Monday, January 26, 2015

Haters Gonna Hate, Hate, Hate, Hate... Iowa

If I had to bet the beret today, I'd say this is a shot of the 2016 Republican ticket.  Do you think I'm f***in with you?  I am not  f***in with you.

Are they all here? All but four - Mitt, Jeb, Bobby and Rand. Well, we're goin' anyway.

Yes, first prize in the Iowa caucuses is a Cadillac El Dorado. Second prize is a set of steak knives. Third prize is you're fired. 

It's caucus time, at least on the Republican side. (We Democrats are still stuck with the Some Dudes, begging Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, and Waiting For Hillary.  Quick quiz for Dems: Name the Hillary Chair in your county.) And most observers are saying Wisconsin's Scott Walker, the man who made my parents lifelong Democrats when they were in their late 70s, made the best sale this weekend.
Football still hurts.

My gut check is that Walker has just the right appeal to both tea partiers and establishment types, and a last name that is not Bush, to emerge from the... "field" is too dignified a word for the 23 speakers on Saturday.  "Mosh pit may be more accurate. Just ask Alan Keyes (the Ben Carson of 2000).

And for all the bread bag humor of the last week, Joni Ernst in her first month as a senator has roughly as much experience as half term governor Sarah Palin, who may FINALLY have jumped the shark on Saturday.  Yes, the haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate.

So if Walker is the big winner, who's The Biggest Loser? Sit down, Governor Christie. Is it Palin... or Iowa?  Cokie Roberts on Sunday:
COKIE ROBERTS: I think Republicans should stay out of Iowa altogether. What happens to them is that they get pushed so far to the right in those venues that it gives them a terrible time in the general election.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Hurt Mitt Romney last time.

ROBERTS: It hurts them all. And, by the way, Steve King, who hosted this, is absolutely toxic in the Hispanic community. And if the Republicans want to get that vote, they shouldn't be showing up at a Steve King event.
Roberts has been an Iowa caucus hater for decades.  I still remember her near-glee in the 1992 cycle when Tom Harkin's candidacy and GOP rules that boxed out Pat Buchanan meant that there basically weren't Iowa caucuses, from the beltway insider perspective.  And the beltway insiders HATE our long travel times and complicated rules.

But her comments, and national reaction to Ernst's State Of The Union rebuttal, illustrate something that even the smartest Iowa insiders often miss.  They're not looking at this past weekend, or Ernst, or the snafus of Caucus Night 2012, as Iowa Republican problems.   They're looking at it as IOWA problems.

Iowa Democrats are held accountable for Steve King and for the reversed call on the results and for the Ron Paul national convention delegation and for bread bags, just as Iowa Republicans are guilty by association with Democratic caucus math and our refusal to release raw numbers.

And more national types are ready to pile on. Scott Conroy:
Branstad could have stopped there. Instead, he kept talking.

“And also,” he said. “It’s good for Iowa’s economy.”

There it was.

The reality that Iowa hotels, Iowa restaurants, Iowa political consultants and Iowa taxpayers in general all stand to benefit from the caucuses is no revelation. It’s just that those who are in on the joke don’t typically say so when the cameras are rolling.

But perhaps Branstad’s bracing moment of candor might now serve as a wake-up call for some of the likely Republican presidential candidates, who currently are best positioned to win their party’s nomination. These men might now ask themselves a critical question before launching their campaigns in earnest: Is Iowa worth it?
A question that Hillary Clinton asked very publicly in the spring of 2007.

But after reviewing the usual litany of attacks, the Daily Caller's W. James Antle comes to our defense:
No, Iowa hasn’t been kind to well-organized, big-money conservatives who could have more easily competed against the establishment frontrunners. But in most cases, that’s because the big-money conservatives blew it.

Phil Gramm didn’t play well on the stump. He gambled that he could challenge Iowa’s first-in-the nation status by competing in the Louisiana caucuses beforehand and lost. As in lost both the Louisiana and Iowa caucuses, finishing fifth in the latter, just two points ahead of Alan Keyes.

Fred Thompson and Rick Perry were similarly out-hustled by underfunded social conservatives. Thompson didn’t look like he wanted it. Perry didn’t look like he could count to three. Iowans are supposed to vote for them anyway?

The bottom line is that the early states provide the only opportunity for real competition. It’s the last chance for lower-tiered candidates to have a fair fight with the big dogs and raise the money they need. After that, the race quickly shifts to who can put up ads in the greatest number of expensive media markets simultaneously.

The Iowa caucuses are sort of like that Winston Churchill quote about democracy: the worst system, except for all the others tried.
 As they say on the right, mega-dittoes.

As for Saturday, Nia-Malika Henderson cuts to the chase and gives us Saturday In One Sound Bite from each speaker. I admire the efficiency.

Yet my sense from the 2007-08 cycle is that the locals in Iowa usually have a better sense of what's really happening in caucus land than the nationals. So for my money, the smartest take on Saturday comes from Douglas Burns in Carroll, who puts it in Top 20 List format. (though you could have made it a countdown, Doug).

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