Election Surprises

1/24/20

It’s bittersweet for me when college football season ends.   It will be eight more months before toe meets leather on campus and thus it’s time to turn my attention to the next thrilling season—the political season.
 
Both the Democratic presidential candidates’ and President Trump’s focus should be on one midwestern football conference – the Big 10.  The President is never going to win the popular vote, but the electoral college is a coin flip with the keys being Big 10 powerhouses Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania.
 
December polling showed the president ahead by more than the margin of error in potential matchups with each of the Democratic front and middle runners in the big three states in the Big 10—Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania.  That poll is becoming more dated and was conducted before the House of Representatives passed impeachment and before the sharpening of tensions with Iran.  Nevertheless, Trump won each of these states in 2016 and needs to hold them or try to pick up those electoral votes somewhere else.  But where?  Minnesota (also Big 10) or New Hampshire?  Seems unlikely.
 
Other Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin polls have better news for the Democratic candidates in head to head match ups with Trump.  But for now, most of the Democratic field need only care about Big 10 rival Iowa now.
 
It is a sprint—to February 3—in the Hawkeye state among the remaining/top Democratic presidential candidates – except Mayor Mike Bloomberg.  Former VP Biden, Senators Warren and Sanders, and Mayor Pete have been campaigning hand to hand and face to face to achieve 15% support from caucus-goers in each Iowa precinct. Senator Klobuchar is in the mix too, perhaps a bit further back but buoyed by half a New York Times endorsement.   If a candidate is below 15%, his or her supporters can deem themselves undeclared.  In other words, if your candidate doesn’t get 15% on caucus night you can go into the transfer portal.  You can throw your support to someone else or sit back and watch.  This is why candidates are campaigning to win and to be the second choice.   
 
The latest polling shows: Sanders 20%, Warren 17%, Buttigieg 16%, Biden 15%, and Klobuchar 6%.  Senator Klobuchar could be a king maker, or she might cross the 15% mark in the northern Iowa precincts that border her home state of Minnesota.
 
One more thing to watch in Iowa.  How long does the impeachment trial continue?  Vice President Biden and Mayor Pete stand to gain when the three Senators must serve as jurors.  Remember, Senators Warren, Sanders, and Klobuchar are sitting silently at their desks on the Senate floor for an unknown number of days or weeks.  
 
I have tortured the football metaphor enough, so here are two predictions. Three or four Democrats will claim victory in Iowa—the candidate who achieved the plurality, one or two who exceeded expectations, and one who didn’t have a complete meltdown.  And expect more presidential rallies in Big 10 country.