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!”

I’m done; holla back!

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