Friday, January 20, 2012

The Most Interesting 24 Hours in U.S. Political History

What a last 24 hours this has been! Yesterday morning we had the official Iowa caucus results, showing that Santorum actually won, and not Romney. While this changes no delegates, and certainly is not statistically significant, it certainly is hugely significant psychologically, and changes the whole dynamics of the race. We now have the prospect that for the first time ever, the first 3 Republican battles will have 3 different winners. If Gingrich wins tomorrow in South Carolina, as now seems likely, the race will go on.

Then later yesterday morning, we had the amazing news that Perry is dropping out, and endorsing Gingrich. MSNBC this morning had a montage of Perry campaign moments, which had the numerous gaffes and silly moments that have characterized his ill-fated campaign.

But last night's debate really takes the cake. John King led off with a question to Gingrich about his 2nd wife's allegations which were broadcast on ABC lat night. Gingrich absolutely assailed King for leading off a Presidential debate with "this garbage", and called it "despicable". He got a standing ovation from the crowd. In fact, commentators are saying that Newt won the debate in the first 5 minutes, based on his powerful response to this question.

In analysis after the debate, CNN commentators agreed that the question had to be asked, since it was dominating the airwaves all day leading up to the debate. Only 1 out of the 6 commentators had any qualms, and that was only that it didn't have to be the 1st question. But King responded that he wanted to get it out of the way, so as to be able to get on to the more substantive issues.

Had King been able to engage Newt in a more intimate setting, like a one-on-one Q&A session, there were obvious follow-up questions that would have been asked. Newt said it was totally false, and that their friends all knew it was false. But since his ex-wife was recounting an intimate conversation between husband and wife, how would any of their friends know anything about this? Another good question would be, "Are you denying that you had a 6-year affair with your mistress while you were still married to your second wife?" In other words, the basic truth of the story cannot be denied, yet Newt gets away with his categorical denial in the "debate" format, because follow-ups were not be had in that format.

Another significant moment in last night's debate is when Santorum went after Gingrich for his leadership style in the House. Many have spoken out about this, and Santorum was not particularly articulate about it last night, but enough have spoken out that the issue is clear to anybody who has been paying attention. The fact is that nobody who worked with Newt in his House days has endorsed him, and everyone who has spoken out about those days has had nothing but negative things to say about his totally inept leadership style. He was arrogant, overbearing, unfocused, and unable to listen to others, and this led to the palace revolt which ousted him from his leadership position.

Then we had Romney again being unable to give a straight answer about releasing his tax returns. MSNBC had a montage of his answers to this question over the past month, and he is all over the map about it. This is something so basic in this day and age that it is inconceivable that he would not have a prepared answer for this. Ironically, it was his dad who initiated the modern custom of releasing returns when, in 1967, he released 12 years of returns. When asked if he would be releasing 12 years worth of returns, Romney hedged and the audience heckled him about it.

This morning we had the wonderful segment on "Morning Joe" in which Stephen Colbert came on the set and interacted with all the panel members. What a wonderful show this was! As I am writing, Colbert is having a joint appearance with Heman Cain in South Carolina, and I can't wait to see what happened there.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

How Significant Are the Iowa Caucuses?

Some point to the fact that Iowa voters vote in the general elections quite similarly to the national results. Mark Shields had a column in today's paper pointing out how closely the two parallel each other.

However, this completely misses the point. The relevant inquiry is whether the voters of each party in Iowa mirror their national counterparts accurately. On this score, it appears they don't.

Here is a list of times the Iowa voters have favored somebody other than the eventual nominee:

1992 Dems -- Tom Harkin 1st with 76%, Bill Clinton a sorry 4th with only 3%.

1988 Dems -- Gebhardt 1st with 31%, Dukakis 3rd with 22%.

1976 & 1972 Dems -- "Uncommitted" finishing ahead of eventual winners Carter & McGovern.

2008 Reps -- Huckabee 1st with 34%, McCain 4th with 13%.

1988 Reps -- Dole 1st with 37%, Bush 3rd with 19%, behind even Pat Robertson!!

1980 Reps -- Bush beats Reagan, though barely.

Iowa does not seem all that relevant, upon careful analysis.