So the Iowa caucuses are over and attention is on New Hampshire, and it would probably be smart to wait until after that to try to make sense of any of it. But risk is fun, so I am going to unabashedly toss out some thoughts that may be demolished by the New Hampshire results. After all, if those results make what I say here irrelevant, I can write another post about why I was wrong!
To start with the Republican side, Iowa fit in with most of my recent predictions. I have been saying that Trump would inevitably start to slip, and Cruz would pick up his mantle as the conservative champion. Then the Republican leadership would have to pick someone to challenge Cruz. I also said that the two most likely choices were Rubio and Bush. Yes, I thought Bush was still viable, and that, of course, was likely a major misjudgment. Barring a major miracle in New Hampshire, Bush will look like toast in the primaries. But Cruz did beat Trump, supporting my expectations about those two, and Rubio’s strong third makes him look good as the leadership’s best hope. On the Democratic side, Hilary has to be nervous after Sanders’ strong showing. This is true largely because the New Hampshire primary is in Sanders’ back yard, where he has always been expected to do well. In fact, I now think he has to actually win there to look like a real challenge to Clinton, on the theory that if he can’t win there, where can he win? Especially since the next game is in South Carolina, where his extreme liberalism will put him at a distinct disadvantage. I still think Clinton will get the nomination, but at least for the moment Sanders is making the Democratic race less soporific.
This is where I should reveal my recent surprising and somewhat unsettling (to me) thoughts about Hillary Clinton. I have never liked her. Both her politics and her personality have irritated me, despite the fact that I liked seeing a woman do so well in American politics. (Just not that woman.) But only about a week ago, I got a disturbing revelation. For months, I have been looking in the highly conservative Republican line-up for someone more centrist. The disturbing insight that suddenly came to me is that Clinton is the centrist in this election! Yikes! Of course that is only because everyone else is so off-center, but it is what it is. And, unlike the Tea Party types, she at least knows what politics is all about. It’s about compromise, which extremists on both sides reject, because they are so positive they are right that they cannot imagine deviating even an inch from what they see as the incontrovertible truth. Clinton also understands foreign policy and has top-level experience in it. Again unlike the extremists, she is neither an appeaser nor a warmonger. She wants to combine diplomacy and military action when necessary. Gosh, am I sounding like a Clinton supporter? I hope not. I have only voted Democratic a couple of times, when I just could not stand a given Republican candidate. Like, perhaps, Donald Trump.
Ah yes, Trump. The real wild card in this election. I have never thought he could win the nomination in the primaries, and I still don’t. I think that will become evident before long, but it will not take him out of the game. What normally happens, in the primaries, is that two candidates emerge as the front-runners and then the others drop out because they can no longer raise money to keep campaigning. That’s what can make this time difference. Trump can go the distance on his own dime. So, even if he ran third, he might win enough delegates to keep either of the others from wrapping up the nomination before the convention. And then we would have a real, old-fashioned, honest-to-goodness, loads-of fun convention, which we have not seen for very many years. Trump would be broker and king-maker and could almost name his price for his delegates. He could likely get the VP slot if he wanted it, but I doubt if he would. I also doubt if he will run for President as an independent, though some people think he may. I hope he does not. I would rather see an old-time convention, perhaps because I am an old-timer. I used to love watching those when I was young.