On February 1, all attention turned to Iowa for the first voting contest in the presidential nomination process, which kicks the US presidential election into a higher gear. Because it is the first state, any serious contender make huge investments there, whether through debates or other means of canvassing for support. Some candidates spend good amount of US dollars on advertisement, while others make investments in the “retail campaigns” of “knocking every door”. The Republican side, as expected, has not been short of drama, which saw the humbling of no less a person than Donald Trump. The Democrats, on their own, produced a shock which saw former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton winning a tight contest over her main rival, Bernie Sanders in a state that “feels the Bern”!
Since the conclusion of the Iowa caucuses, many have given different interpretations to the outcome of the meetings, on both sides. Some argue that the tight contest shows the rise of “socialist” ideas in the United States since Bernie is a self-professed socialist. Some of my comrades still question why I am supporting Hillary against the more progressive Bernie. To this inquiry I simply tell them that despite my progressive orientations, my views on US politics are actually pro-Republican, except in 2008 when I joined the rest of the world to support Barrack Obama in that historic election. My Republican persuasion comes from the fact that blacks were originally supporters of the Grand Old Party (GOP). Though many blacks tend to have forgotten this, the first sets of blacks in the US Congress were Republicans. Abraham Lincoln’s Republican government it was that freed black slaves during the American Civil War (1861-65).
Again, let it be on record that I don’t mind a Bernie presidency should Hillary fail to make the Democratic nomination. What still amazes me about Bernie’s strategists is that he is the least talked about of all the leading candidates, yet he almost caused an upset in Iowa. What they are doing and how they are doing it is what we will have to find out. But for now, Hillary is leading in where it matters most-the votes!
How is the Iowa vote of any use to Hillary? That was the question a colleague asked me in the office the following morning after keeping vigil watching the live coverage of the caucuses on CNN. My replies were on several fronts: First, Iowa is a predominantly white state and favourite ground to “feel the Bern”. So for Hillary to have won in a state where Bernie was expected to win is something the Hillary for America strategists should beat their chests about. Though we must commend Bernie’s team for the good fight they put up in the Midwestern state. The victory in Iowa for Hillary projects her for a major win in the election having done the impossible by becoming the first woman to register a win in a US presidential primary.
Second, whether we like it or not, the Iowa results appear to be hugely important in determining who the major parties’ presidential nominees will be — particularly when considered alongside the impact of fellow early state, New Hampshire. It is not remotely a national primary. The national polls mean nothing. The nation is not voting. Instead, it is Iowans who get the first say.
We will need to go into history a bit here to fully appreciate the importance of Iowa for Mrs. Clinton. Every winner of a competitive major party presidential nomination contest since 1980, except one, started off by winning the Iowa caucuses, the New Hampshire primary, or both. President Jimmy Carter won Iowa in 1980, got the Democratic nomination but lost his re-election bid to Republican candidate, Ronald Regan. Regan himself lost the Iowa primary to George H. Bush who would later become his running mate.
Walter Mondale won the Iowa primary in 1984 and also became the eventual Democratic nominee. Republican candidate, George H. Bush, who lost Iowa primary to Bob Dole, went on to win the election.
Dole won the 1996 Iowa primaries again, that time then winning the Republican nomination. He however lost the election to the Democratic candidate and incumbent, Bill Clinton. Al Gore and John Kerry at different times between 2000 and 2008 won the Iowa primaries. The most recent US presidents — Barack Obama and George W. Bush — kicked off their primary season by winning Iowa.
Second, and more importantly, even if the Iowa victor doesn’t end up winning the nomination in the end, the state’s results can dramatically shake up the presidential contest — knocking some candidates out of the race entirely, while elevating others to top-tier status in the eyes of political elites and future voters. Former Arkansas Governor, Mike Huckabee and Democratic presidential candidate, Martin O’Malley both called it quits Monday night after poor showings in the Iowa caucuses, which attest to this fact.
While it looks good from our analyses that Hillary may, in all possibilities, be the eventual Democratic nominee, things may not be that rosy when it comes to the election proper. Good starts or early leads do not always end well, if our knowledge of US elections is anything to go by. The fact that Iowans have gotten their choice wrong five times out of a possible nine (for the presidential elections) since 1980 means there is still a long way to go even with a good start for Hillary. Between the time of the Iowa primary and the popular/electoral votes, a lot of things can happen in a game where every hour counts!
This reminds me of the Aesop’s fable “The Hare and the Tortoise”. The moral of that story is very simple: Thoroughness and quality counts for more in the long run than speed. The race is usually not hinged on the swift, as there is no sense in starting fast and ending poorly. Alas! This is one of Life’s terrible lessons.
Good start, Hillary, though there is still more ground to cover!
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