convention created an
elected presidency that was to be renewed every four years,
Washington acquiesced to return to Philadelphia and lead the
new nation. After eight years, Washington made the unexpected
and “indispensable” decision to retire to Mount Vernon. During
his presidency there were no political parties, but in the resulting
contests for his successor in 1796, 1800 and 1804, the candidates
ran not only with contrasting personalities, but with emerging
contrasts in political philosophies as well.

It was not until the middle of the 19th century that our “modern”
political parties appeared, and not until the mid-20th century that
the current ritualized forms of the presidential election were
established. The coming of universal suffrage enabling all adult
citizens to vote, modern communications and advanced
transportation technology have each altered presidential
campaign strategies, but the ritual format remains a constant.

The president of the United States serves two general functions.
First, he or she is the CEO of the executive branch and the
commander-in-chief of the armed forces. Second, he or she is
the one figure who stands at the “bully pulpit, speaking daily to
and for the nation. These are essentially the same functions and
duties that George Washington assumed on March 4, 1789.

Since that time, a few remarkable men, many exceptional men,
and a few disappointing men have taken the presidential oath. The
times have obviously changed, and the nation incredibly so, but
it is a singular testament to the authors of the Constitution, and
to the irreplaceable George Washington, that the character and
role of the office remains, as does the extraordinary ritual of
renewing it.

Copyright (c) 2015 by Barry Casselman. All right reserved.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: The GOP Finalists Emerge

There was welcome news for most Republicans in recent days
as 5 or 6 of their presidential candidates emerged for the next
phase of the party’s nomination competition.

These include Donald Trump, Marco Rubio, Chris Christie,
Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz, and possibly, John Kasich.

Of course, without any voting yet taking place, this list might
change by a name or two, but it has become clearer which
aspirants have what it takes to vie seriously in 2016.

I do not include Ben Carson, although he will almost certainly
qualify for the next main GOP debate on January 15. Carly
Fiorina and John Kasich, each for different reasons, remain
significant vice presidential candidates. Rand Paul has said
that if he is not included in the next main debate, he will
refuse to participate in the second tier debate, a petulance
that spells the end of his campaign.

The other candidates, most of whom have had good political
experience and past high office, so far are not measuring up on
the campaign trail.

I base this assessment only partially on the opinion polls so
far, most of which have been evaluated as misleading, poorly
taken, and woefully inadequate about measuring what “likely
voters” will do in upcoming primaries and caucuses.

I repeat, without any real votes, this assessment is ultimately
guesswork, but I do think we have seen enough of the candidates
to date to make a list of finalists.

The next GOP debate will be on January 15. It is likely to be
even more confrontive than the earlier ones. It will be followed
by the first voting Iowa.

This does not mean that the non-finalists will all drop out soon.
Most, in all likelihood, will remain in the race until Iowa and
New Hampshire. But going to Super Tuesday on March 1, a
candidate will need campaign funds and good news to keep going.

For Mr. Gilmore, Mr. Santorum, Mr. Huckabee, Mr. Paul, Mr.
Carson, and Mr. Pataki, going beyond March 1 (if they continue
to trail badly) will likely begin to make them look ridiculous
and/or simply vain. Few politicians are willing to endure this.

Mr. Walker, Mr. Jindal, Mr. Perry, Mr. Graham have already
wisely withdrawn for the race. At least one of them might be
back for another try in a future cycle, but 2016 was not their

The list of finalists, however, covers a wide range of experience,
personalities, and skills. There remains much political mystery
and probable unexpected turns ahead.

Copyright (c) 2015 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Campaign Update 12

Jeb Bush’s debate performance in Las Vegas was quite
significantly improved over his earlier appearances, and
this has many, especially his supporters, wondering whether
he can turn his campaign around in time for the caucuses
and primaries early next year. Some observers, especially
those who do not favor his candidacy, are suggesting it is
too late, but considering the hefty campaign funds he has
raised, his organization already active in many states, and
his name recognition, it might be just a bit too soon to write
him off. He shares some of his base with supporters of
Marco Rubio and Chris Christie, both of whom are
currently getting stronger. This makes his comeback more

When Vice President Joe Biden declined to run for president
in 2016, the national punditry declared the race for next
year’s Democratic nomination over, saying that Hillary
Clinton had the nomination locked up. At that point, Mrs.
had only two opponents, and it was decided by the punditry
that Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders could not win (even
though he then led, and still does lead, Mrs. Clinton in New
Hampshire). If the national and state polls are to be believed,
the former secretary of state has a large lead in most areas,
although her overall numbers are remarkably weak when
compared with most other nomination frontrunners in modern
times. Controversy continues to dog Mrs. Clinton who has
high negatives, and so far seems not to have inspired much
enthusiasm in her party’s grass roots, other than with older
liberal women. On paper, conventional wisdom seems to be
correct. Although Mr. Sanders continues to run well in the
party's left base, and is expected to win New Hampshire , there
is no evidence yet that he can win anywhere else. Former
Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley has been ignored by the
party's grass roots throughout the campaign so far. Mrs. Clinton
leads by a big margin in Iowa, although she is barely above
50% in most polls in this caucus state where only a small
percentage of eligible voters take part in the caucus. Only a
last-minute surge by Mr. Sanders or Mr. O'Malley, or more
political problems for Mrs. Clinton, would seem able to change
the outcome in this race, but this seems to be a year when
surprises can happen.

With Donald Trump’s recent reiteration of his earlier pledge not
to run as a third-party candidate in 2016, it would appear that
2015 will be a two-person contest in November. Only former
Democratic Senator Jim Webb of Virginia has even hinted they
would consider running as an independent next year, but so far
this seems unlikely.


At the Republican national convention next year, the presidential
nomination will be made by 560 at-large delegates and 1305
delegates chosen by GOP voters in state primaries and caucuses.
While most attention now is on the early four states plus the 11
states of Super Tuesday, it is very important not to forget the
majority of states which choose their delegates mostly on a
winner-take-all basis after March 1. In particular, I call attention
to Michigan (42 delegates) on March 8; Illinois (54 delegates) and
Ohio (48 delegates) on March 15; New York (81) delegates on
April 19; Pennsylvania (54 delegates) on April 26; and California
(159 delegates) and New Jersey (36 delegates) on June 7. These
states alone, plus other northeastern and far west states, supply
more than one-third of the total elected and at-large delegates. In
recent cycles, the nomination tended to be clinched in the early
primaries, and the later primaries were anti-climactic. It would
appear, however, that in 2016 this might not be the case. Many
of the original 18 major candidates will likely be withdrawn by
March 1, but Marco Rubio, Chris Christie, Ted Cruz, Jeb Bush,
Donald Trump, and possibly John Kasich and one or more
other candidates could still be competing after Super Tuesday,
each with a number of delegates. Most of the more conservative
southern primaries will have taken place by then, and more
moderate conservative primaries in the far west and the
northeast will be ahead. Ted Cruz might then do well in
midwestern primaries and caucuses, and Chris Christie
might do well in far western and northeastern primaries. Jeb
Bush and John Kasich also could do well in the later events.
As in the Democratic nomination contest of 2008, the 2016 race
might be decided at the very end of the voting, and even result
in a very rare contested convention. Unless, one candidate wins
very decisively in the traditional First Four and Super Tuesday
elections, a quite non-traditional, protracted contest could well
happen in April, May and early June. Just do the math.

Copyright (c) 2015 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Donald Trump's Real Predecessor

Donald Trump’s real predecessor in American history
was not P.T. Barnum, as some have suggested, but someone
in the same line of work who also lived in the mid-19th
century, and became a household word.

Dan Rice was born Daniel Maclaren in New York City in
1823. He became one of the earliest American clowns, and
through a series of entertainment jobs created the first true
American circus. He is considered the father not only of the
circus, but of vaudeville. He was the first U.S. megastar of
pop culture, and prior to the U.S. Civil War was probably the
most well-known person in the country. Mark Twain and
Walt Whitman were among his biggest fans. He created
“the greatest show on earth” before his later rival P.T.
Barnum got into the circus business. He is considered the
model for the iconic figure of Uncle Sam. Photographs of
Rice how him to be the spitting image of the early Uncle
Sam cartoons. By 1867, he was so famous that he ran for
president. The 1872 Democratic nomination went to his
friend Horace Greeley.

(Coincidentally, Greeley had lived as a young man in Erie, PA
where he held his first job as a reporter. Dan Rice, years later,
settled his circus in its winter quarters in Girard, a suburb of
Erie where “Dan Rice Days” are still observed every year.)

In many ways, Dan Rice created modern public relations as
well. An inveterate self-promoter, his personality reached into
numerous aspects of early American life. In fashion, he
popularized “French cuffs” in the U.S. He was not only a clown
and circus impresario, he was an actor, director, strong man,
animal trainer, professional dancer and song writer. He is the
origin of several phrases which survive to this day, including
“one horse show,” “Hey, Rube!” and the political term “getting
on the bandwagon” (the latter from his invitation to 1848
presidential candidate Zachary Taylor to appear on one of
his circus wagons).

Rice ran for U.S congress, senate and finally president ---
although he withdrew from each of these races before the
voting began. In 1867, when he ran for president, he was only
44 years old, but he was at the height of his fame. By the late
1870s, changes in the traveling circus, led by Barnum and
others, caused a decline in Rice’s fortune and popularity.
He died in New Jersey in 1900, virtually penniless and

Dan Rice was not only the first great American cultural
promoter and innovator, but a man of remarkable talents.
He was, in fact, the first true American pop culture celebrity
who became eventually involved, albeit unsuccessfully, in
politics. There have been figures like him ever since, not
only from entertainment, but from sports, films, business
and other walks of U.S. life.

Donald Trump is the latest version of this pop culture
phenomenon. Most, like Dan Rice, flare into fame and then
end up forgotten.  A few, most notably Ronald Reagan,
emerge from pop culture into significant success and impact
in American politics.

It will be interesting to observe in the coming months which
will be the outcome for Donald Trump.

Copyright (c) 2015 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015


As we observe another presidential debate, we can ask what
it is these televised spectacles tell us and show us about the

I suggest that the debates don’t necessarily inform us
thoroughly about how a candidate would perform as president,
nor do they completely inform us abut the knowledge and
experience of the candidates. Their record in previous office or
work, and their resumes probably tell us more about these

The debates also don’t tell us much about the kind of persons
these candidates would gather to their administration or the
manner in which they take counsel from others.

What the debates do tell us is something of how each candidate
feels about himself or herself, their ability to take command,
and their skill in acting under stress. While I note that these are
not the only qualities voters need to assess in deciding whom to
support for president, they are important factors in being an
effective chief executive and commander in chief.

The debates are just one part of the presidential campaign
process, and performance in them, either good or bad, can be
critical to the outcome of the contest, especially for the
party nomination. In an era, of hyper-mass communication,
the internet, social media and round-the-clock news, the debates
have become a primary interface between voter and candidate.

As we go into the new year, and the earliest caucus and primary
voting, however, campaign organization, strategy and finances
become increasingly significant, particularly in a cycle such as
this one which has so many well-known competitors for the
political prize.

In an attempt to be fair, those conducting the Republican
debates have from the outset held two debates, one for
candidates higher in the polls and one for those with lower
poll numbers. As the next level of the campaign begins,
however, it would seem appropriate to have just one debate
with an appropriate standard for participation.

The time for each major party to decide who will lead their
national ticket in November, 2016 is now approaching. The
debates have been, and will continue to be, very important,
but a larger picture of the ability and the personality of each
candidate now takes on a greater significance, and with each
additional debate, voters will need to see that bigger picture
forming in front of them with more clarity. Earlier impressions
now undergo a new and greater scrutiny. It is well-known that
voting decisions themselves often occur late in the process,
perhaps only days before the voting itself.

This election year has only begun. Much lies ahead.


(December 16, 2015):

The latest Republican debate, I think, has narrowed the field
de facto a month before the first actual voting in the Iowa
Caucus. Donald Trump continues to lead in the national
generic polls, but much more credible polls from individual
states indicate his lead might be an illusion. Once again in
the debates, his familiarity with domestic and foreign policy
issues seemed slight juxtaposed next to most of his rivals.
Jeb Bush for the first time successfully stood up to Trump,
and seemed through most of the debate evening to be a major
player in the contest, He, along with Chris Christie, Ted Cruz
and Marco Rubio seemed to be the night's biggest winners.
Carly Fiorina and John Kasich seemed to hold their own, but
each primarily increased their chances to be the party's vice
presidential choice. Trump and Ben Carson seemed out of their
element. Rand Paul, who barely made the main debate stage this
time, was articulate about many issues, but his views do not
appear to be shared by most GOP voters, much less his rivals
on the debate stage. This might have been his last 2016 debate

It's clearly time to cancel the second debate format, and to
schedule, in the remaining debates, only one event with
appropriate and increased standards for participation.

Governor Christie, who has made some of the most dramatic
recent gains in the presidential field, particularly in New
Hampshire, now needs to increase his standing in other states,
including Iowa and South Carolina, as well as some of the
Super Tuesday states, if he is to maintain momentum going
into the actual voting in the new year.

Copyright (c) 2015 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Sunday, December 13, 2015


For more than a year, I have been suggesting in print and
on the air that the Republican candidate to watch in 2016
was New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. I wasn’t the only
one to say this, but I was one of the very, very few national
journalists to consistently predict that he would re-emerge in
the presidential campaign after the notorious “bridge scandal”
seemed to derail his presidential ambitions.

I did not ever say he would be the nominee, but I have
intuitively felt that his unquestionable (though sometimes
controversial) communication skills, combined with his
political resume, would make him a finalist in the contest once
it was underway in January, 2016.

For several months, his poll numbers  have drifted in the very
low single digits and, except for noteworthy performances in
the television debates so far, he has lingered in the background
while Donald Trump, Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina, Jeb Bush,
Marco Rubio, John Kasich and Ted Cruz received the most
headlines and attention.

Presidential politics is primarily about timing, assuming that a
candidate has the basic skills, experience and temperament to
be president. Some describe this factor as “luck,” but I think it
is more a sense of timing, and knowing when and where to make
a successful move in the game.

While I have received “rolling eyes” from even some of my
most faithful and supportive readers during these months when
Mr. Christie remained clearly in the background, I knew from
many years of writing about presidential politics (since 1972)
that the temporary emergence and flare-ups of other
candidates was a gift to the Christie campaign. That’s because
it is always important to make the most significant moves only
when the actual voting begins.

Now, in mid-December, the real campaigns in Iowa, New
Hampshire and South Carolina (where the earliest voting will
take place) are beginning in earnest. While early frontrunners
Donald Trump and Ben Carson were exploiting the free media
phase of the presidential pre-campaign, Chris Christie went
to New Hampshire and campaigned the only way to be
successful in that first primary state --- hand to hand, village
to village, town meeting to town meeting.

And what was the result? Today, Governor Christie stands in
second place in New Hampshire, having dramatically risen
from 1% to low double digits. He has been endorsed the leading
and most influential newspaper in the state. He has restored
himself to the main debate stage (after being relegated to the
minor one where he stole the show). His strategy in New
Hampshire is now being repeated in Iowa, but it is New
Hampshire where has needed to shine all along.

After New Hampshire and Iowa, it is not clear that Mr. Christie
will emerge, along with Florida Senator Marco Rubio and
(possibly) Texas Senator Ted Cruz to grapple for the nomination.
It is also not clear when or if Donald Trump will continue to lead
the pack or fade, as Ben Carson and others have.

This is a most unusual presidential cycle so far. Anything can
happen. But, for now. Chris Christie is on the move.

Copyright (c) 2015 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: The Debate Miscalculation

After the large number of Republican presidential debates in
2012, and the subsequent loss of the election by the GOP
nominee, it was widely assumed there had been too many
debates. It became a commonplace that the conservative
party would reduce the number of debates dramatically in
2015-16 to avoid the “overexposure” of 2011-12.

This was, in fact, done. Only 5 debates were sanctioned
for this cycle before January 1, 2016.

It turns out that this was a classic case of fixing a past mistake,
without anticipating new circumstances.

The new circumstances included the “underexposure” of at
least one candidate who effectively has used the “free media”
period of the campaign (the period prior to January, 2016).
Businessman Donald Trump’s poll numbers have repeatedly
gone down immediately after most of the debates so far, but
rebound in the usually month-long intervals between debates.
In that interval, Mr. Trump makes statements which apparently
shock and dismay most of his opponents, the GOP establishment,
as well as provide the media (most of whom oppose him) with
daily fodder. Lots of folks, but not necessarily voters, however,
either think they agree with Mr. Trump or find him sufficiently
refreshing to choose him in the polls or show up at his rallies.

Then there is another televised debate, and Mr. Trump is shown
to be lacking in information and experience, especially when
compared with some of his rivals.  The first “anti-Trump” was
Carly Fiorina, but she has not yet managed to catch on. Then it
was Ben Carson, but he has already faded. Then it was John
Kasich, but he produced a backlash. Then Jeb Bush joined the
anti-Trump fray, but he, too, has failed to gain support.

The GOP has now scheduled an additional debate as the voting
begins next year, but I don’t think this tactic alone will work. One
of the remaining “major” candidates will have to take on Mr.
Trump, and be seen by GOP voters as their better choice to be the
conservative nominee.

In spite of the numerous candidates remaining in the GOP field,  it
would appear now that there are three who might most successfully
turn the nomination contest around and in their favor. They include
Florida Senator Marco Rubio, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie
and Texas Senator Ted Cruz. Each of them has demonstrated
debating skills, and has a serious resume with political experience.
Of course, one of the other candidates could suddenly rise and win
the nomination, especially if no one clinches the nomination before
the GOP convention, but if the “Trump phenomenon” is to be
stopped, it seems that one of those three will have to do it. Each of
them is currently rising in various polls --- Mr. Rubio in many states,
Mr, Christie in New Hampshire, and Mr. Cruz in Iowa.

There are those who argue that the “Trump phenomenon” is an
illusion, a visceral response by those polled to his blunt talk and
defiance of political correctness. When the actual voting begins,
this argument continues, real voters will choose someone else.
Perhaps this is so, it’s a reasonable argument, and yet Mr. Trump,
only facing his rivals once a month in debate, has contradicted it
for some time, and remains apparently well ahead of the pack.

It would seem that if Mr. Rubio, Mr. Christie or Mr. Cruz can now
overcome Mr. Trump, they will --- out of sheer gratitude ---
overcome some hurdles now put in their way by many grass roots
voters and in the Republican establishment. Mr. Cruz perhaps has
the hardest task, having made his appeal so far mainly to only one
wing of the party.

Recently, Mr. Trump has revived his “threat” to run as an
independent candidate in November if he does not feel
“well-treated” by the Republican Party. On paper, it seems a
real threat. But as my friend Nathan Gonzalez of The Rothenberg
Gonzalez Report
has written, this might be an empty threat of a
“sore loser” who would likely only receive a small percentage of
the vote in November and be humiliated by it.

Donald Trump is in the race to be the Republican nominee for
president, He has done remarkably well so far, but not a single
vote has been counted, and many primaries and caucuses are

The Democrats can still win the presidency again in 2016. If the
Republicans want to reclaim the White House, hard work, good
strategies and above all, cool heads are needed in the days

Copyright (c) 2015 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Channeling 1937

I don’t want to overdo the parallels, but there is now in
2015 a certain “channeling” another time in world
history, an average man’s lifetime ago, that is, in the
mid-to-late 1930s when world consciousness was
beginning to sense an imminent, sudden and
tremendous alteration in global human history.

In 1937, the cataclysmic traumas of World War I were
still fresh. The world powers at the time, the
largest nations of Europe, were in definite, if not
fully realized, decline. Two new political forms of violent
“direct action,” totalitarian fascism and totalitarian
communism, were recently gestated and suddenly on
the rise.

Technology, too, had also upended 19th century
consciousness, itself disrupted by the industrial revolution,
and had accelerated the formation of mass urban societies,
especially in the developing worlds of Europe, North
America, and parts of Asia. The introduction of the
telegraph, mid-19th century, was followed in the late 19th
century by the telephone. In the post-World War I era,
radio and motion pictures had dramatically altered
communications worldwide.

The United States of America, then only 150 years old,
had been the first modern democratic republic, and an
early growing industrial force, but only after World War I
was it more obviously going to be a major world power.
In 1937, its wartime prowess of 1918 had been disbanded,
and the nation had suffered an almost decade-long
economic depression, circumstances which it shared with
most of the then developing industrial world.

This economic tribulation, and its accompanying
unemployment and suffering among the masses of
population, combined with aftershocks of the world war
which had not really ended, led to disturbances in almost
all nations, and seemingly incoherent assaults on personal
and national conduct. Nazism, fascism and communism
took hold increasingly in a decadent Europe. Religious and
ethnic prejudices, the seeds of which had been planted
centuries before, now bloomed in dark and violent colors.
The value of a human life, which had escalated in the
idealism and humanism of earlier modern culture was
suddenly devalued like an old currency deemed worthless.

But in 1937, few shots had yet been fired. The huge empire
which the Archduke Franz Ferdinand was scheduled to
inherit before that summer day in Sarajevo was now a tiny
hapless nation sandwiched between the awakening
totalitarian forces that would soon overtake most of the
civilized world. Americans and Canadians read almost
incredible reports of disruptive and unspeakable events
across the ocean.

It was a year of willful suspension in the minds of most
Americans. World War I had not been fought on any U.S.
territory. Americans read the reports, but they seemed far

Very few persons who were old enough possibly to
understand that world of 1937 are alive today. The few
who are alive are at least 95 years old.

Of course, the world has been altered much beyond its
circumstances in 1937. A second world war was fought, and
following it, a “cold” war,, with the two ending fascism and
communism. A series of smaller wars or skirmishes have
followed between newer political forces. The precedent for
an attack on U.S. soil at Pearl Harbor  was followed 60 years
later by September 11 in New York City and Washington, DC.

China and India now each have populations of 1.3 billion
persons. They have growing economies and technological
capabilities. Europe was the site of a post World War II
recovery and boom as it created an economic union, but that
cycle seems to have been relatively short-lived as attempts to
impose a more political union have collapsed into old and new
religious, ethnic and cultural conflicts. The U.S. which emerged
as the dominant world economic and military power after
World War II and the Cold War has reached limits to its powers,
and with only a population of 300 million, apparent caps on its
economic hegemony in the long term.

The totalitarian innovations of the 20th century are no more,
but new totalitarian forces, which are as old as human history
itself, have not surprisingly reappeared.

A thoughtful and educated young man or woman living in the
U.S. in 1937 might have sensed something very big and terrible
was coming, but how could they have imagined what actually
did happen?

I’m old now, but I wonder what the young men and young
women of today, those under 20 years old, for example, are
thinking about what they see and hear and read about what’s
happening in the world today --- their world and what it might

I have long wondered what it would have been like to be a young
person in 1937, but I could not really understand it in spite of all
that we all know has transpired since that time.

It’s late now, but I’m beginning to understand.

 Copyright (c) 2015 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Weekly Campaign Update 11


The presidential campaigns in both major parties are moving
out of low gear in the two states which will vote earliest next
year. Until now, most of the candidates have relied on free media
and the televised debates to promote their causes, but both Iowa
and New Hampshire traditionally require “retail” campaigning
by the candidates themselves with shaking hands, local
appearances, and town meetings. Success in polling until now has
been precipitated by name recognition and news media coverage.
Already a certain volatility in polling has been provoked by those
campaigns whose candidates are both showing up and effective.
TV, cable and radio advertising also now begins in earnest, and
as initiated in 2008 and 2012, nomination campaigns are relying
more and more on social media and GOTV technology. This is
also the time when campaign cash, strategy and organization
begin to count more and more.

MORE IN 2016?
Events in the world and domestic terrorist threats are enabling
foreign policy and security issues to become much more important
in the presidential election than is traditional. Perhaps not since
1956 when a takeover of the Suez Canal by the British and French,
and the Soviet invasion of Hungary, occurred just before the
election, will foreign policy issues play such an important role in
the voting.

It always happens that just before the national elections, certain
U.S. house and U.S. senate seats, earlier thought completely “safe,”
become surprisingly competitive. This naturally occurs when there
are unexpected vacancies and surprise retirements, but often
incumbent gaffes and political blunders enable this to happen.
Although it seems extremely unlikely that Republicans would lose
control of the U.S. house, conventional wisdom about senate seats
could be upended by unpredicted circumstances. In any event,
six to none months from now, the list of “safe” Republican and
Democratic incumbents is likely to change.

Latest polls from New Hampshire show New Jersey Governor Chris
Christie rising to double digits and fourth place among his rivals.
Mr. Christie’s rebound is no accident; he has been campaigning
heavily in the first-in-the-nation primary state, appearing at town
meetings and performing “retail” politics. His favorables are now
the highest among GOP candidates in the state.The governor has
just opened a campaign office in Iowa where his poll numbers have
also previously been low. He is now almost certain to be back on
the stage at the next main Republican debate. Three other GOP
candidates also have made recent gains, including Donald Trump,
Florida Senator Marco Rubio and Texas Senator Ted Cruz.

Copyright (c) 2015 by Barry Casselman.  All rights reserved.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Minnewisowa 2016

The term “Minnewisowa” as a political megastate made
its first appearance during the presidential election of
2004 in an op ed I wrote then in The Washington Times.
It was the re-election year for President George W. Bush,
and the race was going to be close. Living in the prairie
state of Minnesota, after growing up in Pennsylvania, and
attending graduate school in Iowa, I had become aware
how similar in many important ways were the tangential
states of Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa. I often make
up new words, so Minne-wis-owa was a natural.

With 26 electoral votes, Minnewisowa is a battleground
powerhouse in a nation where an increasing number of
states had become predictably and almost inevitably “blue”
or “red.” Recently, the three states had leaned “blue”
(Democratic), but by 2004,, they appeared to be up for
grabs. Iowa, in fact, went for Bush in 2004, and Wisconsin
was very close. Later, in the Obama years, Minnewisowa
returned to blue, but once again in 2016, these states
appear to be competitive.

A recent Survey USA poll in Minnesota surprised most
observers with its results that showed Democratic
frontrunner Hillary Clinton trailing most of the leading
Republican presidential candidates. Dr. Steven Schier at
Carleton College, one of the most impartial and acute
observers of Minnesota politics, wrote that the poll might
be slightly overestimating  the GOP turnout, but even if
that is true, Minnesota is unexpectedly competitive. Most
observers would agree that Iowa and Wisconsin are less
blue on paper than Minnesota, and there are indications that
each of these states could also be presidential battlegrounds.

Minnesota and Wisconsin particularly usually have heavier
Democratic turnouts in presidential years, but Mrs. Clinton
does not seem, as elsewhere, to be generating very much
enthusiasm so far. Both Wisconsin, with its historically
socialist enclaves (in Milwaukee and Madison) and Minnesota
with its traditional populist enclaves (Minneapolis, St Paul
and the northeastern “Range”) show some significant
support for Vermont’s Bernie Sanders.

In the end, barring the unforeseen, virtually all Democrats in
these states will vote for Hillary Clinton if she is her party’s
nominee. Mr. Obama, however, generated exceptional
turnout in the black and other minority communities, and
among independent voters (about 25-30% of the total vote).
95% of an 80% turnout, it must be remembered is not the
same as 95% of a 60% turnout. Unless Mrs. Clinton can
change her public perception in the next ten months, she
could lose all or part of Minnewisowa. Just do the numbers.

Of course, the eventual Republican nominee is very important
in this electoral equation. A GOP ticket unacceptable to
regular conservative voters could keep them home, or even
make them hold their nose and vote for another ticket. The
current state of the GOP nomination contest reveals this

Iowa, as the first state to vote in the caucus/primary season,
has already drawn considerable candidate visits and attention.
With Governor Scott Walker now withdrawn as a presidential
candidate, Wisconsin will increasingly draw candidates when
they are in the Minnewisowa neighborhood. Most candidates
now already quietly come to Minnesota for fundraising. The
Gopher State has no statewide races in 2016, and lots of liberal
and conservative millionaires who can and do contribute to
campaign war chests.

In 2004, Minnwisowa was a battleground megastate. In 2008 and
2012, it was much less so. But in 2016, with the initial advantage
to the Republicans because of “Obama fatigue” and the unusual
lack of enthusiasm for Hillary Clinton, Minnewisowa could be
decisive in an election now shaping up to be hard-fought,
historic and close.

Copyright (c) 2015 by Barry Casseman. All rights reserved.