Wednesday, January 4, 2012

To Iowa and Beyond

I had a post almost completed for today, a civilization question, instead of the political election questions that have dominated here the past month. But I got distracted late last night watching the Iowa returns.

Screen Shot of the Interactive Map*
My son Political Sphere gets off work at midnight, and he wanted to see how it turned out too. We lasted until almost 2:00 central time, shortly after the lead changed from Santorum by 18 to Romney by a few. At that point, Romney was projected as the winner. Either way, both are assigned 11 Iowa delegates. I’m not displeased or surprised by the ending (except maybe for how very close it is). The party has gone through one non-Romney after another. Just before Christmas the non-Romney of the day was Gingrich, and while I much prefer him to Obama, I feel better about Santorum taking that slot.
Santorum gave a nice speech before the crowds in those wee hours, thanking the people who so often told him, “Welcome to Iowa.”  You can see the speech here; it’s about 20 minutes. In there he mentioned his intention to remove all regulations costing over $150 Million a year. Prior to this administration the average number of such regulations was 60; under Obama that has risen to 150—not exactly a stimulus to increase jobs. So I’m with Santorum on that plan.
I’m reminded of an aside about Iowa. We went on a family trip once where we stayed in a vacation home along the Mississippi, across from Keokuk, Iowa. On the coffee table at that house was a funny book about Iowa, trying to convince people that it actually existed. Most people, it said, when Iowa is mentioned, actually picture Ohio, or maybe that western state with the potatoes (Idaho). But Iowa is more or less invisible. We laughed about it, because it’s true we don’t know a whole lot about Iowa. But the primary caucus there, being the first, does get them some attention and respect. And the people there take it seriously. They really do turn out to meet the candidates, and they ask questions and study. If everybody took the process as seriously as Iowa does, we’d have a better electorate. So, thank you, Iowa.
Now, getting into a little of the nitty-gritty, I read something while I was waiting for results, from Joe Trippi, campaign manager for Howard Dean back in the day. It was that campaign that started using online media to connect with voters. He wrote a book I read a couple of summers ago, called The Revolution Will Not Be Televised. He’s a strategist, and a liberal one. I couldn’t come up with that kind of thinking in my own mind; I don’t think that way. For that arcane expertise, there must be people like him, I guess, along with Karl Rove, Dick Morris, or, more for research than implementation, Frank Luntz.
Anyway, Trippi's article yesterday had some interesting things to look at. He said:
Watch Dubuque: The county in the northeast corner of the state is heavily Catholic and an area Romney scored well in four years ago. If Rick Santorum isn’t winning here it means the Santorum surge isn’t real or isn’t big enough to matter. The state is 23% Catholic—if Santorum, a pro-life Catholic himself, consolidates the Catholic vote in Dubuque and elsewhere, the Iowa surprise could be a Santorum win.
So I did that. I moved my mouse over the interactive map and found Dubuque County. Dubuque went Romney 31% (779 votes), Paul 26% (659 votes), Santorum 24% (601 votes). That eastern point of the state actually went pretty heavily toward Romney. I don’t know if that actually means Santorum’s surge is only temporary. He will, of course, suddenly get an influx of funding, because of his Iowa success. It isn’t likely to give him a win in New Hampshire, where Romney polls very strong (and is the basket in which Huntsman is putting all his eggs). But we’ll see.
Scrolling over the state gave some other info. If I’m not mistaken, at the point when Santorum was up by 18 votes statewide, two counties had not completed their count: Clinton and Keokuk. Then there was a change. Keokuk was complete, but Lee and Kossuth were not. And then Clinton County completed its votes, giving an edge to Romney. The other two remain incomplete this morning; I don’t know the story behind that. Political Sphere suggests that a precinct in each of those counties failed to have a turnout, so the precinct chair hadn’t bothered to turn in a count. They are pretty small. Total votes for Kossuth County are in the 400 range, and total for Lee a little over 600. Going by the percentages uncounted, we estimate there could only be about 20 votes possible from Kossuth and maybe 30 from Lee. Tiny amounts, but in this race enough to be decisive. It is one of those object lessons: every vote counts.
We were amused to notice that in Pottawattamie County, where Romney edged out Santorum by a couple of percentage points, Santorum got exactly 666 votes. Not a good omen. Especially if those voters chose Santorum based on his religion (Catholic), because they were afraid of Romney’s (Mormon). If so (not saying it is), they really needed either one more voter or a defector.
There were exit polls, and we wondered about the name for these, because the data was up well before the results. And this was a caucus, so people don’t come and go all day; they come at 7:00 PM and stay until they’re done, and then leave. So, these are probably “entry polls.” Anyway, Romney did well among middle and upper middle class, older, more educated voters, as well as the less intensely conservative and moderate. Moderate to liberal thinkers, particularly young voters, went with Paul. Tea Party middle income with some education went with Santorum.
According to the map, Romney only won 17 of, I think, 99 counties. He did tend to get the larger population centers (such as they are in Iowa). Santorum may have won more individual counties. But Ron Paul also led in a significant number of them. For people who like politics just for the sport of it, this was an exciting event.
Commentators describe Iowa as a winnowing state, rather than a selector. It looks like Michelle Bachmann, who won the straw poll in Iowa just last August, is out. Iowans liked her then, and her message has remained pretty much unchanged. This is why political science is a mystery to me. As of this writing Perry is still in. I’d like to see him stay through South Carolina at least. We’ll see. Gingrich is certainly in until then. So now, beyond Iowa, we’ll just have to wait and see what happens.
* Interactive Map found here.

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