First in the nation caucuses only hours away

By Dave Andrusko

iowacaucus16reWe used to live in Minnesota so even if I hadn’t already been a political junkie, I would have paid close attention to the Iowa caucuses, living just across the border. That interest has not waned in the 30+ years we have lived in Virginia.

What can we say about tonight’s caucuses and how the outcome will affect the Republican and Democratic contestants to succeed Barack Obama?

Working backwards, we can say that the presidential nominee will reflect the party’s position on abortion. Both former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Democratic Socialist Senator Bernie Sanders closely hew to the pro-abortion line. While both may have tap-danced around abortion in a recent debate, no one could possibly mistake their relative quiet for a lack of enthusiasm for multiplying the number of abortions.

On the Republican side, pro-lifers have an embarrassment of riches. We know that every major Republican presidential candidate has taken a pro-life position. The battle lines are clear on abortion.

What about tonight specifically? Weather is always the joker in the deck. As of a few hours ago, the winter blizzard is not expected to arrive in time to mess up the caucuses; the best guess is it will arrive after the caucuses take place.

The interesting twist is the process Democrats use is much, much more complicated and much, much more time-consuming than that employed by Republicans. Will people start to bail out or fail to come anticipating the late-arriving storm?

Who is ahead? It depends, but the general consensus is from places like the Des Moines Register and the final poll from Quinnipiac University is that billionaire Donald Trump is narrowly ahead of Texas Sen. Ted Cruz with Florida Sen. Marco Rubio roughly 6-8 points behind Mr. Cruz.

On the Democratic side of the ledger, the Des Moines Register finds Mrs. Clinton slightly ahead, with final poll from Quinnipiac showing Mr. Sanders with a small lead.

Which brings us back to the caveat that is always thrown out: depends on the turnout. The conventional wisdom is that the larger the turnout, the better it is for Mr. Trump and Sen. Sanders.

Quinnipiac’s results show both of them faring very, very well with people who say they will be coming to their first caucus. Obviously, the question remains, do they actually come?

Anything else? Almost always a candidate does “better than expected” and/or another “fails to meet expectations,” both of which are established by polls and political commentators.

Why is that important? The New Hampshire primary is only eight days away.

Right now, Sanders and Trump are comfortably ahead in The Granite State, according to the most recent CNN/WMUR poll. Sanders is 23 points ahead of Clinton (57% to 34%) while Trump has an 18 point advantage over Cruz (30% to 12%)

Whomever it is they personally like, reporters want a battle royale early. Talk about “momentum” is pure catnip for reporters. That is why they will highlight–even exaggerate–an outcome that does not meet the narrative they have established.

Going to be a fun night. Be sure to watch coverage.