Act IV, Scene I: Nevadans Bet Big on Trump

It’s time to Break It Down!

As a casual observer of the American body politic, and a fascinated on-looker of what on it’s face appears to be one of the most rambunctious political seasons in recent memory, I am increasingly amazed that my initial characterization of the so-called Trump phenomenon continues to resonate as on point. In mid-June when Trump announced his Presidential Campaign and immediately began denigrating Mexicans, he was rewarded by quickly rocketing to the top of the charts so to speak, as far as GOP poll numbers are concerned. It was about that time I predicted that this guy might just shock the world and go on to capture the GOP Nomination.

That was then, and it was early. Most of my friends discounted my assessment as just my normal tendency to expect the worst of evils to prevail in political contests (because too many folks cede to apathy and opt out of voting). If my friends provided a counterbalance with a personal touch, based on their own insights about me, the professional pundit class offered the objective and expert opinion that Mr. Trump’s soaring arc of popularity was just a fleeting matter that would soon come to an end.

That is what they said after he deemed Mexicans raping marauders. They were wrong. That is what they said when he said Senator John McCain was not a war hero. They were wrong. That is what they said when he broadcast Senator Lindsey Graham’s cell phone number on live TV. They were wrong. That is what they said when he, without documentation or authentication, claimed he saw thousands of Muslims cheering in New Jersey after 9/11. They were wrong. That is what they said when he had a Hispanic journalist removed from one of his rallies. They were wrong. That is what they said when he placed second in the Iowa Caucuses after having led in the polls right up to the day of the Caucuses. They were wrong.

I could go on, but I think you get the point. After failing to win the Iowa Caucuses, where he finished second, Donald Trump has rebounded by winning the next three states, including two Primaries, and one set of Caucuses. There are many ways to frame this, and the candidates undoubtedly do that more creatively than I ever could.

In Iowa, Marco Rubio, who finished third, responded with a series of news conferences and media spots that led Ted Cruz to point out the misplaced self-promotion and ensuing media adulation bestowed upon the third place finisher, while, in his view, ignoring the winner (himself). But this GOP-i-fied new math was not only a factor in Iowa. Last night Ted Cruz finished third in Nevada and all but declared victory. He boasted that his campaign is the only campaign to beat Donald Trump in the first four contests, and he further asserted that his campaign is the only campaign than can beat Donald Trump. that is true, but, so what?  On this particular night, he did not beat Donald Trump.  In fact, he is now on a three contest losing streak, finishing third in each case, twice behind Rubio, and once behind Kasich.  I suppose turnabout really is fair play.  LOL!

An interesting thing has happened as the GOP contest unfolds. All those folks who have been so consistently wrong about the projection of a soon to be faltering Donald Trump includes the Party Establishment. I’m not a Republican, and while I may not be the most astute of political observers…I am still a political observer.

What have I observed? Alexander Pope said, “Hope springs eternal in the human breast.” I have seen Republicans hope against hope that Trump’s star would fade. Time marches on; now there are those whom, no longer content to merely hope, are poised to take matters into their own hands and try to alter the operational dynamics of the Party’s multiple campaigns. For weeks now, there have been rumblings that the field must narrow in order to promote a redistribution of voters to candidates other than DJ Trump. A large swath of conventional wisdom has held for some time, that if candidates drop out, their votes will go to one of the establishment candidates, e.g., Bush, Cruz, Kasich, or Rubio.

The problem with conventional wisdom frequently is, very often it proves not to be particularly wise. Take this conversation for example. In the last couple of weeks, several GOP candidates have dropped out of the race, including Carly Fiorina, Chris Christie, and Jeb Bush. Conventional wisdom, at least as practiced by all those folks who urged those candidates to get out so the remaining candidates could contain Trump, got an unceremonious comeuppance last night. The GOP field, which stands at just more than a third of its original number, was greeted by some stunning metrics last night.

Absent roughly 10 candidates, Trump’s numbers didn’t weaken; they strengthened. The punditry has loudly and frequently repeated the trope that Trump was only able to garner 25% to 30% of the vote. They insisted that when the field narrowed, the traditional candidates would emerge stronger and Trump would subsequently fade.

Earlier this week, Trump scoffed at that notion and declared that he would get his share of those voters. Score one for the Donald. Nevada may or may not be like anywhere else, but it’s fair to say, they showed Donald Trump the love. In the Nevada Caucuses, he earned roughly 45% of the vote. So much for 25% to 30%. In fact, he didn’t just outperform the artificial ceiling placed upon him by the pundit class, he smashed the measuring stick. His numbers, well over 40%, approached those of Rubio and Cruz combined, both of whom finished in the 20’s.

Let me be clear, the race for the GOP Presidential Nomination is by no means over. While I’m giving them a fair amount of grief, the pundits and experts still have an opportunity to be right. But make no mistake about it, the clock is running and Trump continues to defy the odds. The next plank in the conventional wisdom theories holds that for Trump to be slowed or stopped, either Cruz or Rubio must exit the race. Key races are approaching. There is reason to believe Cruz could, if not should, win Texas, where he is a sitting Senator. Likewise, Rubio has a shot in Florida, where he serves as a Senator. Super Tuesday is around the corner, just six days away. The GOP Establishment appears to be leaning toward Rubio, instead of the often irascible, even to his own Party, Cruz.

I write all that to say, the fun is just getting started. However, if the GOP Establishment doesn’t get a handle on it’s Trump “problem,” which admittedly, his supporters view in a quite different light, they will have to come to grips with an undeniably victorious Donald Trump, whose best quote from last night’s speech was, as he noted the demographics he won, said, “We won with the poorly educated; I love the poorly educated.”

I bet he does! But I’m going to leave that right there, because as easy as it may be to take off on that, he won lots of demographics, including the well educated, but perhaps most notably, the Latino population. I’m just gonna leave that there for you to cogitate upon.  But it did not end there either.  Trump won every major demographic except for voters under 30…which accounted for less than 8% of the turnout.

That’s about it. Four contests are in the books. “Act IV, Scene I: Nevadans Bet Big on Trump!”

I’m done; holla back!

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Another Level: All Three Branches of Government in Play

It’s time to Break It Down!

Saturday, February 13, 2016 may be a day that will reverberate throughout the entire 2016 Presidential Election Season. It was on that day that an official in Presidio County, Texas, Cinderela Guevara, declared Associate Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia dead of natural causes. Shortly after that pronouncement, a cacophony of Republican voices emerged suggesting, subtly in some cases, emphatically in others, that the Senate would not consider any nominee that President Obama might put forward to fill the seat formerly held by the late Justice.

The Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, said the American people should have a voice in the selection of the next justice, (and oh, by the way, he implied electing President Obama twice did not qualify to meet that standard); he added the vacancy should not be filled until after a new President is elected. The Majority Leader’s opining was swift and sure, coming about an hour after the Justice’s death was confirmed.

The timing was propitious in that it occurred prior to last Saturday evening’s GOP Debate in Greenville, South Carolina. Following the cues of the Senate Leader, each of the last six men standing in the GOP race (some would argue, to the bottom) for the Presidential nomination opted to protest even the idea of President Obama selecting another nominee for the High Court.

But it did not stop with them. The siren, or if you prefer, dog whistle call circulated around and throughout the GOP universe, especially in the all-important realm of the Senate. A number of Republican Senators weighed in on the subject, including:

Senator Orrin Hatch, Utah – A member of the Judiciary Committee, and potential candidate for The Supreme Court (presumably by a Republican President). Yesterday he said, “There’s no need to bring forth a nominee to succeed Justice Scalia in the politically charged environment of a presidential election year.” He further argued that “The Constitution doesn’t say that you have to do this in a certain constraint,” in comments made to CNN.

Senator Rob Portman, Ohio – He said, “I believe the best thing for the country is to trust the American people to weigh in on who should make a lifetime appointment that could reshape the court for generations.” (Again, I note, the people have spoken, twice!)

Senator Pat Toomey, Pennsylvania – Mr. Toomey said, “Obama insists that he will nominate someone for the court. He certainly has the authority to do so. But let’s be clear – his nominee will be rejected by the Senate.”  Alrighty then!

Senator Ted Cruz, Texas – One of the GOP’s leading Presidential Candidates elevated filling Scalia’s vacant seat the centerpiece of his campaign.  I guess it’s on now.

On paper, this is a battle the GOP is positioned to win. Their role in considering Supreme Court nominations is advice and consent. Of course, they do not have to approve the nominee. The Senate Judiciary Committee is currently composed of 20 members. Of that number, 11 are Republicans, 9 are Democrats. This is the Committee charged with holding confirmation hearings, and voting whether to send the nominee to the full Senate. The GOP also holds an overall Senate majority, 54-46. As such, Democrats have the unenviable, conceivably impossible task of persuading 14 Republicans to join them in breaking what is sure to be a filibuster.

The math is actually the simple part of the looming decisions on this question. The political calculus is also significant. Control of the Senate will be determined by the outcome of November’s elections. Democrats view Ohio (Portman), Pennsylvania (Toomey), New Hampshire (Kelly Ayotte), and Wisconsin (Ron Johnson) as states the Party can possibly flip in November. As a result, they are highlighting the GOP Senator’s call to wait until next year…and the next President. For example, Ted Strickland, an Ohio Democrat has produced a funding appeal that emphasizes Senator Portman’s position. In it he said:

Senator Portman “has a clear choice to make: He can look out for his Party and D.C. special interests by holding back President Obama’s nominee, or he can do his job for the people of Ohio.

On the other side of the aisle, Democrats had their own observations and tacks. They unfolded a little something like this:

Governor Maggie Hassan, New Hampshire – She criticized Senator Ayotte, arguing that President Obama’s Constitutional right to nominating a replacement is not suspended in his last year in office.

Three Pennsylvania Democrats challenged Toomey and railed against partisanship over Senatorial responsibility. It is clear we face another example of the partisan divide that has shadowed the Obama Presidency.

Senator Dick Durbin, Illinois, Number 2 Democrat in the Senate – Durban notes, “Senate Republicans continue to think that governing is as simple as being against President Obama at every turn. It’s not, and the American people deserve better leadership than they’re getting with this Congress.”

As the early days in the wake of Justice Scalia’s demise pass, Democrats appear to be intent upon trying to pressure the Senate Majority Leader to allow a nominee to move forward. Thus far Senator McConnell has shown no evidence he is likely to relent from his initial position, expressed shortly after the death of Justice Scalia was announced.

A number of the conservative groups that exulted in satisfaction at having had a hand in forcing GOP Speaker of the House John Boehner to step down have questioned Senator McConnell’s loyalty, and insisted that he remain firm in his commitment.  We will see.

Michael Needham, Heritage Action – “Senator McConnell is right. Under no circumstance should the Republican Senate majority confirm a Supreme Court nominee as Americans are in the midst of picking the next president. Republican rhetoric condemning President Obama’s willful disregard for the rule of law will ring hollow if they do confirm a nominee.”

In the overarching picture, Republicans and Democrats have argued over the Senate’s production, or lack thereof this year. Any potential action on trade and/or criminal justice reform looks more unlikely than ever. However, the President’s allies are endeavoring to make it clear that if the GOP chooses to ignore or delay the President’s nominee, they will accuse the GOP majority of obstruction, thus framing a salient argument in their case to retake the Senate. It’s safe to say, this will be chess, not checkers.

For his part, President Obama has lifted Justice Scalia’s legal philosophy and injected it squarely into the debate. The Constitutional scholar committed to follow the words and “original intent” of the Constitution by choosing an indisputably qualified nominee. He is flatly rejecting the calls of the GOP to leave the selection to his successor.

The President said he was amused by those members of the GOP who call themselves strict interpreters of the Constitution, and who were citing unwritten precedent about not confirming justices during an election year…in order to justify their position. He went on to say:

“It’s pretty hard to find that in the Constitution. The Constitution is pretty clear about what is supposed to happen now.” To put a finer point on the conversation, the President said, “I expect there to be hearings. I expect there to be a vote. Full stop.” The President made those comments yesterday shortly after two key Senate Republicans expressed some level of doubt about the Majority Leader’s suggestion that there should be no nomination process during an election year.

Some experts noted GOP leaders might have made a tactical error that could incite a public backlash. Republican Senator Charles Grassley, Iowa, head of the Judiciary Committee indicated he might be open to holding hearings on an Obama nominee. He added he’d wait until after the nominee is revealed before deciding on the ultimate course of action.

Thom Tillis, Republican, North Carolina, warned his GOP colleagues that if they rejected the President’s nominee, sight unseen, they might actually be rightly called obstructionist. I suppose time is an arbiter of perspective, even for Republicans.

On Saturday evening Grassley had said it was “standard practice” to not confirm new Supreme Court justices in an election year. He said:

“It only makes sense that we defer to the American people who will elect a new president” in November. I’m sure it is more than somewhat significant that legal experts have cited over half a dozen instances since 1900 in which justices were confirmed during an election year.

Ironically, Senator Grassley was one of the 97 Senators who voted unanimously to confirm Justice Anthony M. Kennedy in February 1988, which just happened to be the last year of the Reagan Presidency. There is considerable speculation not just on whom the President will nominate, but on whether the individual will be a moderate or a liberal. Quite naturally, neither the current Judiciary Committee, nor the Senate would confirm a liberal. However, refusal to confirm the President’s nominee might be used to create a spike in Democratic voters this fall. There may actually be some motivation to take this route because the truth is, the GOP, even if they hold hearings is not likely to approve an Obama nominee, on GP, even if that person were deemed a moderate.  IJS!

So, what has already been shaping up as an unpredictable election season just received an added wrinkle. We knew the Executive Branch was up for grabs and there would be a new President next January. Now it looks likely the Legislative Branch may get caught up in the winds of change, as the Senate appears to be in play. Finally, whether this year or next, there will be a new Justice added to the Supreme Court. In the super unlikely event President Obama prevails and his nominee is confirmed, or if not, but a Democrat is elected in November, the majority on the High Court will change hands from Right leaning to Centrist or Left leaning. We have truly reached Another Level: All Three Branches of Government in Play!”

I’m done; holla back!

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Sanders & Trump Soar to Victory: Establishment Candidates Revise Strategy

It’s time to Break It Down!

Another week, another election; we are now in full swing. Yesterday the state of New Hampshire held the first Primary of the Election Season. Last week’s voting in Iowa comprised a series of Caucuses for both Parties. During those Caucuses the favorites were challenged, and upset in one case, winning by fractions of a percentage in the other.

Donald Trump led in the polling in Iowa right up to Election Day last Monday. Ted Cruz eclipsed him in an upset, winning by 4 percentage points. Hillary Clinton led Bernie Sanders, but given the margin of error, was in a statistical tie. The results mirrored the polls, as Clinton won by mere hundreds of a percentage point, both candidates garnering over 49% of the vote.

Last night, the polling favorites not only held their serve, they dominated the election results. In a race that still includes numerous candidates in New Hampshire (28 candidates on the Democratic side, 30 on the Republican side), Bernie Sanders was leading his primary rival, Hillary Clinton, by 20 percentage points, 59% to 39%, with 39% of precincts reporting. On the GOP side, Trump, who has a greater number of serious rivals compiled an even more substantial lead, more than doubling second place finisher John Kasich, and nearly tripling third place finisher Ted Cruz, 34%, 16%, and 12%.

If before the Election Season ensued, anyone had suggested that a political neophyte and an Independent running as a Democratic Socialist would capture a second place finish and a first place finish for the two major political party’s first two elections of the Season, no savvy political observer would have believed the person suggesting that was sane, and certainly not correct. Yet, here we are; that is precisely what has happened.

So all of a sudden, summer and fall have given way to winter, and the time for hollow speculating is over; we are now taking names and counting votes. The notion of those “wild and crazy” guys, Sanders and Trump, falling by the wayside has been vanquished.

Mr. Trump who boasts that he is self-funded, but who benefits daily from free media, undoubtedly valued at more than most candidates could afford to purchase, has the wherewithal to stay in the fray as long as he chooses. Senator Sanders, who early on drew very little notoriety, and very long odds, has grown his campaign immeasurably, and sparked a national fundraising apparatus that rivals or exceeds at this point in time that of former Senator Barack Obama in 2008. His millions of donors have enabled him to take funding the campaign off the list of things he needs to be concerned about in the near term. These two upstarts will not be exiting the field of candidates anytime soon.

Senator Clinton, who was the odds on favorite on the Democratic side, and who still leads in national polling, though by a much slimmer margin than at the outset, knows that she is in a race that could unfold much differently than she had anticipated. Without question, her campaign feels that the demographic dynamics are about to shift in their favor, and they may well do so.

Next on the list of Primary States is South Carolina, a state where 50% or more of the voting population may be comprised of minorities. This traditionally has been the meat and potatoes of the Clinton campaign machinery. However, Senator Sanders has been upping his game, as it were, in his pursuit of key demographic components of the Obama Coalition, including young voters, women, and yes, African Americans. While I am not convinced that he will win the African American demographic, he clearly has made major inroads with women and young voters. This has to be a major concern to Team Clinton, and you can believe it has them going back to the drawing board.

The phenomenon that is Trump has proved to be a major disruption in GOP establishment circles. It is necessary to consider though, that if you read the tea leaves associated with GOP polling and elections, the establishment is currently considered a big part of, if not the problem itself. So as candidates like Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, Marco Rubio, and John Kasich hone their individual campaign strategy for handling/dealing with Donald Trump, they must also scramble to ascertain their place in the Party Scrum, better known as the GOP Debates.

In the last debate, Chris Christie excoriated Rubio, in an effort to weaken the Senator, while strengthening his own cred. By all accounts it seemed to have had a boomerang effect. Rubio, who was aglow after Iowa, where he finished third, and practically declared himself the winner, lost ground with New Hampshire voters and appears to be looking at no better than a fifth place finish. He found this sorely disappointing, blamed his low finish on his poor debate performance, and promised his supporters, “It will never happen again.” We’ll see. The boomerang part of the analogy is the screed, worse case, came back to haunt him, best case, provided absolutely no lift as he finished an even more disappointing sixth (out of eight).

Last week, I framed part of the discussion in terms of winners and losers. Today, in my view, there is a tie for the biggest winner label. Both Sanders and Trump take home the Gold in yesterday’s contests. Sanders had long held a lead in New Hampshire, and he was expected to win big there. The Clinton Campaign had hoped to narrow the margin. It does not appear they succeeded. Congratulations Senator Sanders.

Trump had led for most of the time in Iowa. In the end he faltered. Whether it was because he skipped a Fox News GOP Debate is, well debatable. Regardless of the contributing factors, his brand (winning) was tarnished. That he rebounded in New Hampshire was part redemption, and part historical moment. It was the first election victory for Team Trump.

On the flip side, since the Democrats have only two candidates left, it’s quite simple; either you win, or you lose. Mrs. Clinton did not win. If there is anything positive to derive from this for Secretary Clinton, it is that she can exhale and put Iowa, a virtual tie, and New Hampshire, a thumping of a loss, behind her. Bring on the Palmetto State, at least that is what she hopes.

Back to the Republicans, John Kasich, an establishment candidate, and outlier at once, also won. He was not the biggest winner; that was Trump, but he won nonetheless. His establishment bona fides accrue from being Ohio’s Governor. However, he has chosen to take, from a GOP perspective, an outlier’s stance. He is the only Republican who sounds, most of the time anyway, as though he has no personal vendetta against the government as an operational entity. A second place finish for him must be seen as even more impressive than Senator Rubio’s third place finish last week. Also, Senator Cruz and Governor Bush, the likely third and fourth place finishers, respectively, won last night. That’s half the GOP field, and half the Democrats main candidates on the winning side of the ledger, by my reckoning.

The rest of the field, Senator Rubio, Governor Christie, Mrs. Fiorina, and Dr. Carson all lost. I will not be surprised to see any among Christie, Fiorina and Carson call it a wrap. They may opt to continue a while longer, but for all practical purposes…they are done. Marco Rubio, on the other hand, while disappointed, still has life, at least for now. With 11% of the vote, he will get some number of delegates. The other three, finishing less than 10% will get none.

With 75% of the votes counted, the voting percentages for GOP candidate looked like this:

Trump – 34%

Kasich – 16%

Cruz – 11%

Bush – 11%

Rubio – 11%

Christie – 8%

Fiorina – 4%

Carson – 2%

With 75% of the votes counted, the voting percentages for Democratic candidates looked like this:

Sanders – 60%

Clinton – 39%

The candidates are bidding New Hampshire adieu and polishing up their messages to go and spread their version of the political Gospel in the Palmetto State. The lines spouted by Trump and Sanders will likely highlight the themes that have gotten them to this point. Mr. Trump will assure the voters that he and he alone will make America great again. Senator Sanders promises a revolution, including, Universal Healthcare, free college, more taxes on the super rich, tighter reins on financial institutions, and a $15 minimum wage, among other things. Mrs. Clinton has already found religion, and has begun reciting/claiming a litany of items from President Obama’s tenure as the centerpieces of the administration that she would lead. By contrast, every Republican, save Kasich, promises to hit the undo key on all things Obama. Governor Kasich will speak about climate control, and retaining elements of, rather than destroying Obamacare, among other things.

There you have it, “Sanders & Trump Soar to Victory: Establishment Candidates Revise Strategy!” I’m done; holla back!

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And They’re Off: One Down!

It’s time to Break It Down!

Monday’s first in the nation Iowa Caucuses officially kicked off the transition of the 2016 Presidential Election Season from simply campaigning, debating, and polling to actual voting; the crux of any election. Moving forward between now and November I will almost certainly not frame every weekly post around politics, or the campaigns. I will, however, write about it regularly, probably at least once a month, sometimes more.

It is still early, so I will not overwhelm with today’s blog. I do want to establish some broad strokes. I’ve touched upon most of the key players, including all the candidates in each Party, on more than one occasion. Today I want to talk a little bit about winners and losers, and note a few anecdotes that I’ve seen and/or heard in the wake of the first wave of voting.

First, politics is a bottom line kind of game. While there may be several rounds before the grand finale, when you get to the bottom line, especially in Presidential Primaries, wherein there is only one winner per each of the two primary parties, bottom line translates into win…or go home.

Under those broadly stated guidelines, without question, the biggest loser Monday evening was Democrat Martin O’Malley. Despite spending more time in Iowa than his competitors, he failed to garner even 1% of the votes cast. Based upon his failure to build and grow a candidacy that resonated with Democratic voters, Mr. O’Malley, Maryland’s 61st Governor, and always the odd man out since the race on the Democratic side winnowed down into a 3-person slate, cashed in his chips, suspended his Campaign, and went home. For him, winning, if he chooses to fight again, will have to wait for another day, time and place. I wish you all the best Governor O’Malley.

Next in the arena of biggest losers, in my humble opinion, of course, is Mike Huckabee, Arkansas’ 44th Governor. Huckabee actually won the GOP Iowa Caucuses in 2008. Perhaps his tepid showing by comparison in 2016 makes him the biggest loser. However, that was eight years ago, which is an eternity in political years. Given his almost unimaginably low votes, I’m still content to give the Title to O’Malley. But don’t be misled; Governor Huckabee did not make any enormous waves. He amassed a whopping 1.8% of Republican Caucus voters. That was, however 3 times the percentage Governor O’Malley attracted.

I’m not going to profile all twelve GOP candidates. However, since I’m talking about losers, I feel compelled to mention briefly that Chris Christie, Rick Santorum, and Jim Gilmore are all still in the race, though they actually captured fewer votes than Governor Huckabee. Without making any predictions, I’ll just say that factoid does not bode well for the prospects of their longevity on the campaign trail. Check back after New Hampshire.

After Martin O’Malley and Mike Huckabee, there is one other candidate that has to be mentioned in any discussion of biggest political losers following the first voting of the season. A year ago, or even this past summer, most so-called experts everywhere would have insisted that any conversation about GOP favorites to claim the Party’s nomination would have to include Jeb Bush. While I’m not sure anyone went so far as to plan a Coronation for the legatee of the Bush political legacy, surely many, if not most thought it.

In sports metaphors, there is a well-worn phrase; “That’s why you play the games.” Without question, the 2016 Campaign, up to and including the Iowa Caucuses proved to be the classic exemplar of why polling and subsequent voting are critical in establishing the contemporary pecking order for candidates. Mr. Bush, the son of President George Herbert Walker Bush, and the brother of President George W. Bush, was thought before the season ensued to be head and shoulders above the competition. On paper he was ”ginormous,” reportedly amassing more than $100 million for his campaign. It is growing more likely each day, political historians will look back on Bush’s campaign and say why…or at least how…in the world did that happen?

This story really boils down to five candidates, three Republicans and two Democrats…or, as technocrats will insist, one Democrat, and one Democratic Socialist. On the GOP side, Ted Cruz won, followed by Donald Trump, who was closely followed by Marco Rubio. On the Democratic side Hillary Clinton emerged ever so slightly ahead, in what many in the media, and Bernie Sanders refer to as a virtual tie. Not surprisingly, Mrs. Clinton calls it a win. They both have a point.

According to the latest figures available, provided by the New York Times, Clinton led Sanders by 4 votes, which translates to a difference of two Delegates. They split the voting percentage-wise 49.9 – 49.6, advantage Clinton. Be advised, however, as I was writing this piece last night, Senator Sanders had yet to concede. He reportedly expressed concerns about how compiling and reporting voting was handled in some Precincts. Without trying to read the tealeaves on the question of where this matter will stand when all the dust settles, I will suggest that on the opposite end of the spectrum from the aforementioned biggest losers, Bernie Sanders was the biggest winner.

The self-avowed Democratic Socialist from Vermont has, in the early going, positioned himself to shock the world. He started with little money, sparse name recognition, and according to virtually all the so-called experts, little chance against the high profile well funded Clinton machine. His non-traditional approach to politics, serving as an Independent, and describing himself as a Democratic Socialist, did not help.

But, to steal a page from Van Jones, “Thanks Fox News.” The media outlet, a path light for the fervent right, inveighed daily for the last seven years and counting, against President Obama calling him a Socialist. In a sense, Fox News has anesthetized an entire generation of Millennials to the negative connotation they intend to impute to the term Socialist. Who knew that Sanders would own the youth vote? Moreover, his supporters that I know all emphasize that their guy is not accurately categorized unless you place Democratic before Socialist. By way of clarifying what he stands for, the Senator asserts he supports the following items as the central thrust of his agenda:

  1. Rebuilding Our Crumbling Infrastructure
  2. Reversing Climate Change
  3. Creating Worker Co-ops
  4. Growing the Trade Union Movement
  5. Raising the Minimum Wage
  6. Pay Equity for Women Workers
  7. Trade Policies that Benefit American Workers
  8. Making College Affordable for All
  9. Taking on Wall Street
  10. Health Care as a Right for All
  11. Protecting the Most Vulnerable Americans
  12. Real Tax Reform

By the slimmest of Margins, Secretary Clinton won the Democratic Iowa Caucuses. While Senator Sanders and his supporters may not like or accept that, the Democratic Party machinery of the State of Iowa has spoken…at least for now. Clinton it is. While she was not the biggest winner, she won, and I’m sure she’ll take it. She now moves on to New Hampshire, where according to the polls she trails by as much as 23 points. There are lots of reasons, including proximity to Vermont, the home turf factor, to believe that Sanders will win there, whether his huge lead holds or not. The test for Mrs. Clinton, and in a real sense for Mr. Sanders will come as the contests move to more diverse states.

Both candidates have strengths and weaknesses. Clinton is expected to do better with certain segments of the Obama coalition, particularly minorities. Sanders appears to have a lock on the youth vote. While there are certainly others, those are two of their biggest individual strengths. On the down side, the GOP will certainly try to use the continuing email probe to suggest HRC is in jeopardy of going down under the weight of an FBI investigation. Meanwhile many in the Republican Party salivate at the thought of running against Sanders the Socialist. As with plusses, there will be others, but those are two of their most readily visible negatives.

Back on the GOP side, Cruz finished in first place, but at least by most media accounts, Rubio was the biggest winner.   The Senator from Florida made up a lot of ground, and as the highest establishment finisher in Monday’s voting, his third place finish, one point behind Trump renders him emerging Golden Boy status…that is, if you presume the GOP will actually come to its senses and default to an establishment candidate as the Party’s nominee.

Donald J. Trump, D.J. Trump, as I like to refer to him, finished second. There was a great deal of irony in the self-proclaimed winner finishing second. As a guy who dismissively spoke of finishing second not that long ago, his having to embrace his place, at least in the ultimate Iowa scheme of things was anything but cathartic for him, and undoubtedly totally refreshing for a host of his detractors. In big picture terms, just because of his own narrative, he was a loser Monday night. Not the biggest loser, but a loser nonetheless.

Finally, Rafael Cruz won. He overcame trailing in the polls, and in addition to trumping Trump’s lead in the polls, and pushing back all the establishment candidates, he gets to breathe a sigh of relief heading into New Hampshire. He did not do so without invoking some level of controversy. He sent out at least two sets of mailers to voters, one designed to shame individuals who didn’t plan to vote, and another intimidating prospective voters with an official looking form with the words Voting Violation included. His campaign staff also reportedly told groups that Ben Carson was planning to leave the race, ahead of the Caucuses. These acts amount to dirty tricks in the best case, and potentially fraudulent behavior at worse. This, ladies and gentlemen, represents action by the campaign of your GOP winner, which he defends, I might add.

Today, the Democrats still standing, Clinton and Sanders meet in a Town Hall Meeting in New Hampshire…it’s about to get jiggy. “And They’re Off: One Down!”

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