Tags: Iowa Caucuses

Iowa Republicans Embarrass Themselves by Touting E-Mail Poll


The Republican Party of Iowa tries to convince us that the caucuses were hunky-dory:

GOP Survey: 79% Give High Marks to Iowa caucuses

DES MOINES, Iowa– A new non-scientific survey shows seventy-nine percent of Republicans rate the accuracy of the presidential vote tabulation process used at the 2012 Iowa caucus as excellent or good. 

That accuracy question received the highest rating in the survey of Republicans who attended the Iowa caucuses.

The survey of 669 Republicans  by the Iowa Caucus Review Committee was conducted Monday, May 7 through Sunday, May 13. Of those who responded, 250 also offered ideas and suggestions on how to improve the caucuses.  The information will be used by the committee which is developing recommendations to improve the Iowa caucuses.  The next meeting of the committee is 7 p.m. Wednesday, May 30th at Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids.

On the other hand, 68% gave a poor or fair rating to the release by the Republican Party of Iowa of caucus vote results to the media and public.

Seventy-one percent said their overall view of the Iowa caucuses was excellent or good.

Sixty-two percent of those who received caucus training said it was excellent or good. However, 43% indicated they received no training.  

“This is very useful information for the committee,” said Bill Schickel, committee chairman.  “It tells us what we are doing right and gives us guidance in the areas that we need to improve.”

The survey was conducted by email utilizing Survey Monkey software.

A poll via e-mail! An admittedly unscientific one!

In case you’ve forgotten, this is the caucus – the first in the nation, giving the state an influence in the nomination process that is wildly disproportionate to its population or even cultural influence – that could not say with certainty who won. To refresh: “Lost in the mail, lost in the paper shuffle, and possibly misfiled were among the reasons that Republican leaders in five Iowa counties gave as why votes were ultimately not counted in the Jan. 3 caucuses. Eight Iowa precinct caucuses in five counties lost the documentation of the Jan. 3 caucus straw poll — called Form E — and could not be counted in the final totals for the tightest caucus contest in history.”

So, yes, Iowa Republicans, there are some areas you need to improve, like the minor detail of recording and counting the votes, which is basically the purpose of the whole thing.

May I recommend scrapping the caucus and moving to primaries, which allow more people to participate?

Tags: Iowa Caucuses

Iowa’s Big Winner Santorum . . . the Huckabee of 2012?


Presuming the final results are similar to what we see at this hour, it is a mildly disappointing result for Romney, since he and his supporters sounded like they expected a solid win tonight. His percentage of the vote and vote total are likely to be below his final totals for the 2008 campaign, when he finished well behind Mike Huckabee. Having said that, very little that happened tonight is going to impact his lead in New Hampshire, and so a week from tonight he should be celebrating a big win in New Hampshire to go with a finish that is either first or a close second or (increasingly unlikely) a still-close third.

The night’s big winner is Rick Santorum. But the experience of Huckabee should be something of a warning sign to Santorum. Iowa’s caucusgoers, as a group, are different from Republican primary voters in most states. They’re more heavily focused on social issues, and they reward enormous time and effort in the state. Obviously, Santorum can’t replicate his Iowa effort in many other states.

A big question about Santorum has been whether he can assemble a campaign infrastructure in all the states to come, but somehow I suspect that the considerable number of anybody-but-Romney Republicans will eagerly step forward and help assemble that infrastructure. If the race comes down to Romney and Santorum, the former Pennsylvania senator will have access to funds from the grassroots. Perhaps not enough to go toe-to-toe with Romney, but enough to make it competitive.

Ron Paul . . . how do you evaluate a candidate like Ron Paul? According to the entrance polls, 38 percent of caucusgoers had never voted in a GOP caucus before; of those, by far the largest share, 37 percent, voted for Ron Paul. Among the registered so-called independents who took part in the caucus, 48 percent voted for Ron Paul, way ahead of anyone else. Next-highest was Romney with 16 percent. He’s a Republican candidate for those who hate all of the other Republican candidates. With no Democratic presidential primary to compete for the anti-war vote, he should do well in every open primary from here on out.

Newt Gingrich, Rick Perry, and Michele Bachmann all had bad nights. There will be talk of Bachmann dropping out, but as I have noted, we have seen a state with just under 1 percent of the U.S. population vote. Why should she deny 99 percent of the country the chance to vote? Having said that, if she can’t get more than a few percentage points in Iowa, where would she break out?

Oh, and the Ames Straw Poll should be ignored forevermore.

Tags: Iowa Caucuses , Michele Bachmann , Mitt Romney , Rick Santorum , Ron Paul

Three Factors to Watch Tonight


What to watch for tonight:

1) Turnout. There are 613,521 registered Republicans in Iowa. In 2010, 226,965 voted in the Republican primary. Last cycle’s Republican caucus turnout, with a competitive Democratic primary drawing some of the independents, was about 119,000. With a competitive primary and anti-Obama animus stirring Republicans, turnout should be higher . . . but will it?

2) How does Mitt Romney perform compared to last cycle? Some folks think yesterday’s post laying his 2008 performance as a key threshold is setting the bar too high. But if Romney is a stronger candidate this time around, why shouldn’t he clear 25.19 percent and/or 30,021 votes? (If turnout is higher, it is possible Romney could pass 30,000 votes and still have a smaller percentage of the vote.) Romney had a lot of factors break his way in Iowa — Gingrich choosing to stay positive for so long, the rise of Paul, the infighting among Santorum and Perry. Few if any attack ads focused on Romney’s flaws. If the former Massachusetts governor can’t surpass his second-place finish, it will be the first rattle in the engine of a campaign that is supposed to be humming along smoothly.

3) Assume that the polls are accurate and Romney and Ron Paul finish first and second tonight, relatively close together. The rest of the race might depend on how close together or far apart slots three through six are. Santorum appears ready to have his day in the sun, and could end up enjoying a last-minute surge that scrambles the expectations. Is fourth place good enough for Gingrich? It depends on whether fourth place is 13–15 percent or whether fourth place is 7–10 percent. The same goes for Perry and Bachmann. If they can argue that they were within a few percentage points of third place, they’ll have an easier road ahead than if they have to sustain momentum after finishing in the mid to low single digits. They can and probably will go on after tomorrow, but as Giuliani demonstrated last year, even the biggest-name candidate runs into trouble with enough consecutive bad finishes.

Tags: Iowa Caucuses , Mitt Romney , Rick Santorum , Ron Paul

Iowa Undecideds . . . Just What More Do You Need to See?


It’s Iowa Caucus Day! And today’s Morning Jolt is all about the Hawkeye State festivities:

Really, Undecided Iowans? Really?

Dear Iowans: Brett Favre wants you to hurry up and made a decision already.

Seriously: “The final Iowa Poll before the caucuses is seen as a bellwether for Tuesday night’s first-in-the-nation voting. Still, the race is fluid, as 41 percent have a first choice but said they could still be persuaded to support another candidate. Fifty-one percent said their minds are made up.”

At Slate, Sasha Issenberg offers a good analysis of the undecided voter in all of the myriad forms: “Many voters who tell pollsters they’re undecided are actually anything but — they’ve made up their mind, but for one reason or another, don’t care to share their feelings with pollsters. What’s more, studies have shown that many undecided voters don’t ever show up to vote in elections at all, making efforts to win them over doubly doomed . . .”

One type: the future bandwagoneer:

In early December, the George Washington University political scientist John Sides and Republican consultant Alex Lundry (of the firm TargetPoint Consulting) collaborated on an online experiment to test whether new information on electability moved voters. They polled Republican primary voters on their preferences, and then showed them the latest predictions from Intrade, which indicated Romney was the most electable candidate, followed by Newt Gingrich. The Intrade data proved persuasive: Forty percent of voters changed their pick after seeing it, mostly by going to Romney or Gingrich from less viable opponents — or by moving from “no preference” to picking a candidate.

Another type: The liar.

In late 2007, Hillary Clinton’s data team noticed a peculiar trend coming out of Iowa: The numbers coming in from volunteer phone banks consistently overstated Clinton’s support when compared to the numbers coming in from the paid call centers the campaign also used to identify voters. One of Clinton’s analysts concluded that part of the problem might be exuberant volunteers overestimating a voter’s potential support — so you’re saying there’s a chance? But the bigger takeaway was that voters don’t always want to be honest with someone on the other end of the phone about their preference. The easiest way to let a canvasser down easy: claim you’re undecided when you’re not. And while the Democratic caucuses require attendees to declare their preference in public, Republicans vote by secret ballot — so it’s easy for a voter to keep a choice private throughout the process.

This recent Washington Post profile of an undecided couple left me particularly underwhelmed:

Early last week, a postcard advertising a rally for Mitt Romney arrived at the home of Pam Arnold Powers and her husband, Kelly. As undecided voters, the couple had grown accustomed to such invites. They regularly received mail from Rick Perry and Ron Paul, and Romney himself called several times a week, clogging up their voice mail with automated messages that began “Pamela, this is Mitt.”

“They use our names!” said Ms. Powers, a gregarious 47 year old who, likewise, considers herself on a first-name basis with Mitt, Newt, Rick and the other Republican hopefuls.

A personalized automated message! This is a game-changer! *squeals*

Kathleen Parker contemplates the current odd atmosphere of indecision in Iowa:

As of this morning, 41 percent of Iowans were undecided. On the surface, this seems absurd. What thunderbolt are caucus goers expecting to clarify their choice? After months of candidate jockeying, a dozen debates, thousands of ads and millions of dollars spent, how could Iowans not know which candidate they prefer the day before they vote?

The simple answer is that no one candidate fills the bill. As one caucus-goer put it on MSNBC: “I like pieces of all of them.” The other reason is that the caucuses themselves provide valuable information. Not only to voters get to hear a final pitch from a representative of each candidate, but they also get to observe the quality of the campaign itself. Iowans say they’re interested in the issues foremost, but they’re also watching closely to see how candidates run their campaigns, figuring they’ll run the country the same way.

Dave Weigel lays out the shifting loyalties of Iowa caucus-goers: “Covering Paul, met people who caucused in 2008 for Thompson, Huckabee, Rudy, and Obama. Figure that out.”

Tags: Iowa Caucuses

How the GOP Presidential Primary Calendar Ought to Be


In response to today’s Iowa-bashing, a couple of readers ask what sort of primary order I would prefer.

It depends upon the primary priority, no pun intended. Is the process designed to ensure that the most electable candidate is nominated? Is it to be stable and predictable? Is it to require candidates to demonstrate that they can appeal to voters beyond one or two regions of the country?

For what it is worth, I think coronations are more often harmful to a party. I think the best primary system is one that permits as many Republicans as possible to make a meaningful impact on the nominee selection process by voting. (Under the current system, if you’re worried that your preferred choice will be eliminated by the time your state holds its presidential primary, you can still attempt to help your candidate by giving money, volunteering, touting him to any friends you have in early-primary states, following on Facebook and Twitter, etc. But it will all feel pretty moot when Primary Day comes and your guy quit weeks ago and only one or two candidates are still seriously contending for the nomination.)

It doesn’t take much to get a Republican outside of Iowa, New Hampshire, or South Carolina to start complaining that they feel shut out of their party’s most important decision in most cycles.

So I would suggest a process that begins with the least-populated states, which have the fewest delegates to the GOP convention, and works its way up to the largest and most delegate-rich states. In the nomination process, a state can present value to a candidate in one of three ways: 1) number of delegates (often tied to population size); 2) time in the primary calendar (a chance to make an early splash and create momentum for later contests); or 3) ease or cost-effectiveness for campaigning (small size and short travel distances, cheap television advertising rates, etc.). This system would attempt to balance out those values so that campaigning for the votes of those few Republicans in Vermont and Delaware makes as much sense as campaigning for the votes of Republicans in Texas and Georgia.

Under this system, the earliest states would still get enormous attention, but they would have the least consequence in terms of number of delegates; a candidate could stumble and still rebound on the next one, at least for a little while. Because of their small population (and, often, geographic size), the early process would still involve retail politicking with a lot of personal interaction with primary voters. Early state victories in relatively inexpensive places like Delaware and Montana might translate to influxes of funding and momentum, so the idea of an underdog rising to the top would be more plausible. But the steady week-by-week drumbeat of increasingly larger mid-sized states (Indiana, Colorado, Arkansas) would require a candidate to demonstrate that they’re more than just a flash in the pan.

The biggest states, California and Texas, might lament that they’re destined to go last. But under this system, one or both could very well end up with the “kingmaker” role, putting one of the leading final contenders over the top. They would be more than just “ATMs” that are visited by candidates for fundraisers but largely ignored in terms of actual candidate campaign stops.

I would try to cluster states together geographically, but I would avoid “Super Tuesday”–style mega-primary days, which require candidates to campaign in eight to twelve states at once. That kind of setup pretty much ensures that the candidate with the most funds will win, because he will be the only one who can afford to run ads in all of those states voting simultaneously.

According to Green Papers’ list of number of delegates per state (based on information obtained from the state party, presidential-primary dates established by currently effective state statute, and the state’s 2008 delegate selection process), under this system, the first ballots would be cast in . . . technically Guam, Virgin Islands, Northern Marianas, and American Samoa. One can argue whether territories should go first, but at least winter in the Virgin Islands sounds more enjoyable than Iowa.

Ironically, the first state would be . . . New Hampshire. The order after that, in ascending order of number of delegates to the GOP convention:

District of Columbia
Rhode Island
New Mexico
Puerto Rico
South Carolina
North Dakota
South Dakota
West Virginia
New Jersey
North Carolina
New York

So, under RNC Chairman Jim, the 2016 Republican primary process (one hopefully lacking drama because we’re all so thrilled with the results of the GOP president elected in 2012) would look something like this:

February 9: New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine.

February 16: Delaware, District of Columbia.

February 23: Hawaii, Alaska.

March 1: South Carolina.

March 8: Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming.

March 15: Iowa, Minnesota.

March 22: Connecticut, Rhode Island.

March 29: Nevada, Utah.

April 5: Oregon, Idaho, Washington.

April 12: Arizona, New Mexico.

April 19: Michigan, Indiana.

April 26: West Virginia, Kentucky.

May 3: Colorado, Nebraska, Kansas.

May 10: Arkansas, Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama.

May 17: Maryland, Virginia.

May 24: Massachusetts, New Jersey.

May 31: Wisconsin, Illinois.

June 7: Florida.

June 14: Missouri, Oklahoma.

June 21: North Carolina, Tennessee.

June 28: Ohio, Pennsylvania.

July 5: Georgia.

July 12: New York.

July 19: Texas.

July 26: California.

Everyone gets August off; the convention is held at the end of the summer, and the general election lasts a bit longer than two months.

Under this system, every state gets a week in the spotlight, shared with no more than three other states, and the states are reasonably contiguous and similar in demographics, economies, resonating issues, cultures, etc. No more holiday seasons ruined by an early January caucus. New Hampshire still gets to kick things off but shares its debut with two nearby states; South Carolina still plays a key role as first-in-the-South. Iowa slips down the list, but it’s still fairly early in the sixth week of competition (out of 25!) and this can be considered penance for their oversized influence since 1972.

I’m not sure about having Alaska and Hawaii so early, as geographic distances will always make either of them expensive states for cash-strapped candidates.

If you think this would have the primary running ridiculously late, I will remind you that right now, California, New Jersey, New Mexico, and South Dakota are slated to choose June 5; Montana June 14; Utah June 26 and Nebraska July 14.

As Chairman, I would encourage every state to have a closed primary and eliminate caucuses. Caucuses tend to have low turnout, violate the principle of the secret ballot, and effectively disenfranchise the sick, those who are immobilized, those who work nights and those who cannot get a sitter. I prefer closed primaries because if you want to have a say in who a party nominates, you should be a member of that party.

UPDATE: Somehow when making up this calendar I originally forgot Oklahoma.

Tags: Iowa Caucuses , Primaries

Could the First Big Winner of 2012 Be... Ron Paul?


Today’s Morning Jolt looks at the Trump-ed debate, new polls that look good for Republicans, and a sense that perhaps Ron Paul and the Iowa caucuses, like New Jersey and you, are perfect together.

Could the Big Winner of the Iowa Caucuses Be… Ron Paul?

Ron Paul was supposed to do pretty well in Iowa… but this well?

There has been some major movement in the Republican Presidential race in Iowa over the last week, with what was a 9 point lead for Newt Gingrich now all the way down to a single point. Gingrich is at 22% to 21% for Paul with Mitt Romney at 16%, Michele Bachmann at 11%, Rick Perry at 9%, Rick Santorum at 8%, Jon Huntsman at 5%, and Gary Johnson at 1%.

Gingrich has dropped 5 points in the last week and he’s also seen a significant decline in his favorability numbers. Last week he was at +31 (62/31) and he’s now dropped 19 points to +12 (52/40). The attacks on him appear to be taking a heavy toll- his support with Tea Party voters has declined from 35% to 24%.

Paul, meanwhile, has seen a big increase in his popularity from +14 (52/38) to +30 (61/31).  There are a lot of parallels between Paul’s strength in Iowa and Barack Obama’s in 2008- he’s doing well with new voters, young voters, and non-Republican voters.

Readers of this newsletter will recall that I have increasing respect for Ron Paul (particularly his longstanding skepticism of the wisdom of the Federal Reserve) but still find him far from my first choice as a Republican presidential candidate. And while I have no particular beef with Iowans, I find the state and its near-isolationist, agriculture-driven, almost communitarian political culture far from ideal to play such a pivotal role in the nomination process. So in a strange way, seeing Ron Paul win Iowa would be just peachy from where I sit.

At the Daily Caller, Steven Nelson observes, “In early November, pollster John Zogby predicted that if Cain exited the race, his supporters could help buoy Paul’s numbers since so many Cain devotees identified as libertarians. “Anti-government libertarians are running out of candidates to support,” he observed. If Paul does win in Iowa, he could enter the New Hampshire primary with significant momentum.  In most polls in the Granite State, Paul places third behind Gingrich and Romney.”

At Hot Air, Allahpundit sees a formula for chaos – and for some Republicans not that enthused about the current field, that might not be such a bad thing!

I’ll bet Romney’s kicking himself now for not having abandoned Iowa early on. If he had done that, he could have sent his supporters out to caucus for Paul, thereby detonating Newt’s chances; if he tried that now, having competed in earnest in the state, the headlines would be all about Romney’s shockingly poor finish in Iowa, which would actually help Gingrich in New Hampshire even if he finished second to Paul in the caucuses. (On the other hand, per Rasmussen, Paul’s just four points back of Gingrich for second place in New Hampshire too.) Two exit questions for you, then. One: As chances of a Paul upset grow, will Iowa’s Republican leaders swing behind Newt or Mitt? They want the caucuses to remain relevant to choosing the eventual nominee, and if Paul wins, that’ll be two elections in a row where the Iowa winner realistically had no chance. Two: Could a Paul victory achieve a real “none of the above” outcome for the nomination? A brokered convention is unlikely – but, as Sean Trende explains, not impossible if Paul fares well… Ron Paul winning Iowa just might mean the GOP nominating Ryan, Christie, or Daniels. Second look at Ron Paul winning Iowa?

Karl at Patterico’s Pontifications sees this shaking out the same way; Ron Paul will get his moment in the sun (maybe a few weeks, really) and Iowa will be tainted as too quirky and unpredictable to be given such a key role in the selection process: “I would note that we kept seeing polls suggesting Romney is a second-choice vote for many… and yet, voters keep selecting alternate candidates as their first choice, don’t they?  If Paul somehow pulls out a win in Iowa, the real winners may be people tired of the importance pols and pundits have placed on the Iowa caucuses.”

Bachmann’s win in the Ames Straw Poll has certainly proven irrelevant, hasn’t it? Sure, she led through July and most of August, but here is her level of support in the last six polls: 8 percent, 9 percent, 7 percent, 9 percent, 11 percent, 10 percent. She’s not an asterisk, but that’s pretty much an afterthought. And if Ames can become irrelevant… can the Iowa caucuses themselves become virtually irrelevant?

Tags: Iowa Caucuses , Newt Gingrich , Ron Paul

New Poll in Iowa: Cain, Romney Split Lead, Gingrich Just Behind


JMC Enterprises sends along their latest poll of Iowa Republicans and finds a competitive race among likely caucus-goers: Herman Cain 20 percent, Mitt Romney 20 percent, Newt Gingrich 16 percent, Michele Bachmann 6 percent, Ron Paul 6 percent, Rick Perry 4 percent, Rick Santorum 4 percent, 23 percent undecided.

Their methodology: “For this poll, we chose a sample of known Republican households across the state for an automated poll.  We only sampled respondents who indicated they had some likelihood of attending the Iowa caucus.The survey was conducted November 2. The margin of error, with a 95% confidence interval, was 4.3%.”

The gender split surprises me a bit: “54% of the respondents were female, and 46% were male. The geographic breakdown of the respondents was as follows: 20% came from the 319 area code, 25% came from the 515 area code, 10% came from the 563 area code, 20% came from the 641 area code, and 25% came from the 712 area code. The survey was conducted November 2.”

I would note that in 2008, the split in the Republican caucus was precisely the opposite, 54 percent male, 46 percent male. Where were all the women? Voting in the Democrat caucus, which split 57 percent women, 43 percent men. But with no competitive race on the Democratic side this cycle, perhaps more Iowa women are planning on participating in the GOP primary.

Tags: Iowa Caucuses

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