Tuesday, February 2, 2016

A Rorschach Evening

I was up fairly late last night watching a surprisingly interesting Iowa caucus outcome.  This morning, it appears to be pretty clear.  Hillary won (but barely), Cruz won (perhaps a bit unsurprisingly except to the pundits) and Rubio and Sanders did a lot better than people thought.

Today, each one of those candidates seems to be spinning pretty heavily that they won.  This truly is one where the outcome is heavily in the eye of the beholder.  I'm relatively neutral here in the sense that of all those running, I'd pick Kasich who has absolutely no chance of being the nominee.

So let me take it back to the three lanes I see in the race at the moment.

1.  The angry lane.  This is Trump on the Republican side and, to a degree, Sanders on the Democratic side.  Sanders to a degree because Sanders isn't nearly as angry as some of his supporters are.  He runs as more of a dedicated warrior than an angry one but his supporters are pretty clearly angry.  It wasn't a great night for the angry lane.  Trump dramatically underperformed despite very strong turnout.  Sanders overperformed but I don't think that was angry coming home to roost.

2.  The ideological lane.  This is Cruz on the Republican side and Sanders on the Democratic side.  Here, you'd have to say it was a pretty good night.  Cruz won and Sanders outperformed.  That said, I think Iowa is a bit of a different world than most of the country.  The winning play on the Republican side wasn't conservatism but faith.  Yes the two are linked but it's really the faith based conservatives who rule Iowa (Santorum and Huckabee anyone?).  That's pretty unique to Iowa.  On the Democratic side, the refrain (socialism) was the complete ideology but the electorate is particularly suited to the refrain.  Again, it doesn't seem likely that this resonates as well nationally as it did in Iowa.

3.  The traditional lane.  I'm going to shy away from the "E" word here.  This is Clinton and Rubio.  On the whole, it was a pretty mixed night for the traditional party types.  Yes Clinton won and Rubio beat expectations but the traditionalists Republicans and Democrats do seem weaker than most (including me) would have expected.  Across all the traditional candidates on the Republican side, you had a total vote count in the low to mid 30s.  And Clinton's showing of 50 percent is hardly anything to write home about given how far she has fallen in Iowa and the fact that she's almost sure to lose New Hampshire.

Ultimately, I still would bet on the traditionalists on both sides and suspect it's Rubio vs Clinton in the fall (barring crazy things happening).  The advantage traditionalist have is that they are acceptable to most people.  And in a 2 person race, which already has happened in the Dem race and should be a few weeks out in the Rep race, I think the traditionalist has to be the favorite.

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