The Perils of Hindsight in Iowa
On to New Hampshire. But first, before it fades, here's what's in the rear-view mirror in Iowa.
1. For the Democrats, there are two ways of interpreting what was basically a tie. Bernie Sanders won on spin because the "Sanders surges, Clinton in trouble" story is irresistible for the media. But Hillary Clinton won on delegates, because if she and Sanders split the regular delegates in other races too, she'll win the nomination thanks to her huge lead in superdelegates. Unless there's a media surge for Sanders, Clinton's enormous and seemingly decisive lead among black and Latino voters seems unshakable.
2. Related: There are hindsight claims that the strong Sanders showing in Iowa meant that Senator Elizabeth Warren would have won had she entered the Democratic contest. Maybe, but there's no way of knowing if Warren or anyone else could have run as impressive a campaign as Sanders has so far.
3. Some people said Donald Trump's decision to skip the last debate hurt him. But doing that allowed him to dominate the media for several days. Just showing up, as if he was a normal candidate, wouldn't have achieved that. It's the Red Queen Race problem: As the campaign goes on, norms of how the press covers campaigns make it harder and harder for Trump to dominate the media, and he needs that to win.
4. Just because Marco Rubio is running as a coalition-style candidate doesn't mean he's not very conservative. His Senate voting record and his policy commitments during the campaign are down-the-line conservative. And on the one issue where that wasn't the case -- immigration -- he has changed his position.
5. Ben Carson won the battle for the most billboards visible on the way to and from the Des Moines airport. Perhaps that was a strategy aimed at the traveling press, but it's also a way for campaign consultants to convince a candidate that money is being put to good use (just speculating, for what it's worth).
6. A lot of people are calling for Iowa to switch to a primary after the slow reporting of Democratic results this year and the botched counting of the Republican votes in 2012. Better idea: Keep the caucuses, but have the state, rather than the parties, run them with properly trained poll workers. Surely officials can pay for this by diverting a small percentage of revenue they raise in sales taxes from the business generated by campaigns and the visiting press corps. Yes, the delays and glitches are an annoyance mostly for the press and impatient campaigns, not voters. And the contests where these problems occurred were in races where there were virtual ties, so delays can be explained. Still: Get it right, Iowa.
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