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What we can learn from Iowa

Beyond the obvious matter of who wins, we're wondering:

* Can a candidate stiff Iowa and not suffer irreparable damage in future contests?

Republican Rudy Giuliani, after some cursory campaigning in the state, clearly surrendered earlier this week. One result: He has all but dropped off the radar screen of late. Giuliani hopes for a respectable showing in Tuesday's New Hampshire primary, but a back-of-the-pack showing in Iowa could hinder that effort.

* Does organization -- and tons of money -- trump enthusiasm?

The face-off between the two main Republican rivals in the state, Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee, most obviously frames this question. As detailed by the Boston Globe here, the two campaigns could hardly be more different in their infrastructure (and in the personalities projected by the two candidates).

* Is relying on younger voters, less partisan ones and those who have not participated in previous caucuses a winning formula?

In previous campaigns, even broaching this scenario would probably have gotten a consultant fired. But Democrat Barack Obama and his advisors early on saw this as their best path to victory, ceding large numbers of activists -- and many older party members -- to Hillary Clinton and John Edwards. The strategy caused grumbling at times among Obama's financial backers, but recent polls have shown it could be vindicated. Then again, tonight's results may show that trying to predict a caucus through polling is a futile exercise.

* Will the Ron Paul boomlet -- so obvious in the passion among those who have embraced him and their willingness to donate money to the cause -- manifest itself in actual votes?

Paul's support has seemed more extensive in New Hampshire than Iowa, so to some degree this question may be more pertinent next week. Still, a poor Paul showing tonight -- say, something not close to double digits -- is sure to cause political traditionalists to keep wondering if there's any there there.

-- Don Frederick

 
Comments () | Archives (7)

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We shall soon see. If he breaks 15%, can we stop referring to him as a spoiler?

To all the Ron-haters: I suggest a room temperature merlot to go with the helpings of crow I expect to be on many pundit's plates this evening.

If I'm wrong, and Ron comes in below his poll numbers (8% as an average), that's what I plan to wash mine down with.

But just a hint - I'm having a big dinner AND dessert. I don't expect to partake of the crow.

Fortunately for Ron Paul, he has a formidable organization (of volunteers), lots of money, AND lots of enthusiasm. His support is stronger in New Hampshire, but he may actually do better in Iowa, where voter turnout is so much lower and where his better organized and more motivated supporters can have a bigger impact. Ron Paul is also relying on drawing in a lot of new voters and younger voters, so it's not just Obama waiting to see if it's a winning actual strategy.

A poll released this morning showed Ron Paul in a virtual tie for third place in Iowa with Fred Thompson and John McCain.

Ron Paul is also positioned to take 3rd in New Hampshire.

Two third place showings in the first two primaries isn't wonderful, but considering how he's been polling nationally that would be quite a feat and give him a lot of momentum.

This message will self destruct in about 5 hours when the caucus results come in.

Is this serious? Tell me I'm dreaming!

Do you REALLY have a system that goes through such an expensive process just for some tiny percentage of "voters" (whoever bothers to show up, they don't have to be party members, they could just be spoilers - in fact, if people had the forethought they could presumably travel in large numbers from state to state and decide the outcome of these events) simply to select some anonymous people who may or may not appoint a given candidate.

All of this apparently takes place under a form of the "electoral college" idea (presumably that's what the "delegates" and "conventions" are the equivalent of) applied in a process that doesnt result in a party leader - just a temporary spokesperson until a presidential election?

So the losing party has no party leader, and the winning party is given free rein for 4 years because there's no Leader of the Opposition?

And then you have yet ANOTHER election for the parliament, and presumably the whole of this is repeated on a smaller scale for State (acounties as well, presumably?) elections.

Do you really think that all this expenditure produces "policy" and "representative" outcomes worth the money! The other 95% of the world certainly wouldnt agree!

And what of other political parties - do they have State-legislation-mandated "caucus" procedures as well - or can they just do their own thing and choose their own party leader? What do the Greens do? Do they actually do something so daring as to have a permanent party leader chosen by the party members themselves?

Why is change so impossible, why has no REAL alternative to the 2 main parties ever emerged? Why support a system designed by a few 18th-Century rich men? How can you preach "democracy" to the rest of the world when (a) no-one will EVER forget Florida, and (b) you do NOT have a democracy - it's a "Representative Republic" which was specifically designed to disenfranchise the poor, ignorant and oppressed?

"it's a "Representative Republic" which was specifically designed to disenfranchise the poor, ignorant and oppressed"


Do we need more ignorant voters? Is that the problem with the system.

The beauty of a representative republic is that it tempers the passions of the people. Mob rule is the purest democracy - is that what you advocate?

The problem isn't the electoral college - it is the willing ignorance of the average voter (voting for a guy who has a great personality despite odious policies) and an innate fear among most of the same to actually pull the trigger on real change (Is anyone going to wax rhetorical about how Hillary is the change candidate?). So long as we abide by our constitution, and keep the federal leviathan in it's chains (sadly, a daunting task to get it tied back down), then the powers exercised by the central government are not as consequential. The ultimate answer is to return more control to the most local level as can practically be accomplished.

What Obama's win shows everyone is the truth about young people and independents. When young people find someone to believe in, they step forward. And the independent voter that is so crucial to a win in November will support Obama. They like him. They won't support Clinton. Her negatives with them as a group would cause her to lose in November.

The Iowa results mean nothing. As much as the media is trying its hardest to hype the significance and winners of this race, the whole deal is a marathon and this event is only a blip in the grand scheme of things. I don't see Obama being the next president. This country is not ready to see a black man or a white woman in the Oval Office. Edwards is the Democrats' best shot at winning the White House but it is unlikely he'll overcome Hillary and Obama. Huckabee is barely a Republican, if you can call him one. A 23% national sales tax? What a joke of a platform! Will the real contenders please stand up?


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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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