31 January 2016

One Day More to the Iowa Caucuses

One day more until the Iowa Caucuses.  It will be good to have voters start actually participating in the primary process rather than hype the horse-race based on sketchy scouting reports.

Donald Trump is the presumptive front-runner.  He is always anxious to point to the polls and his huuuge crowds. Trump scored a couple of prominent endorsers, including former Governor Sarah Palin (R-AK) and Jerry Falwell, Jr.  Trump was also aided by left handed compliments from current Governor Terry Branstad (R-IA), who is anxious to bolster ethanol mandates.

Trump eschewed the only Iowa debate supposedly because of a tiff with Fox News and Megyn Kelly.  But Trump’s post-debate excited utterances at how Trump was glad to have missed the pummeling questions may be an admission against interest.  Iowa voters expect to be courted and this cycle have remain undecided until the last minute.  Will the Manhattan mogul’s reticence towards Iowa retail politics hurt him in the caucuses or will it be another one of many things his fanatics will forgive him?

Time will tell if celebrity campaigning draws in many first time caucus goers.  In the 2012 cycle, only 125,000 people parcipated in the GOP Iowa Caucus.  Patrick Murphy, the director of Mamouth University’s Polling Institute, opined: Trump’s victory hinges on having a high number of self-motivated, lone wolf caucus-goers show up Monday night.”.  Add in the factor that many Trump-eteers are non-traditional first time caucus goers who have to be trained, motivated and ripe to turn out in Iowa, not just through social media or at a rally. If 150,000 or more Republicans actually participate (rather than just register) in this year’s Hawkeye Cauci, then it will be a good night for Trump.

Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) established an excellent ground game in Iowa while making pointed appeals to evangelical voters and Tea Party types (under the banner of being a consistent  Conservative).  Cruz claims to have 12,000 volunteers in Iowa.  Even political operatives who do not support Cruz, such as Alex Castellanos, concede that Cruz has established a formidable social media operation.

Organization is key to driving caucus goers to the polls.  Sometimes campaigns must literally drive their supporters there.  Also having representative to speak at each caucus   To aid in the retail campaigning, they rented college former dormitories and dubbed them “Camp Cruz” to house hundreds of door knocking volunteers. There has been some controversy over an 11th hour targeted voter mailer from the Cruz campaign which was intended to shame people into caucusing. Cruz dismisses such complaints claiming that the mailer was routine and he favored using every tool to get voters out to the Iowa Caucuses 

Rather than pander to Iowa voters, Cruz advocated the elimination of ethanol mandates, and compromised by phasing them out over five years.  But Cruz’ opponents and those supporting the ethanol lobby labeled that a “flip-flop”.

Cruz did score some significant endorsements for Iowans, including Tea Party favorite  Representative Steve King (R-IA 4th), former Governor Rick Perry (R-TX), evangelical leaders Bob van der Plaats, and Tony Perkins, Duck Dynasty Commander Phil Robertson and radio personality Glenn Beck.

Cruz has barnstormed the Hawkeye State.  By the time the caucuses start, Cruz claims that he will have done the full Grassley (referring to Iowa Republican Senator Charles Grassley) by having events in all 99 Iowa counties.  This type of retail politics was rewarded in 2012, when former Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA) won a narrow victory against former Governor Mitt Romney (R-MA). The Cruz campaign has also outreached to twice the number of likely caucus-goers than Trump.

However, since Cruz rose towards the top of the Iowa polls in mid-December, he has been targeted by Trump over dubious “birther” (and now even “anchor baby”) attacks.  Of late, Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) has been joining the fray to claim that Cruz is running a “disingenuous” campaign.  This has lead some political observers to conclude that Cruz peaked too early.

As the Iowa Caucuses approached, Cruz closed warning crowd of the dangers of voting for Trump and jabbed at Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL).  This may evidence a lack of confidence of decisively winning the Iowa Caucuses as planned.  However, weather forecasts project a major snowstorm starting just before the Caucus begin.  While Haweyes are heartier than denizens in the District of Calamity, a lower turnout may be the key to victory for Cruz, as his organization gets dedicated supporters to turn out on a snowy February evening.

Senator Marco Rubio has been coming on strong in Iowa, seemingly from good debate performances and wholesale politics via the airwaves. The Rubio campaign bet on de-emphasizing boots on the ground campaigning.  In fact, Rubio deputy campaign manager Rich Beeson proclaimed:  "The days of having to have 50 field staffers and 25 offices are done. We can have a field office and staff set up in a Starbucks with wireless and get just as much done as we can in a brick-and-mortar office with land lines." Perhaps. But does that compensate for the paucity of events in Iowa?

Rubio’s Super PAC ran half hour informercials on the Saturday night before the Caucuses on 12 TV stations in five media markets.  Will this work or just be noise as one flips channels on a Saturday night?

It would seem that Rubio is positioning himself for the third ticket out of Iowa, as the Caucuses tend to winnow the top tier winners from the campaign chaff. The strategy would be to frame the media story to be the Comeback Kid who comes out of no-where.

Iowa should have been the ideal launchpad for the Presidential aspiration of Dr. Ben Carson, as a Constitutional Conservative to appeal to Tea Partiers and a man of strong faith to appeal to evangelical voters, who make up 45% of Republican caucus goers.  But Dr. Carson’s campaign has precipitously receded since being in the number two chair for the early December GOP debate. For the Iowa Debate, Carson only was allotted six minutes.

The Carson campaign has been bleeding top advisors for the last month in the run up to the Iowa Caucuses. Carson himself has admitted that if he does not do well in Iowa or New Hampshire that he might have to do an agonizing reappraisal.  Senator Rand Paul’s (R-KY) campaign brags that they have 1,000 libertarian leaning collegiate supporters.  If they turn out to the Caucuses, that might help lift Paul’s campaign from the primary doldrums. But if Dr. Carson were to be edged out of fourth place in Iowa by a surprise surge from Governor Chris Christie (R-NJ) or Senator Rand Paul , discernment time might come sooner.

As counter-programming to the Republican Debate which Donald Trump boycotted, he held an event to help veterans and wounded warriors, which raised $6 million for largess via the Donald J. Tump Foundation. Also appearing at the Trump for the Troops event were the two prior winners of the Iowa Caucuses former Sen. Rick Santorum (2012) and former Governor Mike Huckabee (R-AR). Both claimed that they wanted to support veterans but Santorum was more candid as he had nothing to do after participating in the under-card debate.

[L] Ex Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA), [C] Donald Trump {R] Ex. Gov. Mike Huckabee

Cynics see auditions to a prospective Trump Administration thus they seem like vassals for The Donald. Is it telling that Donald Trump will give his post Iowa Caucus “winning” speech in Little Rock, Arkansas.

It will be interesting to see how Big Mo goes after the Iowa Caucuses.  Typically, the top three candidates get a rush of publicity and funding after Iowa.  But Big Mo does not always translate into winning the next contest, as New Hampshire primary voters are contrarian.  In the 2016 cycle, Trump is comfortably in the lead and Governor John Kasich (R-OH) is surging into second in the Granite State.

In this cycle, some campaigns have raised significant campaign contributions so they are unlikely to quickly fold after Iowa.  Former Governor Jeb Bush (R-FL) seems resigned to garner better showings after Iowa and New Hampshire and Jeb!'s campaign has the money to make it there.  Rubio’s campaign is well funded and can survive not winning in the Caucuses or the First in the Nation primary.  Cruz has been conservative in spending his large campaign coffers and will probably concentrate on South Carolina and the SEC primaries on March 1st.

With all of this attention on the Grand Old Party, it is easy to overlook the Democrats. It is expected that 140,000 Hawkeye Democrats will participate in the Caucus and they skew very white and liberal. It would not be surprising if Senator Bernie Sanders (Socialist- VT) won both the Iowa and New Hampshire contests.  Pro arguendo, Sanders momentum combined with the maelstrom of the Clinton Email Scandal, might cause the Democrat establishment to scramble for substitutes instead of the Hillary coronation, akin to 2004 after the Dean scream.

The fun begins in earnest on February 1st.

14 January 2016

Nanny State Nabobs Nix Taunting Sports Cheers

Jay Bilas  on Toughness and Sports Fans

In late December, the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association urged state high school administrators to enforce "guidelines" pertaining to sports fans. WIAA Communications Director Todd Clark inveighed against unsporting behavior, particularly in student cheering sections.  To wit, the WIAA wanted to ban chants as: "Fundamentals"; "Air ball"; "You can't do that"; "We can't hear you."; "Overrated"; Scoreboard" and "Season's over".  There is some thought that even the patriotic "USA" chant may be verbotten.  Per the WIAA's guidelines, these cheers could lead to a suspension.

Much to the WIAA's chagrin, these guidelines went viral on social media and were subject to considerable derision and some pointed First Amendment protest.

ESPN Sports Analyst Jay Bilas took to Twitter to mock the well-intentioned Nanny State sportsmanship dictat with reductio ad absurdum zeal. Bilas suggested a replacement tersely cogent cheer for "Air Ball" with the thoroughly polite " "We note your attempt did not reach the rim, but only to alert the clock operator that a reset is unnecessary."

High School students in Ashwaubeon, Wisconsin chose to make a symbolic protest against the WIAA's assault on their free speech rights by putting duct tape over their mouths at a basketball game.

 None of these cheers are even vaguely bawdy, such as the cheer of frustration: "Nuts and bolts--we got screwed".  These nanny state rules (disingenuously veiled as "guidelines") seems to demand sucking the spirit from zombie-like seat warming fans as their teams effectively compete for their participation trophies.

Once the story acquired national attention, the WIAA tried to back down. WIAA Executive Director Dave Anderson tired to quell the media maelstrom by issuing a "Sincere Apology" email which insisted that there were no new directives, no new rules, no new mandates, and no new enforcement expectations. Parsing Anderson's email, the key is phrase is new. Reading between the lines, the chants were just examples of unsportsmanlike behavior that WIAA guidelines prohibit.

The WIAA mandate touched upon Bilas bailiwick for "Toughness: Developing True Strength On and Off the Court" (2014). Bilas did recognize that there are ways of unruly fanaticism that crosses the line without over-regulating kids. Bilas recalled while he was playing basketball at Duke in the 1980s, the University President wrote an open letter challenging fans to behave better and be creative without crass cheers. This prompted the Blue Devil student section to react to bad calls with the cheer: "We beg to differ". A more modern approach might be to remind students that they should not do something they would not want put on television lest it go on their permanent records.

This is more than a high school sports story. It  exemplifies the totalitarian instincts political correctness which demands conformity from feckless fans. The WIAA follow-up employs the non-apology apology, denying the directive is anything new. It also shows the micromanaging mien of the Nanny State which nudges people through rules masquerading as "guidelines".  Lastly, it imposes overbearing burdens on people without challenging them to find creative alternatives to encourage more civil cheering.