NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate provides the Northwest Progressive Institute's uplifting perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Monday, February 1st, 2016

Republican Ted Cruz wins in Iowa; Democrats Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders tied

Tonight in Iowa, the Demo­c­ra­t­ic and Repub­li­can par­ties held their first nom­i­nat­ing events of the 2016 pres­i­den­tial cycle. At hun­dreds of schools, church­es, and homes through­out the Hawk­eye State, large num­bers of vot­ers and activists showed up to cau­cus for their pre­ferred pres­i­den­tial candidates.

On the Repub­li­can side, a plu­ral­i­ty favored Ted Cruz, the mil­i­tant Texas sen­a­tor who helped goad the House Repub­li­can cau­cus into shut­ting down the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment for sev­er­al weeks in late 2013. Cruz beat out bil­lion­aire mogul Don­ald Trump, who had been ahead in the polls and was thought to be the fron­trun­ner, along with Flori­da Sen­a­tor Mar­co Rubio, who may wind up as the estab­lish­men­t’s choice if Jeb Bush does­n’t catch fire in New Hampshire.

On the Demo­c­ra­t­ic side, Hillary Clin­ton and Bernie Sanders were locked in a tie, with Clin­ton main­tain­ing a slight lead for much of the evening that grad­u­al­ly dimin­ished, until she was left with only the slimmest of an advan­tage in terms of del­e­gates. In late evening speech­es, Both Clin­ton and Sanders heaped praise on their sup­port­ers and on Iowa Democ­rats for mak­ing the con­test com­pet­i­tive. They did acknowl­edge each oth­er, but reserved their crit­i­cism for Repub­li­cans and for Wall Street.

For­mer Mary­land Gov­er­nor Mar­tin O’Mal­ley, who had tried to por­tray him­self as a fresh­er, more youth­ful alter­na­tive to the Demo­c­ra­t­ic fron­trun­ners, announced mid­way through the vote count that he was drop­ping out, hav­ing con­clud­ed that he was the odd man out in what has become a two-can­di­date con­test. In most places, O’Mal­ley was unable to even meet the thresh­old for viability.

Repub­li­can Mike Huck­abee like­wise announced that he was drop­ping out, hav­ing fin­ished in ninth place, ahead of only Chris Christie and Jim Gilmore. Huck­abee trailed Cruz, Trump, Rubio, Ben Car­son, Rand Paul, Jeb Bush, Car­ly Fio­r­i­na, and John Kasich. It’s worth remem­ber­ing that eight years ago, he won the Iowa cau­cus­es, but ulti­mate­ly lost to John McCain, who cleaned up on Super Tuesday.

Sanders’ remark­able per­for­mance in Iowa demon­strates that he has stay­ing pow­er and is like­ly to remain in the race for a long time.

Sanders’ strong show­ing is actu­al­ly good news for Hillary Clin­ton, whether her cam­paign wants to admit it or not. See, a com­pet­i­tive Demo­c­ra­t­ic pres­i­den­tial race means a big­ger audi­ence for Clin­ton’s ideas (it takes two to debate!), and it means more peo­ple show­ing up to par­tic­i­pate in cau­cus­es and primaries.

Long-term, that’s good for Clin­ton. If Sanders was­n’t around and she was a lock for the nom­i­na­tion, the mass media would turn its atten­tion to the Repub­li­cans. The net­works would only be hold­ing debates among the Repub­li­cans, and none among the Democ­rats, because there would only be one Demo­c­rat left standing.

I can well remem­ber the acri­mo­ny of the 2008 Demo­c­ra­t­ic pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nat­ing sea­son. It was divi­sive and con­tentious, cer­tain­ly, but it was also a boon for the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty. Every state mat­tered, for a change.

Keep in mind, the last three Demo­c­ra­t­ic pres­i­dents to be elect­ed did not sail unop­posed to their par­ty’s nomination.

Iowa Democ­rats’ first choice in 1976 was “Uncom­mit­ted”, with Geor­gia’s Jim­my Carter com­ing in sec­ond. A few of Carter’s oppo­nents dropped out after the ear­ly states had vot­ed, but oth­ers per­sist­ed in run­ning, notably Wash­ing­ton U.S. Sen­a­tor Hen­ry “Scoop” Jack­son, who did not exit the race until April 27th. But even after Jack­son left, oth­er Democ­rats got in, includ­ing Frank Church and Jer­ry Brown. Carter was ulti­mate­ly able to secure the nom­i­na­tion, but it was­n’t a cakewalk.

Sim­i­lar­ly, in 1992, Bill Clin­ton’s road to the nom­i­na­tion was not a straight one. He lost many ear­ly states, includ­ing Iowa, New Hamp­shire, Maine, and South Dako­ta, to rivals like Paul Tsongas, Tom Harkin, and Bob Ker­rey. But his sec­ond place fin­ish in New Hamp­shire kept him in the race, and in March, he hit his stride.

And of course, in 2008, the duel between Barack Oba­ma and Hillary Clin­ton for the Demo­c­ra­t­ic nom­i­na­tion became one of the most grip­ping polit­i­cal dra­mas in Amer­i­can his­to­ry. Oba­ma and Clin­ton com­pet­ed vig­or­ous­ly for del­e­gates for months, and Clin­ton did not throw in the tow­el until only a few weeks before the DNC. The Obama/Clinton rival­ry was the dom­i­nant sto­ry for a whole sea­son after John McCain locked up the Repub­li­can nomination.

Jim­my Carter, Bill Clin­ton, and Barack Oba­ma all went on to win against their Repub­li­can oppo­nents despite not hav­ing the Demo­c­ra­t­ic nom­i­na­tion sewn up at the out­set of their cam­paigns. Hillary Clin­ton will unques­tion­ably be a stronger nom­i­nee if she has to earn the nom­i­na­tion by com­pet­ing along­side Bernie Sanders. And the reverse is also true: if Sanders wins the nom­i­na­tion, he will have done what many said was impos­si­ble, and he will have a stronger Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty at his back dur­ing the sum­mer and autumn cam­paign against the Repub­li­can nominee.

Tonight’s Iowa cau­cus­es may have pro­duced an inde­ci­sive result on the Demo­c­ra­t­ic side (which has led to much grous­ing, espe­cial­ly from the likes of MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, who com­plained about there not being a clear los­er and a clear win­ner). But Iowa is just one of fifty states that are hold­ing nom­i­nat­ing events, to say noth­ing of the many U.S. ter­ri­to­ries that will do like­wise. The vast major­i­ty of del­e­gates to the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Nation­al Con­ven­tion will come from out­side Iowa.

The mass media may be dis­ap­point­ed that Iowa did­n’t pro­duce a vic­tor, but that sen­ti­ment is not shared by many Demo­c­ra­t­ic lead­ers and pro­gres­sive activists, who reject the sad cul­ture of instant grat­i­fi­ca­tion that the mass media is locked into.

“Con­grat­u­la­tions to Hillary Clin­ton and Bernie Sanders for both win­ning half of Iowa’s del­e­gates,” said Wash­ing­ton State Demo­c­ra­t­ic Chair Jax­on Ravens. “They both ran strong cam­paigns on the issues that mat­ter — expand­ing health care access, fight­ing cli­mate change, and on how we can raise incomes for work­ing-class Amer­i­cans. We look for­ward to com­par­ing this pos­i­tive vision with the Repub­li­can vision for Amer­i­ca of more war, more tax cuts for the rich, and more dis­crim­i­na­tion against women, LGBT and immigrants.”

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