After several months of sound bites and debates, we are on the verge of the Iowa caucuses. It is but the first step towards deciding the nominees for national leadership, right? Not exactly.
In the early going, winning a state tends to give a candidate a surge moving into the next contest or contests. This is why Rudy Giuliani, considered by many to be a shoo-in for the 2008 nomination, went on to win zero states when losing both Iowa and New Hampshire caused him to plummet into nothingness. So don’t believe anyone who tells you that Iowa isn’t important. They are just trying to build long-term political excitement or worse, cover their asses on predictions that have since made them look stupid.
Now, it is absolutely true that not every nominee, since the importance of the primaries/caucuses was radically expanded four decades ago, has won Iowa. But all have prevailed either there or the very next state, New Hampshire, save two. Those candidates were George McGovern and Bill Clinton. Both turned in better than expected performances in one or both states that caused the media to judge them the moral victors and gave them, not true winners, the momentum. The extremely close 2008 Democratic nomination was a split between these states that set up a long series of win trades that kept the race going until shortly before the Democratic National Convention.
In other words, winning the first two states may be tantamount to winning the nomination. If they go separate ways, expect a difficult race.
So how are things shaking out? Donald Trump seems to be favored to win in Iowa. Since he has long held a commanding lead in New Hampshire, the Republican race could be over quick.
The Democratic race could be tighter. Bernie Sanders has long been an overwhelming favorite in New Hampshire and Iowa is looking close as well with Hillary Clinton enjoying a slight edge. If there’s a split, the smart money’s on Hillary because we then go to the South and Southwest, where she should rise again because the blacks and Hispanics, who support her over Sanders by large margins, are much more numerous in these regions. On the other hand, if Sanders wins both Iowa and New Hampshire, he may, again, surge enough to survive a swim in challenging waters.
I have one complaint about this. Is it right for Iowa and for that matter, New Hampshire, to have so much influence on our nominations? I mean, these are states with a combined 10 out of 538 electoral votes. If these states won’t give up their power so we can have all the primaries and caucuses on the same day, can we at least merge them all into two or three days so no state is insignificant? No? Well, that sucks!