Politics rarely comes out as all the commentators expect and nowhere is this truer than in the Republican and Democratic primary processes that starts with the Iowa caucuses.
There should be no surprise, however, that former president Donald Trump will win the Iowa caucus – he has a commanding lead among the conservative electorate there and the process of a caucus benefits the activists who come out and organize for this multi-hour event of mass persuasion. He is scoring record leads in the Des Moines Register poll.
The big question is what is going to happen with the remaining Trump opponents and whether Iowa will shrink the field even further. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis started this primary season with all of the advantages of early momentum, a big electoral win in his home state, and great funding and yet seems to be limping to the finish line.
If he finishes a strong second, he could revive his campaign; if he finishes third, I would expect him to drop out. He has both the most to win and the most to lose in this primary.
Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley has the most to win and little to lose here. She was never expected to do well in Iowa though she has been showing consistent momentum month after month. The polls place her in a close third place and that kind of finish would set her up for New Hampshire. If she finishes second instead, she would get a huge boost, especially if DeSantis drops out and either endorses her or refrains from siding with any of the candidates.
Remember that this is an arcane process but the rules have been changed this year so that it is more like a primary – people have to show up in the evening hours and possibly listen to some speeches but then they just vote by secret ballot – registered Republicans only, but people can switch their party registration if they want to become Republicans.
As you may recall, last time the Iowa caucus became so advanced and computerized that no one could actually figure out the results and the whole thing was essentially called off.
This time the Democrats have called off the Democratic caucus for real – it is part of their “threat to democracy” campaign which they seem to advance by eliminating actual democracy.
So, President Joe Biden can’t lose or win – or be challenged. There will be a Democratic caucus but only for party administrative matters, not presidential preferences. Instead, Democrats can request a form, get a mail in ballot and return it by March 5th, when it will be tallied. Seems that some want mail in votes to be easy for general elections but not for primaries, as these ballots are not mailed to all Democrats but only those who request them.
Independent candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. left the Democratic party over the favoritism for the current president by the party establishment and Rep. Dean Philips is staying in, but the Biden team is busy eliminating him from as many caucuses and primaries as they can.
Philips has been removed from the ballots in Florida and North Carolina even though he is not accused of leading an insurrection; they have put him on the Iowa mail-in caucus card along with Marianne Williamson – they just won’t get around to tabulating them until March.
Vivek Ramaswamy and Chris Christie appear to have faded in the Iowa caucus and if the polls are right will face some difficult choices after the caucus is held.
Ramaswamy continues to predict a major upset but he seems to have been one of those firecracker candidates that burst upon the scene and then fade under scrutiny.
Christie never really caught on and has headlined that his campaign’s purpose is to defeat Donald Trump, which certainly does not seem to be happening in Iowa.
In general, the Iowa caucuses have not been great predictors for who wins on the Republican side. Mike Huckabee won in 2008; Ron Paul won in 2012; Ted Cruz won in 2016.
Given this track record, it’s a little unclear why Republicans put so much effort into this caucus, but going first still sets a tone, and it has been especially important for who finishes second as that candidate has more often gone on to win.
So far, Trump skipped all the GOP debates, but he knows the political power of a strong start and is hoping to dominate in Iowa and use this as proof that he is rip-roaring back despite his issues and legal peril.
He is showing up in Iowa and pressing the flesh now.
It looks like he is likely to get his wish in Iowa but remember — even when we think we know what is going to happen, politics and especially primaries often confound us.