The Green Papers Commentary

SO... WHAT'S IT ALL MEAN, ANYWAY?
Answer: So What?... On to New Hampshire!

Tuesday, January 25, 2000

By RICHARD E. BERG-ANDERSSON
"The Green Papers" Staff

The process by which we choose our Presidential candidates more resembles a demolition derby than a rational procedure. It's an elimination contest, offering us the last man- or men- standing at the end of a long, gruelling, and expensive series of matches... Meanwhile, what this is supposed to be about is who is best fit to lead our country. It should be no surprise that people seem to be increasingly unhappy about how we choose our President."-
ELIZABETH DREW
25 February 1988 entry
"Election Journal: Political Events of 1987-1988"

I have excerpted the above quotation because it well sums up my own feelings as I look over the results of the first alleged "test" of the 2000 Presidential Election cycle; in addition, it is a quotation which is also rather timely- as it was written only a few weeks after Robert Dole set what is now referred to- among supporters of George W. Bush- as the "record" for the highest percentage of the preferences (they're not really "votes", now, are they?) among those attending the Iowa Republican Caucuses and choosing from among a multi-candidate field [Dole ended up with 37-plus percent of the vote in '88]- a record which was to hold up until... well, this past 24 January's Iowa caucuses- that is, if one chooses to believe in the significance of just such a statistic as presented by the Texas Governor and his campaign's spin-doctors.

Yes, it is true that the Texas Governor ended up with something on the order of 41 or 42 percent of the caucus vote and that 41/42 IS, in fact, more than Bob Dole's 37 a dozen years earlier, but it is here that the analogy ends. Unlike George W., Dole was not the front-runner for the GOP nomination at the time (Governor Bush's own father was: George Bush pater finished a dismal third in Iowa in 1988, behind not only Dole but also television evangelist Pat Robertson)- he was, instead, the most formidable challenger at that point; George W.'s most formidable challenger this time round, John McCain, didn't even actively campaign in Iowa- saving his first head-to-head battle with the Texas Governor for New Hampshire. Besides, if I were Governor Bush, I would take rather cold comfort in comparing my performance in Iowa to that of my father's primary challenger back in '88; surely, the Texas Governor MUST recall that Bob Dole was NOT the GOP's Presidential Nominee in 1988 (and I am sure that, as a result, George W. DID get invited to more than a few private family functions at the White House in the presidential term beginning immediately after the 1988 Presidential Election!)

The real story of the Republican caucuses in Iowa, however, was that of Steve Forbes and here there is an analogy to 1988's caucuses in the Hawkeye State and Dole's victory that February night, for- if Governor Bush's finish in Iowa this time is, indeed, what he says: that is, "record-shattering"- what was that of second-place Forbes, who ended up with something in the neighborhood of 30 percent? This, of course, means that Forbes actually finished with a higher percentage than Pat Robertson had with his 25 percent twelve years before; in addition, the "millionaire publisher" might very well finish slightly closer to the self-proclaimed "record-shattering" winner!

So, while all eyes now turn to the first REAL contest of the Republican pre-Convention season (real, not just because George Bush will now face Senator McCain head on- finally!- but also because actual living, breathing bona fide GOP National Convention delegates will be allocated in the New Hampshire primary come Tuesday 1 February!!), one must also keep one's peripheral vision on Steve Forbes, who will- as I have already predicted- become the only alternative candidate (though not much of one, as I still cannot believe he can take the nomination from Governor Bush) should Bush successfully knock McCain out of the race in the course of the second month of the new Millennium (as I have previously indicated, McCain has to outright win the next three major primaries- New Hampshire, South Carolina 2 weeks later and then his own state of Arizona 3 days after that- in order to be considered a viable alternative to Bush rather than merely a potential nuisance to the Texas Governor in the way Forbes already is, particularly after the publisher's showing in Iowa). Forbes' position as the potential alternative to Governor Bush in lieu of Senator McCain is, perhaps, also bolstered by his coming in neck-and-neck with Bush in the Alaska straw poll associated with that state's caucuses held the same night as Iowa's (though I wouldn't give this result TOO much credence: it WAS a straw poll, after all, in a small state in population- and an isolated population at that!)

As for the rest of the GOP field: I WAS somewhat surprised at Gary Bauer's poor showing versus that of Alan Keyes [Keyes finishing in third with around 13 or 14 percent, Bauer in fourth with 8 or 9 percent]- especially with Bauer having finished ahead of Keyes in what was, admittedly, a monetarily-tainted Iowa straw poll last Summer; I suppose this goes to show that Bauer has not the charisma which his Christian conservative-oriented predecessor Pat Robertson once had twelve years ago. Much, of course, will be made of Keyes' surprise third-place finish in Iowa; I, however, wouldn't make so much of it: it is, in the end, more a loss for Bauer (whose Christian conservative credentials are much more solid than Keyes') than a gain for Keyes (who won't win the GOP nomination anyway). New Hampshire's Republican voters, I suppose, will tell us next week which of these two- Bauer or Keyes- will be THE spokesman for the Moral Absolutist wing of the GOP in the course of this campaign. Also, as I write this, Orrin Hatch is planning to drop out of the race for the Republican nomination: 1 percent in Iowa has, in the 24 years (this being the 7th presidential election cycle) the Hawkeye State has hosted the earliest event in the pre-Convention season, proven to be nowhere near enough to make the cut and go on to contest the Granite State's primary; this year was no exception.

The Democratic side in Iowa, meanwhile, provided nothing but a big, fat yawn. With party support being an important element in getting the party faithful out to the caucuses in the first place (a factor which both aided Bush in his victory on the Republican side and the lack of such party support helping McCain make his decision not to take Bush head on in Iowa), it is no surprise at all that Vice President Al Gore came out with an almost 2-to-1 edge over former Senator Bill Bradley in the Hawkeye State event. All this has done is to further solidify my contention that, with no support among the hard-core party rank-and-file (virtually guaranteeing Gore a whopping chunk of the Unpledged "Superdelegates" come the Convention), Bradley faces a formidable hurdle of AVERAGING some 60 percent-plus of the vote in the Democratic primaries in order to just nip the Vice-President at the nomination post; frankly, it can't be done- regardless of the outcome in the Democratic voting in New Hampshire next week.

In the end, though, one can only say for sure: on to Northern New England, where many of the questions raised by the results in Iowa will probably be answered.
 


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