Whoa, Nellie! The pollsters were fooled by the turnout in the Iowa candidate casino caucuses last Monday.
Surprise No. 1: The Republican Elephant gave the delegate prize to Ted Cruz by four points over Donald Trump. The polls predicted the reverse. Marco Rubio came in third, right on Trump’s tail.
Surprise No. 2: The Democratic Donkey split the delegates close to 50/50 between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. Seems like Hillary’s having 2008 problems all over again.
The establishments in both parties are more concerned than ever that their Iowa winners have serious electability problems and are not sure what to do.
Let’s take a closer look at all the horses on this merry-go-round:
Ted Cruz – bombastic, bomb thrower, the most disliked member of the Senate for his disruptive political fireworks constantly threatening to shut down the government. He had the better ground game in Iowa and it helped him win. His conservative posture makes Ronald Reagan look like a raving liberal.
Donald Trump, who rarely smiles, and always looks angry, still thinks we’re all his candidates on the “Apprentice” and threatens to fire us. He’s fast on the trigger to voice the frustration of many, but woefully short on workable solutions for our mounting problems. Iowa may have humbled him some. Too soon to write him off. He’ll probably do better in New Hampshire and South Carolina.
More on how he got this far in a bit.
Marco Rubio – like a well-oiled juke box, pop a question and he has a slick polished answer. He’ll be a viable candidate in 2020; too early now.
Benny Carson – naïve neurosurgeon who should have run for Congress rather than president, where he has no operating room skills.
Jeb Bush – early favorite, qualified with a lot of big $$$ support, but so far a bust as a candidate.
Rand Paul – Who? Where did he disappear? Was he ever really here? His foreign policy is “stay home.”
Chris Christie, John Kasich and all the other trailing wannabes are often entertaining, but don’t get any traction.
And on the other side, there’s:
Hillary Clinton – she, of the questionable email ethics, as well as the conflicting Benghazi stories and the foreign millions that have been funneled into the family foundation, she’s not Bill, but she is still the frontrunner.
Bernie Sanders – perhaps the most interesting of all the candidates – an avowed socialist with a naïve program to give everything in life away for free that would easily double our national debt to $40 trillion plus.
He’s not the first socialist to run. There was Eugene Debs in 1912 and three more times; Upton Sinclair, the writer, who ran for California Governor in 1934; and Norman Thomas, who was always running for president in the thirties—six times I think.
His popularity is rising because too many people would still vote for Bill, but don’t like Hillary, and he wants to give away everything for free. Who would be against that?
Conventional political pundits have always maintained that the presidential candidate wins who has the most energetic, positive vision of his plan and the future. It’s gonna be tough this year. They all seem sullen and negative.
To try and understand Trump’s phenomenal rise, we refer to David Axelrod, Obama’s chief cheerleader, who admits, like many of the rest of us who dismissed Trump as a “summer fling” who would fade in the fall.
Now, according to Axelrod, “seven months later Trump has broken just about every rule of conventional campaigning. Short on policy prescriptions and long on provocation, he has dominated all the early oxygen in the debates and in the media.”
Axelrod wrote, “If I had only re-read my own words, written nine years ago to another aspiring candidate, I would have taken the Trump candidacy more seriously from the start.
“In late 2006, when Barack Obama was a first-term senator pondering a long-shot race for the presidency, he asked me to write a strategic memo exploring his prospects.
“Here’s the gist of that memo: Presidential elections are shaped by perceptions of the style and personality of the outgoing incumbent. Voters rarely seek the replica of what they have. They almost always seek the remedy, the candidate who has the personal qualities the public finds lacking in the departing executive.”
A young, energetic Jack Kennedy succeeded the grandfatherly somnolent Dwight Eisenhower, promising “a new generation of leadership.” In a slight variation, a puritanical Jimmy Carter, offering “a government as good as its people,” defeated the unelected incumbent Gerald Ford, who bore the burden of the morally bankrupt Nixon era.
Even George H.W. Bush, running to succeed the popular and larger-than-life Ronald Reagan, subtly made a virtue of his own lack of charisma and edge. The pattern followed in 2008, as Mr. Bush’s son completed his final term in office.
Senator Obama had publicly opposed the Iraq war from the start, which separated him from most of the Democratic field. But more than that, his profile, temperament and approach offered the sharpest departure from those of the embattled, retiring president he would ultimately replace. For those who found President Bush wanting, Senator Obama was the most obvious remedy.
Unlike in 2008, when Mr. Obama’s appeal reached a majority of independents and even some Republicans, polling suggests that if he were nominated, Trump or Cruz would face a steep uphill battle in a general election. As of today, they have the lowest standing, by far, of any major Republican candidate among Democrats and independent voters. Their nativist rants have walled them off from the growing Hispanic vote, which could hold the key to several important swing states this fall.
I think Axelrod’s analysis makes a lot of sense. He didn’t carry it quite far enough, i.e., Trump has succeeded, because he is the exact antithesis to Obama.