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Tags: 2008 | 2012 | Iowa | Latino | Paul | Santorum

Iowa Will Separate Chaff from Real Contenders

Michael McDaniel By Thursday, 21 January 2016 01:43 PM EST Current | Bio | Archive

Feb. 1 is just around the corner as crunch time is here for the first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses. Winning Iowa is about organizing, usually.

Who accomplishes this and reaps the bounty of the cherished vote remains to be seen, but let’s break this down by taking a look at the leading candidates and what they need to do to finish strong.

Cruz. Cruz must protect his base and the conservative capital in Iowa is in the northwest part of the state. Sioux and Lyon counties are the epicenter of Iowa conservatism and predictably vote for candidates that fit the brand. They went for Santorum in 2012 and Huckabee in 2008. If Trump, Rubio, or any other candidate steals one of these counties away from Cruz, look for a not-so-successful night for the senator.

If Cruz is to win Iowa, he must win in the northwest. His secondary front is the rural counties across the state and he must win the lion share of these.

If he does so and couples this with larger counties like Dubuque and Scott, which are prominently catholic and pro-life, this will tell us if Cruz is resonating with eastern Iowa.

Trump. Trump's game plan is simple; overwhelm the competition by bringing in voters spanning all sorts of demographics. Trump has support from conservatives, evangelicals, tea-partiers, union members, independents, and even Democrats. Yet, it is critical his campaign gets the first time voters out.

If Trump wins any of the counties in the northwest this will be an indicator that he has strong conservative support. Additionally, if he wins counties in central Iowa, which are traditionally establishment strongholds, he will show the broad appeal that has been touted of his candidacy.

Carson. The Carson campaign has been working for some time in Iowa, possibly longer than any other campaign, to put an organization together that can execute a sound ground plan and get real results. It’s not for the lack of effort by Ryan Rhoades, Carson’s state political director, and his staff that the campaign has been languishing. Part of this is due to the candidate and his apparent lack of zeal for the campaign trail.

Carson is competing for the same territory that Cruz is competing for. He needs the evangelical vote en masse and if this were a normal election cycle that would account for about 40 percent of the GOP caucus vote. In 2008, and again in 2012, the Iowa GOP turned out about 20 percent of registered Republican voters.

With the strong interest this year, that number could go much higher and this would make it harder for the Carson campaign to win in the state.

Rubio. Of the establishment candidates running, Rubio seems to have the greatest appeal as a young, energetic, Reagan conservative who is also Latino. This is exactly the face that the national party wants to put forth to prospective, new voters to change the way the party is perceived. The problem Rubio has is — Rubio.

He hasn’t worked nearly hard enough in Iowa having spent only five days on the campaign trail in January.

Rubio will need to win Woodbury and Pottawattamie counties in western Iowa.

These were Romney counties in 2008 and 2012 and if he can make gains here, combined with eastern Iowa counties such as Linn, Blackhawk, and Johnson, he can hope for a decent showing.

Christie. The Christie campaign plan is about specific targeting. It’s no secret that early January polling data gave the Christie campaign some hope that there was a window of opportunity to take on Rubio for the establishment mantle in Iowa.

In 2012, Romney dominated Iowa’s most populated counties such as Dallas, Polk, and Story in central Iowa and Linn, Johnson and Dubuque in eastern Iowa. In large measure, Romney performed very similar in 2008. For Christie to be able to challenge Rubio and place well in Iowa, he needs to beat Rubio and any other candidate here.

The Lower Tier. The remaining candidates, Paul, Bush, Fiorina, Kasich, Huckabee, and Santorum simply do not have the momentum in Iowa needed to challenge for a strong showing. Bush has campaigned only one day in January and Kasich not at all. The Huckabee and Santorum magic has vanished. Paul and Fiorina have worked it hard, but their sparks have not ignited.

Iowa is an agricultural state and when harvest season arrives farmers must separate the chaff from the kernel. The harvest is due here in just over a week and a half, and Iowa will once again serve a very important role in separating the winners and the losers.

Each candidate will then get a better sense if they are chaff that will blow away in the wind, or if they are worthy of the Iowa golden kernel award.

Michael McDaniel is a political commentator who has been covering election politics in Iowa for over a decade. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.


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Iowa is an agricultural state. When harvest season arrives farmers separate the chaff from the kernel. Iowa will again separate the winners and the losers. Each candidate will get a better sense if they are chaff that will blow away, or if they are worthy of golden kernel award.
2008, 2012, Iowa, Latino, Paul, Santorum
Thursday, 21 January 2016 01:43 PM
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