US Elections: Iowa Caucuses Resolve Nothing

A VERY short post to acknowledge today’s primaries in Iowa, as the US begins to select a new President; with Barack Obama barred from seeking a third term by the constitution, one of the candidates who featured today will become President of the United States in November. Whilst Democrat Bernie Sanders and Republicans Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz fared better than expected, today’s results shed little light on who the eventual victor will be.

It really is a short post this evening; operating on ten hours’ sleep in three days, I’m not going to be conscious very long. But I wanted to make some remarks on the first of the nominating contests that took place in the US state of Iowa today (AEDT) as Americans begin the process of selecting a new President.

I have always had a sense that the next President of the United States would be a Republican, but just who that ends up being remains a matter for conjecture; despite the weight of money, Establishment endorsements, and unrivalled name and personal recognition factors all running in her favour, I would be stunned if a majority of American voters could bring themselves to stomach four more years of the Clintons in the White House: and Hillary Clinton, in particular, being in charge.

Today’s vote within her own party sees her make virtually no progress toward sealing the nomination of her party whatsoever; with 49.9% of the votes cast in Iowa by registered Democratic voters, she couldn’t even win outright, which in turn echoes eerily the omen this state delivered on her prospects when she first stood against Obama eight years ago. It’s hardly a ringing endorsement.

By contrast, ageing “democratic socialist” Bernie Sanders has reason to be pleased; despite falling short of Clinton by just over a quarter of a percentage point of the vote, Sanders has done better than anyone predicted or thought, although the “Anyone But Hillary” camp is every bit as alive and well in her own party as it is over at the GOP.

Some weeks ago I saw a supporter of Donald Trump attending a rally with a T-shirt that proclaimed “Hillary for Prison 2016” (and if anyone knows where I can get one of those shirts, do please drop a note in the comments section): all jokes aside, the Clinton camp is unable to proceed with any confidence that Hillary won’t be indicted at some point over any number of scandals (email servers, Benghazi, preferment, arcane relics from her legal career, et al) and the prospect she may in fact be charged can and should be sending prospective supporters scurrying in almost any other direction but hers.

The bottom line is that of the 44 delegates that were on offer today to the Democratic National Convention later this year, Clinton pocketed 23, and Sanders 21: and how the Clintons make any kind of triumph out of that is anyone’s guess.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the political ledger — and speaking of Donald Trump — conservative republican Senator Ted Cruz topped the polling with 27.7% of the vote; outspoken loudmouth and “anti-candidate” Trump came second, with 24.3%; and in something of a surprise, Florida Senator Marco Rubio came third with a solidly respectable 23.1%, with nine also-rans rounding out the table and collecting a quarter of the votes cast by registered republican voters between them.

For the stats junkies, a link to the results from both the Democratic and republican primaries held in Iowa can be accessed here.

There’s not a great deal of point making any definitive predictions at this earliest of junctures, and quite aside from the fact I’m completely exhausted tonight (and don’t have the energy) this is a theme we will obviously be covering in increasing detail over the next nine months.

I had thought, as far back as 18 months ago, that former Florida Governor Jeb Bush — the “competent” Bush, as some call him — was the likeliest to emerge from the Republican pack with his party’s nomination, and a good chance of beating (as I then thought) Hillary Clinton to follow his father and older brother into the White House.

How politics changes: today, Bush scored less than 3% of the votes from Iowan Republicans; it could be that Americans have “had enough of Bushes” generally (much as many of them are heartily sick of the Clintons); it could be, given Jeb was a mentor as Florida Governor to the GOP’s boy wonder in Rubio, that the apprentice has merely stolen a march on the master.

One thing I am sure of, however, is that today’s results do not spell the end of the Trump campaign: he was always likelier to prevail later this month in New Hampshire than in Iowa, and unlike many of his rivals is flush with cash and enjoys a popular underpinning that none of the other candidates on either side of the ledger enjoy.

One will say, however, that a rash of drop-outs should be expected in the next week on the Republican side: starting with Rick Santorum, whose 1% today embarrassed the almost one-third share he pulled in this state four years ago, and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, whose “endorsement” of Obama three days before the 2012 presidential election arguably swung the result behind Obama, and who must surely be regarded as unelectable after a corruption scandal in his state a few years back and after only polling 1.8% of the vote today.

The only conclusive takeout from today’s result is that despite the overwhelming advantages she arrived at this contest with in her arsenal, Hillary Clinton — one of the most unbackable favourites to win the Presidency in decades — couldn’t even garner half the vote.

This process has a million miles to run, and as it evolves the story will become clearer. But if I were a betting man (which, in small bier, I can be) I wouldn’t be putting any money on Clinton now, and it will be interesting to watch whether voters in other states take their cue from the Iowa result, and now begin to desert her in favour of Sanders.

On that note — goodnight…

🙂