Monday, February 01, 2016 :::
Bernie Sanders said something I really liked the other day (don't get used to reading that string of words on this blog). A journalist noted that he was in a good position to win more delegates than Clinton tonight and that this would boost his chances of winning the nomination, and she asked whether it would be a big problem if he didn't. He scoffed — the following quote is from memory, so is actually a close paraphrase — "you mean if I get two delegates fewer than she does, is it a disaster? No."
Some of the reporting around the Iowa caucuses seems to suggest that it is a winner-take-all race or at least as though rank is of utmost importance. Four years ago, the Iowa GOP reported that — this is from memory, too, so is also a close paraphrase — Romney had won about a dozen votes more than Santorum. It turned out that some precinct organizer had misreported his totals, and that Santorum had actually won by about a dozen more than Romney, and some political commentators lost their minds over the fact that the Iowa GOP hadn't produced the correct result. All that had happened was that someone, most likely a volunteer, had misreported a precinct-level number and had corrected it quickly enough that even if he had misreported something important, like who had been elected to be delegates at the county convention, no harm would have been done. But because it changed the rankings in the state-wide straw poll results, people flipped out.
On the other hand, Iowa is not a huge, delegate-rich state for either party, and what matters, ultimately, is what people decide matters. Candidates who campaigned hard in Iowa and didn't go anywhere are generally going to figure out that they aren't going to be getting the nomination; if they don't figure it out, the voters and donors and volunteers in later states will figure that out and decide among the more successful candidates. The fact that a Senator from Iowa won the 1992 Democratic caucuses in a landslide didn't matter because everyone knew that this didn't indicate that he was the only viable candidate, it just meant that he was from Iowa. Generally, though, I think it's most important not to end up on the bottom in Iowa than to end up in first, and the margin matters — any interpretation that puts much weight on a rounding error ought to be ruled out.
As I write this, it looks like Cruz came out on top, with Trump and Rubio a bit below him, with a substantial drop to Carson, then Paul around 5%, and then the rest. I have read the argument that Trump needed an outright win because being a winner is a fair part of his brand, and maybe there's something to that, but what this really means is that those top three keep going and anyone below Paul will have to make an argument that Iowa wasn't a fair indicator for them and that voters in the rest of the country should give them a close look anyway. I assume it is clear to everyone including Rand Paul that Rand Paul will not get the nomination, but he might well keep making his arguments and winning a vote here or there (possibly including mine).
On the Democratic side, Clinton and Sanders seems to have tied; whoever ends up on the better side of the tie gets a nice headline tomorrow and not much more.
::: posted by Steven at 11:24 PM