The Iowa Caucus Results

The Iowa Caucus Results January 4, 2012

I watched a lot of the coverage of the Iowa caucuses last night and laughed many times. I laughed at the very idea that Santorum won and that the pundits dissected his message to see what really appealed to people. The answer is nothing. Santorum did as well as he did simply because he was the last not-Romney standing after all the others had their two-week shots and lost.

Lawrence O’Donnell even declared that Santorum had delivered a “stunning” repudiation of big money politics because Romney and Perry spent over $10 million between them and Santorum only spent half a million dollars. Nonsense. If that money had been spent attacking Santorum over the last few weeks, he would have finished where Gingrich did, or worse. And if you think Santorum is a real threat to Romney in this race, you’re kidding yourself. He has little money and almost no campaign infrastructure. He’s going to get blasted in New Hampshire and he’s going to be just another flash in the pan.

I said a couple weeks ago that the Republican voters were like the guy who wants to go to the prom with the cheerleader but knows he’s going to end up with the girl in the back brace. Everyone got their shot in the meantime and all of them failed. And I described Santorum as the girl with the head lice. Well he finally got his turn in the barrel too, but it will last as long as the others have. They’re going to end up with Romney, the girl in the back brace.

I also laughed watching Newt Gingrich’s post-caucus speech to his followers, where after months of declaring that he was running a positive campaign and criticizing those who ran negative ads, he now says he’s going to go after Romney hard. He’s not going to go negative, though, and how dare you suggest such a thing. But he reserves “the right to tell the truth.” Because when other people run critical ads, they’re going negative and slinging mud; when you do it, it’s just telling the truth and contrasting policy positions. Because other people’s stuff is shit and your shit is stuff.

And as always, I’m just bewildered by how anyone can stomp and cheer any political candidate the way the audiences at their campaign headquarters did. I just cannot understand how anyone can invest themselves emotionally into a political candidate. I am simply immune to such boosterism.


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  • And as always, I’m just bewildered by how anyone can stomp and cheer any political candidate the way the audiences at their campaign headquarters did.

    I always wished people would pay half as much attention to politics as they do sports.

    I regret that wish.

  • Who Knows?

    I feel a little better that Ron Paul didn’t win. He’s just a plain old racist and I would have been very disappointed in Iowa for putting him at that top.

    But he did far too well to make me happy and that Santorum did so well doesn’t help much.

  • Hank Fox

    Because other people’s stuff is shit and your shit is stuff.

    Ha! Good one. I’m hearing George Carlin’s voice.

    I’m just bewildered by how anyone can stomp and cheer any political candidate the way the audiences at their campaign headquarters did.

    It starts with high school pep rallies, I’d wager.

  • d cwilson

    And as always, I’m just bewildered by how anyone can stomp and cheer any political candidate the way the audiences at their campaign headquarters did.

    Well, given that the people there are likely campaign workers and volunteers, I can understand that, after investing so much of their personal time and effort, they can cheer when it pays off. It’s like being on a sports team that makes the playoffs.

    I do agree that Santorum’s big win (only in the bizarro world of the Iowa caucus would tying and having 3 out of 4 people vote against you be considered a “big win”) is largely due to the fact that he was last in line to be the not-Mitt. He snuck under the radar while the media and the other candidates were ignoring him.

    Another factor is that he played the traditional ground game in Iowa. While the other candidates were performing for the national media, he was visiting every county and going to every fair and pig roast in the state. He spent more time in Iowa in the last two years than he spent in Pennsylvania during the twelve years he was my senator.

    But that’s also his weakness going forward. He literally bet everything on Iowa. Unless this win opens the floodgates of donor money, his victory in Iowa will mean as much as that of Mike Huckabee and Pat Robertson.

  • jamessweet

    The closest I came to the “stomping and cheering” thing was that I was in a bar with a lot of young people when Obama won the election in 2008, and I and others applauded and teared up a little. Even though Obama was a disappointment, I still feel the same sort of thing thinking about that night. It was no so much that Obama was an inspiring candidate (though he was, at the time at least) but rather the historic nature of being able to say I cast a vote for America’s first black president. It was an important date, and I really felt a lot of emotion about it. I still do.

    But yeah, that because the color barrier to the presidency had been breached for the first time, not because of some passion for an individual candidate. I don’t get that either.

  • MikeMa

    Iowa exposed some real santorum by casting so many votes for the man. He is a sick joke whose timing as the last not-mitt to rise happened to coincide with the caucus. That he got any votes is a sick revelation of foundering American values. He belongs in a christian Saudi Arabia, not here.

  • Cuttlefish

    I’ve been looking, but have not managed to find a “dollars per vote” analysis; does anyone have those numbers?

  • daved

    I always wished people would pay half as much attention to politics as they do sports.

    I regret that wish.

    I’d disagree that people are really paying that much attention to politics. The media try to pump up these contests in to “races” that people can somehow get invested in, but mostly it’s not working. Also, while there are plenty of sports fans who can dissect the minutiae of teams, I’d argue that there are very few people who really know the political candidates in that kind of detail.

    Meanwhile, here’s a depressing thought, heard from a Democratic analyst on the radio last night: even if one GOP candidate really runs the table in the primaries, the nomination cannot be locked up before April 25. I’m not sure I can bear these candidates being at the top of the news cycle for the next almost-4 months.

  • harold

    Meaningless protest vote.

    Howeverr, this primary cycle has clarified that the right wing prioritizes religious authoritarianism.

    They prioritize winning first. But their guy who can win is a hard core economically right wing plutocrat, and that isn’t satisfying them.

    Combined with all of the anti-choice and anti-science legislation at local levels since 2010, the message of these anti-Romney symbolic protests is clear. Romney is economically right wing, so the dissatisfaction is purely due to the (false) impression that he won’t be enough of a religious right authoritarian.

  • Ben P

    I’ve been looking, but have not managed to find a “dollars per vote” analysis; does anyone have those numbers?

    I have no independant verification, but this was posted on Twitter last night.

    https://twitter.com/#!/mcpli/status/154419513776017408

    Wow. Paid media $/vote so far: Santorum $1.65, Bachmann $8, Romney $113.07, Gingrich $139 Paul $227, Perry $817. #

    Not total expenditures, but in the overall scheme of things media buys are a big expenditure.

  • Hey! I dated a girl in a back brace back in high school. She was wonderful — and much smarter than Romney. 🙂

  • Reginald Selkirk

    I’ll bet Tim Pawlenty is kicking himself for dropping out so early.

  • harold

    I’d argue that there are very few people who really know the political candidates in that kind of detail

    My impression, and I first noticed this in 2010, is that Americans tend to have no clue what candidates propose as policy. They have vague stereotyped ideas, often wrong, based on impressions. I had not noticed this until I heard some of the nonsense people came up with when trying to convince me/themselves that GWB was “moderate”

    Americans also seem to be very poor at understanding how systems work in general. People will glibly claim to support absurd positions, while taking it for granted that nothing will ever disrupt programs they take for granted.

    Carrying a “Get the government away from my Medicare” sign while rallying for a candidate who intends to attack Medicare, which is a government program, is actually quite characteristic. I will point out that that particular sign was carried by a guy who would have been over 30 when Medicare was first passed. However, he’s not unusual, he’s characteristic, and this is sen in all age groups.

  • 75% of people vote AGAINST you and that’s victory?

  • Dennis N

    I don’t think there has been enough coverage in the wider media about just how much Iowa does not represent America.

  • Ben P

    My impression, and I first noticed this in 2010, is that Americans tend to have no clue what candidates propose as policy. They have vague stereotyped ideas, often wrong, based on impressions

    The way you wrote this seems to imply you have an outside perspective and made me curious as to your nationality. (just idle curiousity)

    That aside, I think there’s a couple reasons for this.

    1. A big part of it is our election system. FPTP Election Systems (i.e. winner take all even if it’s a small plurality) condense the choice of voters into two likely candidates, and minimize third party votes.

    Because the candidates are effectively leading broad and vague coalitions, it’s in their interest to campaign on vague themes that allow people to read their own beliefs into the “conservative” or “liberal” candidate, regardless of their actual policy views.

    if we had proportional representation or runoffs, You’d probably see more similarity to countries with those systems. You might have a much more narrowly focused “religious right party” and a broad “economic conservative” party, a party broadly focused on liberal economics, but with narrower parties on that side as well, etc etc etc. Those allow candidates to engage in specific policy issues without the risk of alienating their own base because the base doesn’t actually agree.

    2. I suspect TV doesn’t assist. TV based politics tend to be much more focused on short plain statements rather than detailed policy arguments. There are always the sunday morning talk shows, but they don’t get high ratings.

    3. To some extent I suspect it’s human nature.

    To take this away from the realm of policy, consider a local candidate, say city counsel, or mayor. There might be a key issue or two that I have a position on, but many of the issues aren’t major ones.

    How do I decide which candidate for mayor to vote for? I can talk to a candidate and interrogate him about his policy views, but I think to a greater extent, if I know someone personally, the decision gets made based on a more vague opinion of that person than a rational sum of policy decisions. it’s unlikely I agree with someone on every single point, so I’d rather have someone who I trust to make good decisions, even if they make some I disagree with down the road.

  • omcdurham

    [i]I’m not sure I can bear these candidates being at the top of the news cycle for the next almost-4 months.[/i]

    The silliness of all the G.O.P. runners has been thrust upon us for the last 6 months, most of which make me either laugh or cringe.

    Perry and Bachmann are godnuts that can’t seem to understand history or plan a atrategy, and are very funny to watch.

    Ron Paul is a racist.

    The “Mitt” is a pretty boy who can’t make up his mind.

    These people are better than any network sitcom…I laugh my ass off and then I wonder if people really use what is said as actual information!

  • D. C. Sessions

    But yeah, that because the color barrier to the presidency had been breached for the first time, not because of some passion for an individual candidate.

    I confess to being surprised that the first black President was elected before the first white female President, or even Vice President.

    The first Catholic President was John F. Kennedy. Quite historic.

    Can you name the second Catholic US President?

  • Sadie Morrison

    D.C. Sessions, there has been only one Catholic POTUS. I am not particularly surprised that a black male became president before a white female even became vice president. Upholding of the patriarchal status quo is the deepest tribal value in our society.

  • zippythepinhead

    Romney’s squeaker win over Santorum means that Iowa conservatives just aren’t ready to give up on that sweet sweet man on dog sex.

  • Pardon my igornance but… was there also a Democratic Party caucus in Iowa? If so, any word on how many people voted in that?

    Thanks.

  • slc1

    Re reverendrodney @ #21

    No.

  • juice

    The closest I came to the “stomping and cheering” thing was that I was in a bar with a lot of young people when Obama won the election in 2008, and I and others applauded and teared up a little.

    Sucker.

  • Sadie Morrison

    Juice, I did the same thing back in ’08. And I understand now that Obama has been highly disappointing in so many ways. But I’m not at all ashamed of the emotions that I felt when he was elected.

    /I know, feeding the troll, but Juice brings up a point that should be addressed because a lot of people have brought it up and I feel it’s invalid

  • sezme

    I always wished people would pay half as much attention to politics as they do sports.

    I regret that wish.

    Keep some perspective. About 5% of Iowans voted and a tiny fraction of that went to the parties. So, in the big picture, there was, in fact, very little enthusiasm in this contest.

    I share you wish and don’t regret it. We’d be better off if more folks were engaged.

  • demonhauntedworld

    A classic Santorum moment – the U.S. has been fighting a war in Mordor:

    http://www.salon.com/2006/10/17/santorum_24/

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