On the Political Front: Meeting Expectations (Or Not) in Iowa Could Shift N.H. Primary

Feb 1, 2016

Credit Allegra Boverman for NHPR

"On the Policital Front" is our weekly check-in with NHPR's Senior Political Reporter Josh Rogers.

Today, Iowans get their say on the presidential races. How will results affect what happens here a week from tomorrow?

The honest answer is who knows. History would suggest that doing well – or at least winning Iowa – doesn’t necessarily translate here, particularly on the GOP side. But people who watch elections for a living – and the campaigns themselves – are going to be spending a lot of energy on figuring out or arguing about who did and didn’t meet expectations out of  Iowa, which will if not create, it will certainly affect perceptions of a candidate’s momentum for the final week’s push here in New Hampshire.  

Well, lets’ talk about that a bit. On the Republican side in Iowa, the talk has been Donald Trump and Ted Cruz for some time.

Yes. Both are fighting hard out there. On paper, Ted Cruz’s brand of Republicanism - arch-conservative down the line, shot through with evangelical language - would be the more natural fit in Iowa, where the GOP electorate is highly religious. But Donald Trump has surprised there, as he has everywhere this year. The caucuses will be the first test of his ability to get supporters who flock to his rallies to show when ballots are cast. 

Marco Rubio
Credit Chris Jensen for NHPR

Another thing to watch is how the guy sitting in a somewhat distant third in a bunch of the recent polls, Marco Rubio of Florida, does. Rubio has quietly spent lots of time in Iowa, and has seemingly played the expectations game well. A third place, which looks achievable, could be spun into looking like momentum should it occur. For Trump and Cruz, anything but first in Iowa will be seen as a blow – particularly for Cruz, perhaps -- even if no non-incumbent  has ever won Iowa and New Hampshire in the same year on the Republican side.

Among Democrats, though, it’s more common for a single candidate to win Iowa and New Hampshire.

Yes. That obviously didn’t happen eight years ago when then-Senator Barack Obama beat Hillary Clinton in Iowa only to have her edge him here. But in 2004, John Kerry carried both states; Al Gore did the same in 2000. The final Des Moines register poll has Hillary Clinton with a narrow lead over Bernie Sanders. The polling has consistently shown Sanders up in New Hampshire. The Clinton campaign has been throwing the kitchen sink at voters over the past week here to tighten things --- deploying surrogates ranging for Gloria Steinem to Ted Danson. As we’ve heard this morning, the past weekend was a big get out the vote push for the Clinton folks. The Sanders' folks have also been busy.

You mention Ted Danson and Gloria Steinem. Both are of a certain age. I know when we saw got the release announcing their visits, there were some in the newsroom – who will remain nameless – who had never heard of Ted Danson.

That’s true, Rick. I’ll confess I didn’t catch him in action. I did make it to one of the Gloria Steinem stops, though and the place was packed with women, mostly middle-aged or older, but some younger women were there, too.  Eight years ago, the Clinton campaign’s ability to mobilize women was key in her win here. Clinton has made much of her endorsements by the Planned Parenthood Action Fund and Narals PAC. And how these groups and the Clinton campaign try to mobilize women is one thing to watch over the next week. One thing that’s interesting is that the polling has shown Bernie Sanders with the edge among younger women.

Before you go, Josh, let talk briefly about Governor Maggie Hassan's state of the state speech.

Gov. Maggie Hassan
Credit Allegra Boverman for NHPR

Sure. The governor will address lawmakers Thursday. It’s her last such speech, and it will be interesting to see how much it is pitched towards getting things done in state government, and how much it may sound like a speech that may also set the table for Hassan’s U.S. Senate run against Republican Kelly Ayotte.  From Medicaid expansion, to the state’s drug crisis, to infrastructure challenges, there is plenty to talk about. How many people are paying attention this week may be  another thing, though.