Tag Archives: Iowa Caucuses

Iowa Democrat Candidates:
The Polls Can’t Predict

Jan. 27, 2016 — Now less than a week before the Iowa Caucuses, five new polls of the Democratic presidential contest, all conducted within the same time period, arrive at very different conclusions. Three of the surveys find Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-D/VT) leading former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, while two arrive at the opposite result.

All five polls — from CNN, the Emerson College Polling Society, CBS/YouGov, Fox News, and the American Research Group (ARG) — studied the Iowa Democratic electorate from Jan. 15-24. The sampling universes ranged from 258 likely Democratic Caucus attenders to 490 projected participants.

The Emerson College Polling Society, which is a group of students from Emerson College in Massachusetts who have established such a record of accuracy that the American Association of Public Opinion Research has granted them membership, employs the smallest sample size at 258 self-identified Democratic voters, while CBS/YouGov’s 490-person polling universe was the largest.

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Re-setting the Republicans

Jan. 5, 2015 — We’re now within one month of the first votes being cast in the 2016 presidential campaign, and though there is disagreement about just how important the “February Four” states will be in determining the ultimate Republican winner, the early entities, at a minimum, are of clear significance. Today, we cover the Republicans; tomorrow, we reset the Democrats.

The voting calendar begins with the Iowa Caucuses on Feb. 1, followed by the New Hampshire primary on Feb. 9. Eleven days later, South Carolina Republicans vote in their party run primary. On Tuesday, Feb. 23, both parties will conduct the Nevada Caucuses.

The four states, for the hotly contested Republicans, are assigned an aggregate of just 133 delegates. The February results will serve as a prelude to Super Tuesday voting, which will occur this year on March 1. Fourteen entities will host either primaries or caucuses on that day.

The latest 10 published polls from Iowa, taken from Nov. 16 through Dec. 21, either find businessman Donald Trump or Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) holding the lead. Five surveys, from Monmouth University, the Des Moines Register, Loras College, Fox News, and CBS/YouGov post Cruz to an advantage. Four give Trump a slight edge: Quinnipiac University (twice), CNN, and Public Policy Polling. One pollster, Gravis Marketing, has the two tied at 31 percent in the latest released poll (Dec. 18-21/15). Cruz’s average lead is 8.6 percent. Trump’s average advantage is a much smaller 4.7 percent.

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Iowa Winners and Losers

Two clear winners emerged from the Iowa Caucuses last night – former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum. Both men earned 25 percent of the vote, give or take a hundredth of a point when all of the votes are officially tabulated, which means they fought to a virtual draw. The latest tally after last night still shows Romney leading by a scant eight votes of the just over 60,000 votes cast between the two of them.

There had always been speculation about whether Mr. Santorum would get the same surge that every other candidate had received at some point during the Iowa election cycle. Attempting to project ahead for the long term, since 49 other states still must cast their votes, it’s difficult to see another candidate besides Romney having the staying power to claim the nomination throughout the grueling 50-state nomination process.

But the candidates who didn’t perform well in Iowa might be the bigger short-term story. After he spent what will likely add up to be more than $500 per vote cast for him when the financial accounting becomes final, Texas Gov. Rick Perry has returned to Austin to consider whether he should continue his campaign. Fellow Texan Ron Paul also under-performed, after many polls and predictions suggested that he would win the Iowa Caucuses. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN-6) just barely cracked 6,000 votes. During the Iowa Straw Poll, which she won back in August, her grand total was 4,823. Such little growth in the months between the Straw Poll and the full Caucus vote suggested that her campaign was doomed. And it ended today when Mrs. Bachmann announced that she was suspending her candidacy.

Does the Santorum performance now allow him to coalesce the more conservative Republican voters, attracting them from Perry, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (whose precipitous drop in the polls translated to a similar performance when actual votes were cast), and Bachmann? Will it propel him into a one-on-one race with Mr. Romney? It has always been the conventional wisdom that if a candidate could isolate Romney, that individual would win.

Santorum is moving on to New Hampshire with the considerable momentum from Iowa behind him. And although Romney enjoys big leads in the Granite State in polling, if Santorum can place a clear second, it might be enough to secure the mantel as Romney’s top challenger. South Carolina would then become hugely important. If Santorum can upend Romney there, his national campaign could quickly become the real deal. Republicans are returning to a more traditional primary and caucus schedule (meaning the majority of the states are voting after Super Tuesday – March 6 this year), which could favor the late breaking candidate and not Romney, who has been in the top tier since the beginning.

If the eight-vote statewide Iowa margin stands, it will of course be the closest primary or caucus victory in presidential campaign history. Romney’s unofficial total of 30,015 votes is eerily similar to the total he received in 2008, when he lost to former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee. In that year, Mr. Romney accumulated 29,949, only 66 fewer votes than his performance last night.

Turnout also was similar to 2008. That year, 118,696 people participated in the Iowa Caucus meetings. Last night, the total was 122,255.

It was clear that the predictions of many Democrat and Independent voters would come to the Caucuses in order to re-register Republican and vote for Ron Paul did not materialize. Even in the key college counties of Johnson (University of Iowa) and Story (Iowa State University), Paul failed to place first. Mr. Romney carried both places, albeit only by 10 votes in Story, however.

The only candidate other than Santorum, Romney, and Paul to carry any county was Perry. He won in both Taylor and Union Counties, two southern Iowa entities that border each other.

Once again, it has been proved that a candidate who travels the state and works in a grassroots, one-on-one fashion can score big in the Iowa Caucuses. Santorum understood that and adopted this strategy well. Moving to the larger states like Florida and California, where such campaigning is virtually impossible, will prove more daunting.

Santorum is clearly the big story coming out of Iowa. But what is also clear is that this race has a long way to go.

It Begins Tonight in Iowa

The Iowa Caucuses are finally here and late polling shows that tonight’s result may be inconclusive. Several surveys forecast a very tight race among Mitt Romney, Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX-14), and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, who appears to be surging at precisely the right time. The attacks on former House Speaker Newt Gingrich have worked as his fortunes are declining to the point where even he says victory at the Caucuses is beyond his grasp. Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN-6) are hovering around the 10 percent mark, but do not appear to be in serious contention.

Still, a bunching of these candidates where the winner is only a few points ahead of those in the middle of the pack will render the Iowa Caucus vote somewhat meaningless because it is likely that the entire field will continue to New Hampshire (Jan. 10), South Carolina (Jan. 21), and then to Florida (Jan. 31) and Nevada (Feb. 4).

Here are the results of the latest polls:

• Insider Advantage (Jan. 1: 729 likely voters): Romney 23 percent, Paul 22 percent, Santorum 18 percent, Gingrich 16 percent, Perry 10 percent, Bachmann 6 percent.

• Public Policy Polling (Dec. 31-Jan. 1; 1,340 likely Republican Caucus attenders): Paul 20 percent, Romney 19 percent, Santorum 18 percent, Gingrich 14 percent, Perry 10 percent, Bachmann 8 percent.

• American Research Group (Dec. 29-Jan. 1; 600 likely Republican Caucus attenders): Romney 22 percent, Paul 17 percent, Santorum 16 percent, Gingrich 15 percent, Perry 9 percent, Bachmann 8 percent.

• Selzer & Company for the Des Moines Register (Dec. 27-30; 602 likely GOP Caucus attenders): Romney 24 percent, Paul 22 percent, Santorum 15 percent, Gingrich 12 percent, Perry 11 percent, Bachmann 7 percent.

Several points merit attention. First, should Mr. Romney finish ahead of his opponents, he will become the first non-incumbent Republican to ever win both the Iowa Caucus and New Hampshire primary, assuming he is not surprised there next week. Polling shows him holding consistently large leads in the Granite State. Winning the first two nominating events would give him needed momentum heading into South Carolina, which is clearly his weakest state. He will then need to rebound in Florida (possible) and Nevada (likely) to possibly deliver a knockout blow to some of the weaker candidates.

Second, it’s possible that Rep. Paul is under-performing in polling because the surveys do not accurately detect the number of non-Republicans who could come to the Caucus meetings for the purposes of switching to the GOP in order to participate in the presidential contest. Paul’s strength outside the Republican Party is an x-factor that could provide him enough of an added push for him to claim victory.

Third, it is clear that Santorum is gaining momentum but probably not enough to actually win the Caucuses. Still, a strong top-three finish will definitely keep his campaign alive through at least South Carolina, another state where he has the potential to perform well.

After more than a year of campaigning and enduring countless twists and turns, the first votes of the 2012 presidential contest finally will be cast tonight. The apparent closeness of the Iowa vote will likely yield to a lengthy nomination contest since all of the candidates will move on to other states. With more places holding their primaries and caucuses on a more traditional schedule vis-a-vis the front-loading that occurred in 2008, it is likely that we won’t see a definitive nominee until at least late April and possibly beyond.

If Cain Departs, What Happens?

Yesterday, Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain confirmed he is “reassessing” his campaign prospects in view of another accusation of an extramarital affair. Acquaintance Ginger White claims she had a 13-year liaison with Cain, this on the heels of several women claiming that he had sexually harassed them. Mr. Cain carried on in defiance of the original negative attacks but the fact that he is stepping back from his campaign, at least for a short time, indicates that this latest flap may deal a death blow to his presidential aspirations.

If so, how will his exit affect the Republican campaign, particularly when the candidates are fast approaching a most critical juncture? The Iowa Caucuses, now just five weeks away, could produce a defining result for the remainder of the race. If a candidate other than Mitt Romney wins the Iowa vote, then that person could well become his principal challenger. If Romney is isolated in a one-on-one race where his opponent is commonly viewed as being more conservative, that individual will likely win the nomination. Romney, who repeatedly breaks 25% in Republican primary trial heat polls only in New Hampshire, Michigan, and Nevada despite virtually all of those sampled knowing his name, has yet to solidify the front runner position. He benefits from a crowded field of opponents, each commanding the support of a similar-sized group of voters.

The latest Iowa public opinion polls show a very tight race among Romney, Cain, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, and Texas Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX-14). One recent survey showed the quartet of candidates to be within a four-point spread, with Cain topping the group (Selzer & Company, Nov. 10-12 – 503 self-identified Iowa Republicans planning to vote in their respective Caucus meetings: Cain 20 percent, Paul 19 percent, Romney 18 percent, Gingrich 17 percent). Obviously, an eventual Herman Cain withdrawal would have a significant effect upon the Iowa Caucus result and lead to an even more wide-open contest, if that is possible.

The typical Cain supporter is obviously conservative and clearly agrees with the retired business executive’s call to “shake-up Washington.” Therefore, more than likely, the majority of those Cain supporters sharing this mind-set would be attracted to a strongly conservative, non-Washington candidate. Therefore, the more moderate Gov. Romney is in poor position to attract the average Cain voter. Mr. Gingrich would certainly fit the ideological bill, but he is the consummate Washington insider. Rep. Paul probably strikes an economic chord with the Cain voting segment, but he has also been in politics a very long time and certainly does not share conservative views on foreign policy and many social issues.

Therefore, could this be the opening that Texas Gov. Rick Perry needs to restore credibility and return to the first tier of candidates, a la Gingrich’s return from the political ash heap? It’s hard see such a path for Perry right now, but the Texas governor probably blends best with those previously attracted to Cain. And, he still commands the financial wherewithal to communicate such a message.

In a race that has already seen so many twists and turns even before the first votes are cast, it appears that anything is possible. Should Cain retire from the campaign, the Iowa Caucuses become ever more important in determining the final course of this intra-party Republican presidential battle even though, today, the outcome is unclear.