Well, after a runup that seems to start shortly after I was born, we will finally get the first votes cast today in Iowa. It will be a while before we know what happens. I will post updates as events warrant.
This election cycle defies prediction, but I’ll make one anyway. Clinton narrowly edges Sanders, something like 49-45. Trump wins Iowa but with a smaller margin than expected. Something like Trump 25, Cruz 22, Rubio 17. He will then say something outrageous so that the media will
give him free campaign ads talk about it until New Hampshire.
We might see one or two candidates drop out after Iowa, but I suspect most of them will hang on until New Hampshire and possibly South Carolina.
So we had another Republican debate last night. As before, it went on way too long and involved way too many, “say something nasty about the other candidates” crap. But one thing became apparent very quickly: this is now a three-man race between Trump, Cruz and Rubio. Other candidates got their moments — especially Christie. But it really came down to those three. Cruz absolutely buried Trump on the ridiculous “birther” question, landing the first real blows anyone has landed on the Donald. Rubio hit Cruz on flip-flopping. And Trump responded well to Cruz’s “New York values” nonsense. I don’t think any of them did anything to massively change the polls. But I did get a sense that Trump has peaked.
Of course, people have been pronouncing Trump’s campaign dead since the day it began so ….
Some of the other candidates are lingering around and I expect Paul, as the only non-hawk, to stick around as long as he can. Christie remains tenacious but can’t seem to get any traction. But it’s really down to those three.
At this point, it really is time for the GOP and the debate committees to narrow the field some more. Fiorina, Kasich, Huckabee and Santorum are no longer serious candidates and shouldn’t even be at the “kid’s table” debate. They should also consider winnowing Bush, Christie and Carson (as I said on Twitter, every time Bush spoke I got that feeling that a guest had stayed in my house way too long). The longer this drags out, the more garbage we’re going to get instead of substantive debate and the more likely it is that Hillary (or Sanders) will have an easy ride to the White House.
With the Iowa Caucuses bearing down on us, I’ll refrain from making any predictions. It’s going to be an interesting few months, though.
(In other news, the President gave his last State of the Union address. I’d write a post but … it was just such a pointless exercise. It was an hour of him pretending he hadn’t been President for seven years. Sitting here, two days later, I can’t think of any proposals he had other than less partisanship (from Republicans … he couldn’t resist taking his own cheapshots at the GOP). I thought Haley did OK with the GOP response, but again … not a lot of substance there.)
I caught parts of last night’s Republican debate. Nothing I saw changed my ongoing impressions: I like Rubio, I like some of what Paul’s saying, Christie remains tenacious, Bush is dead, Fiorinia has yet to move beyond her memorized talking points. But it also reinforced my other impression: that we are witnessing the early stages of an electoral trainwreck.
2016 is very winnable for the Republicans. Clinton, despite her pedigree, is an extremely weak candidate. Handed an easy Senate seat in 2000, she made it into a challenge, winning by 12 points in a state Algore won by 30 and that only because Rick Lazio turned out to be a giant asshole. Handed an easy nomination in 2008, one which she led by 20-30 points at times, she blew it, losing to an unknown half-term Senator with a funny name. Handed an easy nomination in 2016, she’s struggled to put away an elderly half-cracked socialist from Vermont.
Clinton is beatable. But she’s not beatable if the GOP nominates a fruitcake. And she’s not beatable if the GOP, in an effort to outcrazy the fruitcake, endorses such idiotic policies as shooting down Russian planes over Syria or carpet-bombing parts of Iraq and Syria.
I don’t know. I tend to be pessimistic about the GOP. But this is not looking good.