• David Baldridge

Iowa Caucuses, Donald Trump and Baby Hitler

The race for the United States presidency in 2016 began nearly nine months ago in March 2015, when Senator Ted Cruz of Texas declared his candidacy. Over the course of last year we were subjected to lots of talk about building walls and banning entire religious groups from entering the United States. We have heard a presidential candidate claim that he tried to kill a man, but was prevented from stabbing him by a belt buckle, and we have heard the usual mud-slinging about policy and experience, but also about the other candidate’s appearances. This all comes from Donald Trump and Ben Carson, two political outsiders, whose success was not foreseen by political commentators a year ago. But, conventional candidates have also said and done some bizarre things. Governor Jeb Bush took a strong stance on his will to go back in time and kill an infant Adolf Hitler, should he come across a time machine, and Senator Marco Rubio displayed his skill at drinking from a water bottle while giving a televised speech.

Despite all this, the insanity of last year is over, and as we enter 2016, the real contest begins. Well, sort of… First both the Republicans and Democrats must nominate their candidate for the general election in November. This involves a series of primaries and caucuses, nominating contests where the supporters of both parties, one state at a time, vote on who they want their party’s nominee to be. The first contests, the Iowa Caucuses, are on February 1.

Republican Iowa Caucus

Iowa is not a good example for the rest of the United States. It is a largely rural state, while the country as a whole is more urban. Its population is 91% white, 3% African American, and 5% Latino, as opposed to 65% white, 13% African American, and 17% Latino for the whole country. In terms of religion, Iowa has a far greater proportion of Evangelical Christians than the United States as a country.

These demographics play into the hands of more Conservative candidates. The smaller proportion of Latinos means that there are fewer people to be offended by the immigrant bashing that seems commonplace among American conservative politicians. Evangelical Christians support many conservative social policies, like fighting abortion and gay marriage and defending what they call “family values”.

For this reason, candidates from the Republican establishment, like Marco Rubio and Chris Christie in this election, and Mitt Romney and John McCain in past elections, usually do not find significant support here. Indeed, in both the 2008 and 2012 Iowa Caucuses, Mitt Romney, who was the leading establishment candidate in the state got the same 25% percent of the vote. Those two elections were won by Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum, respectively, who were both running campaigns based around their commitment to the previously mentioned “family values”.

In the current election the anti-establishment feeling among Republican voters is even stronger, with two candidates from the extreme right-wing of the party competing to take control of this movement. They are Senator Ted Cruz and the man who needs no introduction, Donald J. Trump. The most recent opinion poll of Iowa Republicans has them at 31% each, with Marco Rubio in a distant 3rd with 9% and everybody else trailing behind. I will now make the prediction that Ted Cruz will, by a considerable margin, beat Donald Trump and the other candidates in Iowa. Here’s why:

  1. “Family Values”: Unlike the other Republicans, Donald Trump has not made Christianity a major theme of his campaign. In fact, in an interview he said that he does not really need to ask for God’s forgiveness, because he (Trump, not God) is so great. For a long time he was in favour of a woman’s right to choose to have an abortion, and only when he began his campaign seemed to magically switch positions. He now supports gay marriage, and has two previous wives. His current wife is 25 years younger than he is. Not exactly what traditional Iowa Conservatives call “family values.” Ted Cruz, on the other hand, has been married only once, continues to rally against gay marriage, and trying to defund Planned Parenthood is one of his major hobbies.

  2. Humility: The people of Iowa couple their Christian beliefs with a respect for hard work and humility. They do not respect obscene wealth. They did not give their support to Mitt Romney, a man worth $250 million. But Romney seems middle class compared to Donald Trump, worth $4.5 billion, a fact which he shares frequently and with pride. He also talks to great length about how smart and cunning his is. Not exactly humble, especially given that there is little evidence to back up his ego. He inherited a pile of money from his father, and since then has gone bankrupt four times and is so inept at business that had he left his inheritance in the bank to collect interest, he would have much more money today.

  3. The Celebrity Factor: Donald Trump has being getting almost all the media attention around the election. This has helped him by considerably raising his national profile, but it may have led to him having inflated poll numbers. It is one thing to say you will support Donald Trump to a pollster on the phone because you do not know any of the other candidates, and an entirely different one to go out and vote for him on a cold February night in Iowa. Ted Cruz has a sophisticated, algorithm driven, network of door-to-door knocking volunteers that make sure that his supporters all turn out on Election Day.

One final thought. The people of Iowa do not like being pushed around. Not by Washington, not by big personalities, and not by pundits trying to figure out how they’re going to vote. When Rick Santorum won the Iowa Caucus in 2012, nobody had talked about him in the mainstream media until two weeks before the caucus. The 2016 Iowa Caucus is still about a month away. That is plenty of time for any number of surprises. But, with the current information, I predict that Senator Ted Cruz of Texas will be the winner.