How to read the Iowa caucuses, 2016

Someone rises, while someone declines (deservedly). It will stay that way too.

It’s a short post.

The dust has just about settled in Iowa, and here is a reasonable way to interpret the results. At the fivethirtyeight blog for the NYT, Nate Silver writes:

In the stock market, the fundamentals consist of things like the profitability and growth of a company. In the nomination process, the most important fundamentals are what we call electability (can the candidate win in November?) and ideological fit (does the candidate hold positions in line with the consensus of her party?). A party would prefer to nominate a candidate who scores well in both categories.

Rubio fits the bill, perhaps uniquely among the remaining Republican candidates. His image with general election voters is not great, but it’s better than the other leading Republicans. He’s also quite conservative. That’s convenient, because Republican voters are quite conservative also. In fact, Rubio is almost exactly as conservative as the average GOP primary voter.

By contrast, Trump is problematic in both categories. It’s not always clear what Trump believes or where he would wind up as a general election candidate, but he hasn’t been particularly conservative for most of his career. His electability case isn’t good either; instead he has an extremely negative image among general election voters. If Rubio is a blue-chip stock, Trump is a risky mortgage-backed security.

All of this rings true (to me at least). Now let’s take the major candidates one at a time.

Carson: He’s accusing the Cruz camp of misleading a caucus where his wife attended. Supposedly, Carson was dropping out. It may have been a dirty trick, but he should drop out anyway.

Cruz: The shutdown artist’s dirty trick confirms my opinion of him as a zealous loner Messiah who can’t work with other people. He did apologize, but that’s like getting an apology from someone who already sucker-punched you in the nose. Hollow words. His long victory speech made him seem even more pious than he is, in a bad way. Intense. Unattractive. Hyper-conservative. Therefore unelectable (unless Hillary gets indicted shortly before the elections in November, were he improbably to get the nomination).

Rubio: he is on the rise, and it is my belief that he will rise even farther.  He is not a centrist or moderate, and I never said he was.  In substance he’s politically conservative. Rather, it’s  been my belief all along that he has the greatest chance, because of his image and tone–so important to the Selfie voters–to draw the persuadable centrist and moderate forty-two percent to the GOP, what Silver (and others) calls “electability.”

Trump: he is now playing the spoil sport and will continue to do so because he won’t win any state, not NH, either. The campaign polls show him in the lead because the media have focused on him. The numbers are a fake, media-driven sugar high. Instead, it is his destiny, as I have said many times, to sow dissension and confusion in the elections. It’s becoming clear that he will run as a quixotic third party candidate because his huge ego won’t allow him to believe he’s a loser. Who is also to blame in addition to him and the mainstream media? Sorry to say, it is also conservative TV and radio talkers (with some noble exceptions) who have said things like “He could win the nomination!” Or “I think Trump is phenomenal!” It’s hard for me to fathom why they have access to a radio mic or TV camera, when they can’t see a red flag waving right in front of them. Obtuse.

Here’s how to read the candidates electability: always look at the forty-two percent who don’t call themselves liberal or conservative. Of those forty-two percent, a smaller subset decides the winner in presidential elections. They mainly go by tone and image over a debate about policy weeds. That’s why the same kind of voters went for Obama.

Of those four candidates, only Rubio has that down cold. Therefore, watch him rise and win the nomination because a majority of the primary voters (still) see it too.

Related

In defense of the GOP Establishment; (it has to be said to balance out the shrill rhetoric against an amorphous, ill-defined “foe”);

How conservatives can finally read America accurately (for a change); 

Figuring Trump out culturally;

Twelve reasons to vote for Sen. Rubio;

Five reasons not to vote for Ted Cruz;

Ten reasons not to vote for Trump;

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