2008 is a very significant year in politics in that United States will be electing a new President. Whether we like it or not, THAT sets a agenda and tone for the rest of us. Case in point, the Mortgage Crisis that has affected all of us. So none of us should take it lightly who will run the big economic and political giant next.
I have had the pleasure of being a witness and participant on and off the campaign and election processes of the United States for a few years. Being based in Europe now (still offering services to US candidates of course), it is very interesting to get varied points of view outside looking in as well as from the U.S. insiders.
Today will make or break a Presidential candidate as we will find out the results of the Iowa caucus. It is significant because since 1972, the Iowa Caucus has become the first major electoral event of the nominating process for President of the United States. It has served as an early indication of which candidates for President of the United States might win the nomination of their political party at that party’s national convention. Recently there has been frustration in having it moved up to January 3 and ruined everyone´s holiday celebration (at least according to a friend, Howard Kurtz of Washington Post and CNN which I agree). Iowa moved it up so they maintain to be the “first” in status and beat New Hampshire. So we are looking into having several primaries move up soon, but it is frustrating because this year, it will be the longest Presidential campaign in the history of the United States.
But let´s do a little American Politics 101 first for those who are not familiar with this first process:
Since Iowa became a state in 1846. The people who wrote Iowa’s Constitution chose to use caucuses — a grass-roots approach — rather than a primary election to nominate candidates. Iowa precinct caucuses are meetings where members of political parties gather to make policy decisions, elect leaders and select candidates. The Iowa caucus operates very differently from the more common primary election used by most other states. It can be defined as “gathering of neighbors.” Typically, these meetings occur in schools, churches, or public libraries. The caucuses are held every two years, but the ones that receive national attention are the presidential preference caucuses held every four years. In addition to the voting, caucus attendees propose planks for their party’s platform, select members of the county committees, and discuss issues important to their local organizations.
At the caucuses, those in attendance indicate their support for the candidates competing for each party’s presidential nomination. In the Democratic party caucuses, votes are cast by raising hands, a sign-in sheet or by splitting into groups supporting each candidate. In the Republican caucuses, votes are cast by secret ballot (each eligible voter in attendance is able to select the candidate of his or her choice on paper without others in attendance knowing how he or she voted). It is much more elaborate when it comes to the Democrats
The results of the caucus voting, however, do not directly determine which candidate will win the support of Iowa’s voters for the presidential nomination. In fact, the caucuses are just first step in the process. Each caucus selects delegates to send to each of the 99 county conventions, which are held in March. At the county conventions, Democrats select delegates to district conventions where delegates to the state convention are chosen. Republicans bypass the district convention stage, choosing delegates to their state convention at the county conventions. Both party’s state conventions are held in June. Only then, when state convention delegates cast their votes for delegates to the national party conventions, that Iowa’s preferred presidential candidate’s in each major party will be determined.
So what is it this little state of 2.9 million so important for candidates and the media? First, Iowa represents a cross-section of America in terms of ideology and party preference. Perhaps more importantly, the Iowa caucuses traditionally provide the candidates with their first real test. These caucuses will reveal unexpected strengths and weaknesses of presidential candidatesCandidates focus their energies and attention on Iowa because a win or even a better-than-expected performance there can provide or sustain the critically important early momentum all presidential hopefuls crave.
But there is also a negative side in that Iowa does not really represent the country because 38% are in rural areas and only 5% are minorities. On a national scale, there are 25% minorities in the US, mostly African-Americans and Hispanics. So with candidates spending $200 per Iowan, it is not cost-effective as far as business thinking goes.
Moving on. Let us present the contenders:
Republicans: John Cox, Rudy Giuliani, Mike Huckabee, Duncan Hunter, John McCain, Ron Paul, Mitt Romney, Fred Thompson.
Democrats: Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, Chris Dodd, John Edwards, Mike Gravel, Dennis Kucinich, Barack Obama, Bill Richardson.
The Iowa caucuses mean different things to these different candidates.
As expected we have the top three Democrats Obama, Clinton and Edwards, and Huckabee and Romney, for the Republicans, all vying for a win today. But there are separate sub-primaries going on as well: Obama vs. Edwards for the position of chief challenger to Clinton, McCain vs. Giuliani for the right to wear the “moderate” Republican mantle, and Fred Thompson vs. Oblivion for the right to stay in the race. For those of us who are not familiar, this might get a little confusing, but an interesting battle for the Whitehouse, so hang on.
So let´s play some political strategy game theory here and make a small scorecard to keep track of what each candidate needs and compare them in later today with the results.
If she scores a decisive triumph, HANDS DOWN, the race for the nomination is almost over.
A victory here would likely propel her to a win in New Hampshire and the nomination would be hers. But she doesn’t need to win. Her national base is so strong that she just has to stop anyone else from winning.
If there are no clear winners, nevertheless the results show, instead, a three-way tie with Obama and Edwards, or a two-way tie between herself and either of her challengers, she comes out the winner. However, if she clearly loses by a good margin or finishes third, she has blown a major opportunity and is in for a long cold winter of primaries. She won’t be knocked out in Iowa no matter what, but she could be knocked down. She will then be penetrable.
He need to win Iowa. He is quite far behind Hillary in the national standings that he needs a decisive victory to give him the momentum to prevail in New Hampshire and to compete in Florida and on Super Tuesday. He also needs to really work on shaking John Edwards offhis trail anf get him far behind so he can consolidate the anti-Hillary vote behind his candidacy.
This one is simple: To finish close to or ahead of Obama so he can show that he is still electable. With pro- and anti-Hillary sentiment so strong, Edwards risks being excluded. He needs to make sure Hillary does not win decisively so that he can stay in the race. He has a decent shot in New Hampshire if he can stay in the race.
This one is interesting because he is compared to Howard Dean´s surge in September 2004. It´s all or nothing for him. So, even if Huckabee wins in Iowa, he’ll probably lose in New Hampshire. His team will regroup and will come back to another game-set-match point in Michigan the following week.
This must be the richest candidate I know. He doesn’t have to win, place, or show. He’s got so much in his political war chest that he can survive any kind of showing and stay in the game. Nevertheless, a defeat in Iowa might make him vulnerable to McCain in New Hampshire. A loss in the first two states would cost him Michigan and he would limp into Super Tuesday with ONLY his checkbook to protect him. (FYI: Super Tuesday refers to a Tuesday early in the presidential election year where most U.S. states hold their primary election and the single day when the most nominating delegates can be won).
He needs to at least finish third or, in other words, beat Rudy. If he does, then he has a good shot at winning New Hampshire and still be in the game. If he doesn’t, Romney will win New Hampshire and McCain will be out of the race. Huckabee has to hope McCain does finish third so Romney doesn’t win New Hampshire and, therefore, doesn’t win Michigan. Got it?
The Republican frontrunner is in a parallel situation with Hillary. He won’t be knocked out no matter how badly he does. But finishing below McCain means that he has to split the moderate vote with the charismatic Arizona senator and could weaken his chances in Florida and on Super Tuesday.
He can lose Iowa, New Hampshire, Michigan, Nevada, and South Carolina and still survive to compete in the big states that follow. But he lost a golden chance to avoid a fight by winning in Iowa.
Here´s an interesting twist: If Hillary wins big in Iowa, it will help McCain and hurt Romney in New Hampshire. Why? All the independents who would have voted for or against Clinton in New Hampshire will pile into the Republican primary and may boost McCain to victory (if he survives Iowa).
And . . . by the same token, Rudy needs Hillary to win in the early rounds so he can draw independents into the Republican primary to vote for him rather than the religious right crowd.
Yes, that is the world of politics. Whether they admit it or not, they are all in need of each other´s wins and defeats. So, place your bets. In a matter of hours we will know which horse will race in the long run.
- Michelle J. Santos, CEO