Sunday, January 31, 2016

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: The Voters Interrupt This Program.....

We have all been witnessing a serial entertainment known
as Stage 1 of the 2016 presidential election. Making sure we
were not overwhelmed by rhetorical lassitude and the chronic
tedium of observing public personalities who would induce
us to premature somnabulism, we have had the entertainments
of at least one electoral vaudevillian in each party, Donald
Trump on the right and Bernie Sanders on the left.

This program of dismantling assorted shibboleths from the past
has been unnerving to certain political establishments in both
the public policy community and in the media. Whatever their
political destiny, Mr. Trump upended political correctness,
and Mr. Sanders brought a naked socialism where no serious
candidate had ever tread before.

These two gentlemen from New York City, with their such
different backgrounds and ideologies, enabled a suspension
of the old rules and customs of the campaign cycle, and in
confrontations with their less colorful rivals, they in turn
entertained, provoked, outraged, delighted and confused us.

I am not dismissing their efforts. They have each managed to
do more than amuse or infuriate us.  I am also not suggesting
that their performances rise to the level of Shakespearean
comedy. Their outcomes, and the presentations of their
competitors will now be measured by the audience. This
measurement is not quite like the ratings which underpin the
broadcast industry. Instead, this extended theatrical
presentation will be now necessarily interrupted by some
important judgments from audience members through some
programs of their own called primaries and caucuses.

For many of us, it couldn’t come too soon. Unlike a television
program, there was no “off” button for Stage 1.

Copyright (c) 2016 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Friday, January 29, 2016


It is hard thinking time for Democratic and Republican voters
across America. The ballyhoo of Stage 1 of the presidential
campaign, including the early debates, the media domination
the news, and the getting-to-know-you period of the various
candidates is now concluded. In a matter of hours, voters in
Iowa will attend evening caucuses to register their choices,
and a week later, voters in New Hampshire will go to the polls
over a full day to make their choices.

Do I need to say aloud that much is at stake in this election
for every American?

Do I need to say aloud that the office of president of the
United States is a uniquely important office?

The Super Bowl, World Series, Final Four, all-star games are
sports events most of us follow vicariously. The Academy
Awards are observed as rites for celebrities in the movie
business. Professional athletes and movie-TV actors are paid
enormous sums of money to entertain us. They are followed
in magazines, and on radio and TV. Our relationships with
them are almost entirely vicarious. There is nothing wrong
with this; it is part of the contemporary cultural experience
of most Americans. Other Americans derive vicarious
pleasures from reading books, including mystery novels and
literary works; or from listening to music, popular and
classical, and playing records by favorite artists. Some
Americans watch ballet or opera. There are many pastimes in
21st century culture which are part of our lives. And again. in
many cases, large sums of money are paid to those who
provide them.

The “political” part of our lives, however, are not truly

The United States began as an experiment in self-government
226 years ago under its present constitution. With several
amendments and numerous social adjustments it has survived,
grown and flourished to the present day. It has been tempered by
a profound civil war, two world wars, many regional wars and
a “cold war.” In most wars, the nation was victorious; in some
wars, not victorious. Millions of Americans have worn the
uniform of their country, bravely fought for it, and in some cases,
died for it.

At the outset, only some Americans could vote. Today, all
Americans can vote. But throughout the 226 years, and into any
future that can reasonably be foreseen, the government of the
United States has derived its legitimacy, functioned, and
presumably was directed by “the consent of the governed.”

That consent is always an indirect one. There are national
elections every two years, and presidential elections every four
years. Elected officials can be replaced or returned to office.
The programs of the major political parties can likewise be
affirmed or rejected.

In recent years, the rise of media and other communications
technology has come to dominate or overshadow the preliminary
stages of the election process. This is not entirely a new
phenomenon. Beginning with the 1860 election of Abraham
Lincoln, the latter half of 19th century elections were dominated
the use of the media technologies available in those turbulent
Civil War and post-Civil War times.

The 2016 presidential election cycle is turning out to be another
transformational moment in this nation’s unique history. The
precedents and “rules” of recent cycles appear to be suspended
or even overtaken by something new. Of course, until actual
votes are counted, we won’t know just how much this is so, or
even if the early indications are true, but I think every American
voter needs to be prepared for something new.

As recent very close elections have powerfully demonstrated,
every single vote does count. And I always point out, even if a
person chooses not to vote, that represents a de facto vote for the
eventual winners. A vote, turning the cynics among us aside,
is the one true power every adult citizen holds in his or her own

Everyone has their own reasons for the vote they cast, or for
not voting. It is not for any of us to judge those myriad of
motivations. But in each case, especially in a time such as this
one, a vote comes after some hard thinking.

I do not fear being called simple-minded when I say once again
that when most Americans choose a president, they ultimately
choose not only a person they agree with, but someone they feel
they want to see and hear every day for the next four years.

On that proposition rests the world’s oldest and, to date, most
significant republic. Long may it survive and prosper!

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

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Trump In Or Out? Does It Matter?

Donald Trump has announced he will not participate in Thursday's
Republican presidential debate, scheduled four days before the
Iowa Caucus. The Iowa vote will be the first in the 2016 primary/
caucus calendar.

Given as his reason for skipping the debate, Mr. Trump cited the
presence on the debate media panel of Megyn Kelly whom he clashed
with at the first debate last year. Mr. Trump has since continually
criticized Ms. Kelly as being unfair to him.

Most observers are at a loss for  the strategy of this last-minute
move by the man who leads the GOP field in almost all national polls.

His rivals have been quick to criticize the New York City
businessman. Nonetheless, the story of Trump's withdrawal has
dominated the news in Iowa, overshadowing much of the efforts
of his competitors.

Mr. Trump has bragged that virtually nothing he says or does
will cause him to lose favor with his supporters.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie pointed out that when he
was earlier excluded from a main debate, he did not "whine" or
complain, but participated in the undercard debate that evening.
Governor Christie has now returned to the main event in recent
debates as his poll numbers have risen.

Some observers are openly predicting that Mr. Trump will show
up at the Iowa debate on Thursday after all, having once again
stolen the media attention at a key moment.

Copyright (c) 2016 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Monday, January 25, 2016

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Will First-Time Voters Make The Difference In Iowa And New Hampshire?

In the few days left before the Iowa caucus and the New
Hampshire primary, there is some evidence that the two
candidates doing best in early polls, Bernie Sanders on
the Democratic side, and Donald Trump on the Republican
side, might depend on first-time and perhaps previously
unaffiliated voters in both contests if they are to win.
Various accounts on the ground in both locales, primarily
unmeasured and speculative, signal that traditional party
activists and hitherto likely voters are probably going to
choose from among more traditional candidates. In both
Iowa and New Hampshire, voters from both major parties,
as well as independents, can choose either caucus/primary
to vote in.

Historically, predictions of unusual surges in first-time
voters have often failed to materialize. But there are
exceptions when first-time voters can make a difference in
a major political contest. Perhaps one of the most notable of
these was in the 1998 Minnesota governor’s race when, in
spite of two well-known and credible major party nominees,
independent candidate Jesse Ventura brought out a last-minute
and unprecedented number of younger and older first-time
voters on election day and won a memorable upset Only weeks
before, he had trailed invery distant third place.

Weather might also be a factor. The forecast for Des Moines
on February 1 is currently low 30s, warmer than usual for a
Caucus night.

The early voting for the 2016 presidential race is now
becoming more unpredictable.

Copyright (C) 2016 by barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: A Populist Coup D'Etat?

The French phrase coup d’etat is literally translated as a
“blow to the state,” and that’s a good description of what
appears to be going on in both U.S. major party presidential
campaigns. The Spanish philosopher Jose Ortega y Gasset,
whom I have cited often over the years had a different phrase,
la rebelion de las masas or “the revolt of the masses,” that
also might fit what’s happening. In any event, Donald Trump
and Bernie Sanders are not going away any time soon, and
it’s time for one of the hitherto more conventional candidates
to step up to the plate and drive in some runs before the ninth
inning, or two teams no one ever heard of before this year
will be going to the Presidential World Series in November.

As far as I know, no one saw this coming before it began,
although many of us noted certain glaring discrepancies and
disruptions within each of the major parties. I predicted
stalemate if Barak Obama won re-election in 2012.

Apparently, voters will tolerate only so much inaction,
economic stagnation, homeland insecurity, and deliberate
lack of transparency by politicians and bureaucrats before
taking matters into their own hands.

Lincoln said: “The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate
to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with 

difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. As our case 
is new, so we must think anew, and act anew.”

It’s another occasion requiring us to renew and revise the
American political experiment. Every few generations, and
because of unanticipated circumstances, this is so, and it
is time to realize we are right now going to a new, and as yet,
undisclosed location.

Copyright (c) 2016 by Barry Casselman.  All rights reserved.

Monday, January 18, 2016

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Bernie's Predecessor

Previously, I wrote about Donald Trump’s predecessor in U.S.
politics, the mid-19th century entertainer/celebrity/pop culture
figure Dan Rice. Most of my readers understood when I wrote
that Dan Rice was the first modern circus clown that it was not
a pejorative term, but rather an homage to him as an innovating
artist during the nation’s early days. Some Trump partisans
did not get past the word “clown,” and thought I was putting
Trump down. Such is the sad state of political discussion today.

Mr. Trump is, of course, an entertainer and a pop culture figure,
as well as a successful business man and the dominant figure of
the Republican presidential nomination contest in its first stage
(the one before the actual voting). As Dan Rice before him, he is a
master of using the media. Whether his initial success will
continue in the second stage of the campaign, the caucuses and
primaries, will now be revealed by the voters in Iowa, New
Hampshire, South Carolina and beyond.

The big surprise in the Democratic side of the presidential
contest has been Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. Openly
a socialist, 75 years old, and only recently a member of the
Democratic Party, Mr. Sanders was given no chance to succeed
in 2016 at the campaign’s outset, but has proven to be a tough
competitor against frontrunner Hillary Clinton who was thought
to have a lock on the nomination from the beginning of the cycle.

In fact, the polls in the first two voting states, Iowa and New
Hampshire, show Mr. Sanders far ahead of Mrs. Clinton in the
latter primary, and either slightly ahead or tied with her in the
former, a caucus. The winner in Iowa, as of this writing two
weeks before the voting, is unknown. But Mrs. Clinton has been
fading, and Mr. Sanders has been surging.

Mr. Sanders’ success so far raises the question: Has there ever
been a presidential campaign like his before in U.S. politics?

The answer is definitely yes, and the proof of it can be found in
Karl Rove’s new book, The Triumph of William McKinley: Why
the election of 1896 still matters
. No, Bernie Sanders predecessor
was not Republican McKinley; instead, it was the man he defeated,
William Jennings Bryan.

Of course, there are differences between Bryan and Sanders. The
Nebraska “Boy Orator” was only 36 years old in 1896, the youngest
major party candidate ever to to run for president. Bernie Sanders
would be the oldest if he wins the nomination. Mr. Bryan was a
Protestant religious fundamentalist (his last public act was to be
the lawyer against pro-evolutionist Scopes in the famous trial in
1925), and his campaign (but not he himself) was marred by
anti-semitism. Mr. Sanders is Jewish.

The similarities in their campaigns and their public views, however,
are strikingly similar. As Karl Rove’s book reveals, Bryan was not
even an official candidate only a few hours before he was
nominated. At the 1896 Democratic convention, Bryan delivered
his now legendary “cross of Gold” speech that electrified the
convention, and even with no real organization, stampeded the
delegates to choose him as their nominee. His nomination was so
shocking it divided the party, producing overt opposition from the
gold standard Democrats (including the Democratic incumbent
president Grover Cleveland) against Bryan’s “silver” Democrats.
A third party resulted with northeastern and other gold standard
Democrats running their own presidential ticket. Bryan, now the
official Democratic nominee, also sought the endorsement of the
leftist Populist Party which four years before had drawn more
than a million votes.

The important point to note about Bryan’s 1896 campaign was
that he ran against the rich and big U.S. banks and corporations
with language that is remarkably similar to Bernie Sanders’
language in 2016. William Jennings Bryan political views and
Bernie Sanders’ rhetoric on economic subjects are remarkably
alike. Both can be described as radical populists who broke some
thematic taboos of their eras.

Mr. Bryan lost the 1896 election to a man who had just been the
governor of Ohio, William McKinley. As Karl Rove persuasively
shows, Mr. McKinley (himself an underdog at the outset of the
GOP nomination contest) belatedly but successfully countered
Mr. Bryan’s populist appeal by articulating a brilliant defense of
the gold standard and tariff protectionism, thus winning the
votes of many blue collar workers who usually voted Democratic.

Prior to this year, an avowed socialist like Mr. Sanders would
have no reasonable chance to be nominated for president by the
Democratic Party. Prior to this year, a non-politician like Mr.
Trump would have little chance to win the Republican nomination
(although Wendell Wilkie did do this 75 years ago).

The period leading up to the 1896 election was a remarkable one.
In 1893 there had been one of the severest economic panics in
American history, and a hard depression had followed. Farmers
(who were a much larger proportion of the population than they
are today), small businessmen, and many in the growing industrial
worker class were suffering. The country was significantly divided
on ideological lines. One side argued that the gold standard would
lead the nation back to prosperity. The other side said that gold
was a tool of the plutocrats, and that only bimetallism (making
silver on a par with gold) would the economy recover. These notions
of gold and silver are difficult for us to understand today, but they
become more comprehensible if you, instead of pitting gold against
silver, you contrast the modern contrast of the conservative
platform of lower taxes and lower government spending versus the
liberal platform of raising the taxes of the rich and the
corporations, and spending more public money on entitlements.

(An interesting difference between 1896 and 2016, author Rove points
out, is the one between style of campaigning. Mr. Bryan campaigned
harder than any nominee ever had before, and probably since,
visiting all parts of the nation, giving countless speeches in small
towns, large cities and rural areas. His method was much more like
the campaigns of today. By contrast, Mr. McKinley did not leave
his back porch in his home town of Canton, Ohio. He did invite
about 750,000 persons (one-twentieth of the nation’s eligible voters)
to come to Canton to see him in person and to hear him speak
from his back porch. This strategy would be unthinkable today, but
somehow it worked in 1896.)

Is there a modern equivalent to William McKinley in the Republican
field today? It is not Mr. Trump, though he might win the GOP
nomination. The nearest to McKinley perhaps is another Ohio
governor, John Kasich, or the current governor of New Jersey,
Chris Christie.

Neither Mr. Sanders nor Mr. Trump, of course, has yet been
nominated, and they might not yet win, but thanks to Karl Rove’s
superb book reexamining an important presidential election of
the past, we can see how, while the names and personalities
change dramatically in our electoral history, the issues and the
rhetoric have remarkably remained so similar.

Copyright (c) 2016 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Friday, January 15, 2016


It was the first debate of 2016, but not the first of the cycle,
and the remaining main stage candidates are each much
improved over the initial performances.

The number of debaters is now down to seven, and in a few
weeks that number will probably be even less. That
circumstance will either make for a much better “debate”
or it will turn into a virtual carnival of political contempt.

With voting only days away, it is perhaps not very useful to
proclaim winners and losers. Voters in Iowa and New
Hampshire will soon either verify the media analyses of
Stage One of the contest, or will, as often happens, surprise
and contradict the punditry which has so far dominated
campaign coverage.

While most public interest recently has been in the GOP
debates, the apparent surge of Bernie Sanders in the
Democratic race makes  the next Democratic debate worth

Ted Cruz was a focus of the debate in South Carolina. His
comment about the residents of New York City was
gratuitous, and was a flub, but the attacks on his citizenship
seemed unfair. At some point, the latter question will be
settled in court, presumably favorable to Cruz.

Even Ben Carson, whose candidacy is becoming harder to
understand, performed well. All the candidates increasingly
focused their criticisms on President Obama and Hillary
Clinton, something Governor Christie has done from the
first debate. There is now a reasonably clear and shared
critique of the Obama administration, and this is likely to
be a positive for the eventual Republican ticket no matter
whose names are on it.

The back-and-forth “attacks’ between the GOP candidates
are getting sharper. In future debates, this will only increase
and become more personal. It will be interesting to see how
each of the candidates deflect these attacks.

The four most aggressive candidates are Mr. Trump. Mr. Cruz,
Mr. Christie and Mr. Rubio. Fact-checking will likely become
essential as the campaign procedes.

If any candidate has been wearing gloves so far, they will be
off by the next debate. Bare knuckles. Bare knuckles.

Copyright (c) 2016 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Thursday, January 14, 2016


The most immediate political news is now from Iowa where
in less that three weeks the Democratic and Republican
campaigns for president formally begin.

As these campaigns head into Stage Two of the contest, some
of the stereotypes that emerged in Stage One seem to be under
some challenge.

In Stage One, one figure in each party dominated the news and
the polls. On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton has been the
constant frontrunner since the cycle began. The liberal field
only grew to five, and two of those have dropped out. When
Vice President Joe Biden decided not to run, there was a
general agreement among pundits and experts that the race
was over. Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, openly a socialist,
was considered unnominatable for a general election. In fact,
Mr. Sanders trailed Mrs. Clinton in Iowa, and led her only in
neighboring New Hampshire. A third remaining candidate,
former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley trailed both of
them in low single digits, clearly failing to interest
Democrats across the country.

Someone has apparently not told the Democratic grass roots
about the pundits’ conclusion. Mrs. Clinton’s poll numbers
have fallen precipitously in Iowa, New Hampshire and across
the country. In spite of a financial advantage, a huge national
organization, and overwhelming name recognition, the former
first lady has not excited her party’s voters. Although Mr.
Sanders’ resume is thin compared to hers, and his stated views
notably to her left, the 75 year-old Sanders has shown
remarkable campaign energy and appeal to his party’s grass
roots, especially the young. He is now expected to win New
Hampshire, but was not expected to win in Iowa. New polls
show Mr. Sanders now leading or virtually tied in Iowa, and
surging. The question remains, however, whether his supporters
will turn out on caucus night, especially if the weather is very
cold (as it has often been in the past). Young voters historically
also do not turn out in the numbers that older voters do. Polling
for a caucus is also more problematic than it is for a primary, so
polls must be regarded skeptically until just before the voting.
Nevertheless, there is some unmistakeable energy emanating
from the Sanders effort, an energy not evident yet in the Clinton

On the Republican side, there is also much new volatility.
Donald Trump has dominated the headlines and the polls for
months, but very recent polling indicate the rise of some of the
other candidates. Texas Senator Ted Cruz has led in most Iowa
polls of late, but Trump remains close behind. Perhaps the most
interesting new developments, however, are some late surges
by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and Florida Senator
Marco Rubio, especially in New Hampshire. There is also a
reported new surges for former Florida Governor Jeb Bush
whose campaign had been faltering, and for Ohio Governor
John Kasich. Preoccupied with Mr. Trump and Mr. Cruz, most
media attention has generally passed over these late surges. The
campaigns of Ben Carson (briefly the frontrunner), Kentucky
Senator Rand Paul, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee,
and Carly Fiorina seemed to be falling far behind.

The dispositive story in Iowa (and a few days later in New
Hampshire) will be the perennial one of turnout. The hoop-la
of stage one, the early debates, and the sensational headlines,
will now be overtaken by organization and get-out-the-vote
efforts ---and what actual voters really think about the
candidates. Iowa has not often predicted the eventual winner,
but this is clearly an exceptional cycle, and it could set into
motion an extraordinary and unpredictable national campaign
leading to Election Day next November.

We will soon find out if the media-run Stage One was an
omen or an illusion.

Copyright (c) 2016 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: A Sanders Scenario

In my most recent post, I discussed many possible scenarios
leading to the Republican nomination for president. There
appeared to be no hurry to discuss the Democratic scenarios
since the long-time frontrunner, Hillary Clinton, seemed to
have her party’s nomination locked up, especially after Vice
President Joe Biden recently decided not to enter the contest.

But wait another minute (or so)!

Poll numbers in Iowa, where Mrs. Clinton had been comfortably
ahead of Mr. Sanders, have suddenly tightened to perhaps a tie.
Sanders is still ahead in New Hampshire. Non-candidate Biden
is now pointedly praising Mr. Sanders, and, the
radical yet influential (with grass roots Democratic voters) blog,
has publicly endorsed Mr. Sanders.

There are only three serious liberal party candidates left in
the field, including Clinton, Sanders and former Maryland
Governor Martin O’Malley. The latter has singularly failed to
excite his party’s voters after months of active campaigning.

Mrs. Clinton continues to face serious questioning about her
service as U.S. secretary of state during President Obama’s first
term, including an expanding FBI investigation of her public
conduct. Her poll numbers, while ahead of her rivals, have been
“soft” until now, including weakness in such a Democratic state
as Minnesota. Criticism of the private conduct of her husband,
the former president, has been renewed, even as he has joined the
campaign trail on her behalf in New Hampshire.

Nevertheless, most pundits (including this one) had finally
concluded that Mr. Sanders was simply too far off the center to
come back to seriously challenge Mrs. Clinton once the campaign
reached its second stage when primary and caucus voting
actually takes place.

Unlike the Republicans, the Democrats have few scenarios left.
The first is that Mrs. Clinton does win the nomination. A very
unlikely scenario is that, with Mrs. Clinton continuing to fade,
the party establishment rallies behind Mr. O’Malley, This is
possible, but Mr. O’Malley has not even been vetted in the media,
and having been the mayor of Baltimore as well as governor of
Maryland, he could face a critical evaluation of his tenure in
those positions. Another unlikely scenario would be for the
unelected delegates to the Democratic convention in Philadelphia
next July to combine with the few uncommitted delegates to block
a first or second ballot nomination, and then draft either Joe
Biden or Elizabeth Warren in a brokered contest.

I have not, of course, yet mentioned the most likely scenario,
assuming a political nosedive for Mrs. Clinton, that is, the
nomination of Bernie Sanders. The reason this would be the
most likely scenario is that the deadline for entering most
primaries and caucuses is either now past or very soon to do so.
Should Mrs. Clinton’s support continue to erode, or suddenly
collapse, Mr. Sanders and Mr. O’Malley would be the only other
persons on the ballot in most of the later primary states. If
indeed, Mr. Sanders won overwhelmingly the delegates in the
later primaries, it is difficult to imagine how the Democratic
political establishment could nullify that result with a backroom
“deal” at the convention without alienating much of their own
political base.

Now I hasten to caution that Mrs. Clinton, as of this writing, is
still the frontrunner. The new poll numbers for Iowa are not the
same as caucus votes. She still has a large organization and
many resources. In less than three weeks, however, Iowans will
register their preferences, and a few days later, the voters of
New Hampshire will do the same.

Surprises could yet be in store in stage two of both major party’s
presidential contests. We have known for some time that voters
are upset, and that 2016 might not be politics as usual, but at the
outset, more than a year ago, it was widely believed that there
would be one or both a Clinton and a Bush on the November
ballot. Recently, it has seemed there would only be one, but the
possibility that neither would be their party’s nominees is the
ultimate contrarian 2016 outcome.

Political winds, suddenly chilly, are clearly blowing this winter.
Hold on to your political hats.

Copyright (c) 2016 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Various 2016 Scenarios

The second stage of the 2016 presidential contest has begun, and
the first stage (which lasted for more than a year) has set up
various possible scenarios that begin with the Iowa Caucus on
February 1, and could conclude as late as the national conventions
in July.

Examining the Republican contest first, there is no arguable way
not to credit the dominant performance of businessman Donald
Trump throughout the first stage. A master of the media which
has primarily controlled the public perception of stage 1, Mr.
Trump has led in the national polls through most of the past year,
usually outdistancing his closest rival by double digits. Physician
Ben Carson, another non-politician, also maintained high poll
numbers, but his campaign and popularity now seem to be in a
nose dive. In recent weeks, in the period just before the Iowa and
New Hampshire voting battles began in earnest, Marco Rubio,
Chris Christie and Ted Cruz have seemed to make the most gains.
Mr. Cruz actually leads Mr. Trump in Iowa polls.

In the past, however, Iowa and New Hampshire voters, polls
notwithstanding, have made up their minds late in the contest.
A rule of thumb contends that as many as 80% of Iowa caucus
attendees decide their vote only in the last week or ten days
before caucus night.

So what are the possible scenarios that could result, now
speculating less than three weeks from the Iowa vote?

Conventional wisdom has Ted Cruz winning the Iowa Caucus,
with Donald Trump, Ben Carson, Marco Rubio, and Jeb Bush
trailing, but each winning some delegates. In this scenario, Chris
Christie, John Kasich. Carly Fiorina, Mike Huckabee, Rand Paul
and Rick Santorum (who won the 2012 Iowa Caucus) all do
poorly, and probably win very few or no delegates. That’s the
safest bet today.

But actual voting in primaries and caucuses, especially the
early ones, often come up with surprises. One surprise would
be for Mr. Trump to make a comeback and win Iowa. That
would signal his candidacy is more serious than many observers
have thought it would be in the second stage. This would also
be a big blow to Mr. Cruz who is not expected to win in New
Hampshire, and might find it very hard to gain momentum in
March and beyond. Another surprise would be for  Mr. Christie
to come in third or fourth, and win some delegates. This could
give his campaign a big boost just before New Hampshire where
he is already doing very well. A strong Jeb Bush showing in Iowa
would be another surprise, and could reinvigorate his image at
a critical time, putting him back in the top tier of candidates.
Any strong showing in Iowa would be a surprise for Mrs. Fiorina.
Unless they do much better than expected, Iowa could see the
end of the Mike Huckabee, Rand Paul and Rick Santorum

The most  predictive state of the first four has been New
Hampshire which is the first state to vote in a primary. Mr.
Trump leads there now, and especially if he does not win Iowa,
he would have to win New Hampshire or face the reality that his
dominance of stage 1 was merely media manipulation. Mr.
Christie has made the most dramatic gains recently in this state,
and is bunched up into a tie for second with Mr. Bush,  Mr.
Rubio and Mr. Cruz. If he or Mr. Rubio actually won here, it
could jumpstart their campaigns to major victories in contest
later on. Mr. Cruz also needs to do well here, particularly if he
does not win, or wins very narrowly, in Iowa.

After the first two states, it is quite possible that the field will
condense. It will take money and good organization to compete in
South Carolina, and then the eleven Super Tuesday states. The
field should be only four to seven candidates by the time of the
Florida primary, with only three or four being in a strong position.

Super Tuesday is likely to have mixed results. A surprise would
be, after doing better than expected in the first four contests,, that
Mr. Trump wins most of these primaries. This could put him on
an unstoppable course to the nomination. More likely is that Mr.
Rubio will do the best on Super Tuesday, firming him up for his
native Florida that follows, and some serious momentum in the
later voting states. Another surprise would be if Mr. Christie,
having done better than expected in Iowa and New Hampshire
begins to catch on nationally, and like Mr. Rubio, ensures him a 
place in the final competition leading up to the convention.

Another surprise in the 2016 GOP campaign would be if the
surviving candidates each began to win later primaries and
caucuses, thus preventing anyone from getting the momentum to
clinch the nomination before the convention. This particularly
could revive Mr. Kasich’s chances (he could easily win Ohio).
This pattern of multiple candidate victories in late primaries is
not unusual at all, but in recent years it has taken place after one
candidate has secured the nomination.

The final “predictable” surprise would be a “brokered” convention.
Neither party has had one of these for about seventy-five years, but
like the phenomenon of the winning presidential nominee not
winning the popular vote in 2000, it could happen.

There is also the possibility that there will be an unanticipated
surprise in 2016, one that won’t be any of the scenarios I’ve
discussed above. There are already clear signals from many voters
that they do not want to do their political business as usual in 2016.
Domestic economic or international political events could also
precipitate a dramatic change in the 2016 campaign as well, a
change we cannot now reasonably imagine.

The best news about all this is that we are only days away from the
real beginning, and the first real scenario, for this cycle’s
presidential election.

The actual voting will begin a chain reaction that will take us right
up to noon on January 20, 2017 when someone new, name now
not known, will raise his or her hand to take the presidential oath.

Copyright (c) 2016 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Campaign Update 13


Former Virginia Senator and Navy Secretary Jim Webb
recently withdrew from the contest for the Democratic
nomination for president, and when he did, he hinted he
might run as an independent in November. Apparently,
he was serious. He has now hired the man who was in
charge of the Draft Biden effort, and there is an active
Webb For President website on the internet. Webb, a
centrist who could get no traction as his party has been
pulled to the left by Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders
(who is running) and Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth
Warren (who is not), is actively exploring an independent
run and examining the closing dates for getting on the
November ballot in the 50 states plus DC. Should he run,
it is not yet definitely clear how he might affect the
outcome --- other than providing a comfortable haven
for Democrats unhappy with their nominee chosen in


The polls show Texas Senator Ted Cruz leading Donald
Trump in the Iowa Caucus set for February 1, but only a
relatively small percentage of eligible Iowa voters usually
participate in the event. The vote will also test the
traditional view that about 80% of Iowa caucus attenders
make up their minds in the final week or 10 days. The
caucus totals also could be much closer than expected.
The initial count in 2012 had Mitt Romney the winner, but
a recount showed that Rick Santorum had actually won by
a few votes. Iowa only infrequently predicts the eventual
nominee, but a candidate who does much better than
expected here, could get some momentum in New Hampshire
and later voting.


One way to measure how a presidential nomination candidate
is doing, especially as the voting draws near, is to assess who
is the target of most negative campaigning. Until now, that
main target has been Donald Trump. Recently, however, Florida
Senator Marco Rubio and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie
have seemed to draw most of the ire of their rivals.


When Minnesota’s 2nd district GOP Congressman John Kline
unexpectedly announced his retirement, there was no apparent
successor to take his place. The district has also recently been
trending to the Democrats (in this state, called the DFL). Two
wealthy liberal women announced for the Democratic
nomination, and four weak or unknown conservatives announced
for the GOP. It appeared likely to be a Democratic pick-up in
November. Two recent developments have seemed to make the
race once again very competitive. The Democrat most able to
self-fund has withdrawn, and the national GOP has successfully
recruited a well-respected woman corporate CEO to run on the
conservative side. Money will flow into and from this race, and it
will now likely be very close.


Speculation is now rampant about a possible stalemated
Republican presidential nomination contest that is decided at
the GOP convention in mid-July in Cleveland. This circumstance
has not happened for either major party in recent times, but it
technically could happen, especially if there are several serious
candidates who stay in through the final primaries. The rules
have been that most delegates are committed to vote for the
candidate they were aligned with as a result of their state’s
primary and caucus, especially in the inner-take-all states,
for at least two ballots, but each party can write and re-write
their own rules. There are also a number of institutional GOP
delegates who can choose whomever they like. Even if the early
voting through Super Tuesday does not produce a putative
winner, the large number of delegates chosen in the later
primaries make it more likely than not the choice will be made
before the convention begins. A case in point was the 2008
Democratic contest in which Hillary Clinton began winning
later primaries, and Barack Obama only clinched his nomination
at the end of the primary season. Anything could happen,
especially in this unusual cycle, but laws of political gravity weigh
more heavily on the side of an unbrokered convention.

Copyright (c) 2016 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: While You Were Obsessing About Donald Trump.....

While you were obsessing about Donald Trump’s candidacy for
president of the United States, four new elements (VERY heavy
ones, at that) were added to the periodic table. The body which
recognizes these new elements and gives credit to the scientist
or team of scientists who discovered them has approved these
new elements and assigned credit to three of them to a (believe
it or not) Russian-American team working together to create
elements 115, 117 and 118. A Japanese team were designated
discoverers of new element 113.

Each of these new elements has only a temporary name; only
the official discoverers have the right to give them a permanent
name. The new names are expected to be announced within a
few months (elements are frequently named after famous

Heavy elements such as these are always synthetic, and actually
exist only for a fraction of a second or so. They are created by
bombarding existing subatomic parts of existing elements
against each other.

I do not know exactly what the effective purpose is of creating a
new element that lasts for less time than an eye blinks, but news
reports do say that the addition of the four new elements fills
up the seventh row of the periodic table. My guess is that
anything that gives temporary peace of mind to our scientists
these days is worth something. Unlike earlier eras, scientific
theories in our own time usually last no longer than one of these
new elements, and that has to be unnerving to someone whose
whole professional life depends on scientific theories.

High school and college text book publishers, of course, are
delighted. Current text books are now hopelessly out of date,
especially with their dangling seventh periodic row. Fortunately,
new publishing technology enables instant correction for the
new textbooks.

There is, of course, already a political correctness aspect to
these discoveries. The British Guardian newspaper originally
reported that the four elements were “man-made,” but the
word police pounced on them instantly. The Guardian duly
published an apology and revised the adjective to “synthetic.”

I might also comment that the lifetime of each of these new
elements might be somewhat similar to the duration of
Donald Trump’s lead in the polls, but I’m getting ahead of

I also note that while the presidential election campaign is
quite diverting for many or most Americans (including yours
truly), there are many other aspects of human activity going on
during, and even in spite of, U.S. presidential politics.

Out of respect for my late brother (who was a truly important
American physicist whose contribution has affected everyone),
I want to make clear that I do not take the subject of physics

In an age of falling global birth rates, it’s nice to know that
some populations are increasing.

Copyright (c) 2016 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Friday, January 1, 2016

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Now, No Ifs, Buts Or Maybes

Stage one, a protracted, speculative, media-controlled and
illusive period of the quadrennial U.S. presidential election is
now over. Most everything counts now, especially the count of
the voters. Stage two, an elaborate road show of strategy,
ambition, existential twists and post-modern turns will now
unfold in all of its ritual pageantry.

Stage three lies well-ahead. It will come after the major party
partisans have their say about the man or woman who will
carry their standards into the climactic battle for the holy grail
of American politics, that fabled bully pulpit located in an
oval-shaped room in a large East Coast house painted white.

Every presidential election has its own character. Pundits and
historians search feverishly for precedent elections, and while
there is a continuum of political themes moving through the
history of the Republic, U.S. politics are always rapidly
changing, especially in recent years, altered by the dynamism
of demographics and the technology of communications.

Stage one is like a theatrical audition. Every voter considers
himself the scriptwriter. In stage two, the voter is assigned to
be in charge of casting. Finally, in stage three the voter becomes
the director. The inaugural the following January, of course, is
the awards ceremony.

Yes, the presidential election is theater For some, it’s a tragedy.
For others, it’s a comedy. For most, it’s simply an irresistible
drama. Forget most of the polls you have read about. Forget the
media shenanigans, the sensational flubs and histrionic forays.

But don’t forget the voters.

It’s always about the audience.

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