Brokered convention? Third-party candidates? Paul Ryan? Six local insiders sound off on what the Iowa caucuses may bring.
A billionaire television star could win one party’s caucus, and a socialist might win the other. Looking at this year’s caucus free-for-all, Cityview wonders: Is this really happening?
We interviewed six central Iowa insiders — Jerry Crawford, a Democratic strategist and Iowa attorney; Doug Gross, a Republican strategist and Iowa attorney; Robert Brownell, a Polk County Supervisor; Tom Hockensmith, a Polk County Supervisor; Steffen Schmidt, an Iowa State University political science professor; and Greg Baker, executive director of the Church Network at the Family Leader — for their thoughts on the caucus, the election process and some “what if?” scenarios.
Cloudy, with a slight chance of rogue
Is there any plausible way there could be four viable candidates on November’s general election ballot?
Think about it; if Trump fails to get the Republican nod, could he go out on his own and wage a third party war? If so, could the loser between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton also see an independent, third-party pathway to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.?
Crazier things have happened. The last time we saw a double-digit, third-party candidate, it was an eccentric billionaire named Ross Perot who garnered 18 percent in 1992. Could the country see something similar from an eccentric billionaire in 2016?
Ralph Nader was a more recent — but less formidable — third-party candidate. He was far left, he’d been around a long time, and he was likeable and passionate.
Sanders is rising fast in Iowa, and he’s leading in New Hampshire, so he’s not Nader. But if he did ultimately lose the nomination, he has previously won congressional elections as an independent. Plus, he arguably has the most loyal, passionate base of followers since Nader.
If Trump opened up the free-for-all, could this get all kinds of crazy?
Crawford, a long time Iowa political insider, puts the kibosh on the idea at the outset.
“If Hillary and Trump win the Iowa caucuses, they will be their party’s nominees. I don’t anticipate a third party, let alone a fourth,” he says.
Republican political expert Gross explains why third party candidates are rare.
“The biggest issue is trying to get on the ballot (in all 50 states),” he says. “It requires organization and money.”
Presidential campaigns are big business. President Barack Obama’s re-election in 2012 cost a reported $1 billion. Third-party candidates generally can’t raise that kind of money, and the best talent usually resides with one party or the other — that talent doesn’t want to risk his or her reputation by crossing lines.
Schmidt points out that third-party candidates are upsetting to most constituents.
“It’s not good for business or politics to contradict your party’s voters; it just pisses them off, and third parties, at this point, cannot win any elections,” he says.
“Is it likely?” asks Gross about either third party option, “No. Is it plausible? Yes.”
So you’re sayin’ there’s a chance?
If Trump ran as a third-party cadidate, Hockensmith says, he’d virtually give the race to the Democrats. Hockensmith, a Democrat, then laughs and says, “That’d be O.K. with me.”
Baker has an interesting take on what it means to go third party.
“You’re almost guaranteeing that you’re going to lose,” he says. “But worse for a Republican, you’re also guaranteeing Hillary Clinton the White House. Trump, at the end of the day, wants to protect the Trump name.”
Baker says Trump, or a Democrat running as a third party, isn’t likely, but he does bring up the most famous four-way general election in U.S. history, the election of 1860 involving a young upstart named Abe Lincoln. The result? Civil War.
Let’s make a deal?
The whole point of the caucuses is for candidates to win enough delegates to be nominated at their party’s convention. The nominees from each party then face off with one another in the November general election. But wasn’t there something about “brokered” conventions from history class?
A brokered convention is what happens if no candidate can muster enough support at his or her convention to meet the nomination requirements. In short, it’s a special kind of craziness that never really happens in modern times.
Some experts think it’s plausible in 2016, however, because there is no front runner, and even if someone emerged, he or she would potentially face significant pushback from several significant factions within his or her own party. Plus, there’s the Trump factor and his fat wallet, which throws a wrench into the process as well.
If a brokered convention became reality, there’d be backroom dealing, political horse-trading and possibly even a compromise candidate, which could mean a nominee who’s not currently running such as Mitt Romney, Al Gore or Paul Ryan.
What are the chances of a brokered convention happening?
“Zilcho,” says Brownell. “Dreams of the media.”
“I don’t see a brokered convention either way,” says Hockensmith. “On the Republican side, at some point, I think they’ll come to their senses. On the Democrat side, I think there will be a clear choice early.”
Gross thinks it’s possible, but not likely, for the GOP.
“It’s more likely for the Republicans this year than it has been probably in my lifetime,” he says.
Crawford sprinkled more kibosh on the chance of fireworks, saying he doesn’t expect a brokered convention for the Republicans, and says there’s “zero chance” for the Dems.
If the GOP did need a compromise candidate in order to nominate someone, Schmidt says Ryan could be the guy.
Gross agrees, saying of Ryan, “He was the one guy who united the house caucus when no one else could. He has nationwide experience as a (vice presidential) candidate. He’s laying out a strong policy agenda. If he wanted to do that, he would be the likely one they would go to.”
What if Trump wins Iowa?
As of this printing, Trump and Cruz are neck and neck in the Iowa polls. We asked about the fallout if Trump triumphed here.
“If Trump wins Iowa, turn out the lights. He is the Republican nominee,” Crawford says. “Because he has a huge lead in New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada. His lead will only get bigger in those places if/when he wins Iowa — and he will.”
That’s a bold prediction. Crawford thinks it’s Trump in Iowa, and if so, he’ll roll to the nomination. Brownell agrees that Trump would have momentum if he won Iowa, but cautions, “New Hampshire likes to do what Iowa doesn’t do.”
“Trump could well win the nomination (if he wins Iowa), because he’ll win in New Hampshire, and he’ll do well in the south, and then he’ll be tough to stop,” says Gross.
Schmidt also warns not to underestimate Trump’s support.
“He’s ahead in most polls, and I have looked at those polls,” he says. “He really is, even in California.”
So if Trump takes the Hawkeye state, he’d be the favorite for the Oval Office. Don’t hate here, Dems, it’s simple math. Trump would be the odds-on bet for a 50 percent shot at the title. Meanwhile, Hillary and Bernie would still be slicing up their 50 percent more evenly.
What would a Trump presidency look like?
Gross didn’t have warm fuzzy feelings about a Trump presidency.
“Look at how his businesses are run,” he says. “(They are) all about branding and bluff and very little substance. (He has) very little ability to get anything going with Congress or with other countries. I think it could be dangerous for the country.”
But Schmidt was more optimistic about Trump getting things done.
“I expect he would moderate and try to make deals with Congress and gets some legislation passed,” he said.
What if Bernie wins Iowa?
Gross doesn’t think Sanders can win Iowa, but if it does happen, he thinks Hillary will have to spend “a boatload of money to beat him. It’ll be a long, drawn-out campaign. That’s not what Hillary wants.”
Schmidt predicts that if Sanders wins Iowa, “he wins New Hampshire big and then goes ‘long’ all the way to June and Puerto Rico, Guam, the Marshall Islands and every other place delegates can be harvested. Like Obama, Bernie Sanders can defeat Hillary as Obama did, and history would repeat itself in a surprising way.”
Brownell thinks a Sanders presidency could be bad for business.
“If Bernie was president, I have to think every CEO in the country will be looking for the exits,” he said.
And what about a Hillary presidency?
“Hillary has proven, both as a senator and a Secretary of State, that she is superb at working across the aisle,” says Crawford. “I would expect to see genuine progress result from her ability to do so.”
Predictions for Iowa
If Cruz were to win Iowa, Gross predicts Trump would then win New Hampshire, “and they fight it out in the south (for the nomination).”
“Cruz is a very sharp guy, a very intelligent guy. He’d be an activist on social issues, and they’d rise to the top very quickly. It’d be contentious,” Brownell says.
“Trump and Hillary — who both will go on to be nominated,” Crawford says. “What will follow will be the most entertaining election in American history, with Hillary prevailing.”
Hockensmith said he thinks Cruz will win Iowa — but not the nomination.
“I think Hillary (in Iowa), but it could be Bernie,” he said. “I hope (Martin) O’Malley turns some heads.”
“Cruz and Bernie,” Baker predicted for Iowa. “Bernie then wins New Hampshire, but Clinton takes care of him in the south for the nomination.” He predicted Cruz versus Clinton in November, with Cruz pulling the upset.
All indications point to this being the most entertaining caucus in years. Bernie Sanders? Donald Trump? Hillary Clinton? Get your popcorn ready. Let’s meet back here in four years. CV
How to go caucus crazy
It’s time to huddle up again as Iowa kicks off the national presidential nominating process on Feb.1 when we get together and choose which candidate we prefer to blame for our problems four years from now. You need to know what to do, and as such, it’s Cityview to the rescue.
When: Monday, Feb. 1 at 7 p.m.
That’s 7 p.m. sharp. Don’t straggle in, or you’re liable to miss it. And if you need to register to vote or sign up for party affiliation, plan on getting there early. You can’t caucus if you haven’t checked those two boxes. This year, in particular, could be a madhouse, with lots of last-minute registering. Please note: The people helping you register? They are your friends. They are your neighbors. They are volunteers. They are NOT paid postal workers, and they are not there to be abused.
Dude, where’s my caucus?
Caucuses are held across the state. Yours should be somewhere close to where you live, and you can find a link to your exact location by visiting http://sos.iowa.gov/ .
Who can vote in a caucus?
Generally speaking, anyone who’s at least 18 years old on election day — Nov. 8, 2016. Who you vote for is up to you — it’s a free country after all — but most anyone can take part in either party’s caucus so long as you aren’t a felon, you are registered to vote and you are affiliated with the party you wish to caucus with. If you aren’t registered, you can register by coming to your caucus site early and doing so there.
What is a caucus, and why?
The short answer is this: It’s how each political party in Iowa, and some other states, choose the person they want to be president.
How does it work?
Twenty-first century technology. The Republicans will hand out scratch paper and those little half pencils. The Democrats ask you to stand in a certain spot in the room to be counted.
How long does it take?
Depends. GOP people can get in and out in less than 45 minutes if all they care about is the presidential vote. If you want to participate in the platform compilation, it takes much longer. But that’s optional.
How is this different than voting in a regular election?
There’s no ballot box and no polling station. You have to show up at the right time and be counted. You’ll also have a chance to lobby others to your point of view. Democrats take it a step further, and if your candidate doesn’t reach a certain level of support, you have the options of choosing someone else or abstaining.
There’s no “independent” in team
Independents don’t caucus. Believe it or not, all this hubbub is for party honks only. You can register there or switch parties, too — and people often do. Say you’re a Dem, but you really want to vote for Trump. Just go do the paperwork, and, voila! You’re a Republican for at least one night. Same goes for Republicans who might want to sabotage Hillary, or whatever your delight.
No having a cake and eating it, too
You can’t do both caucuses, though. Each party conducts its caucus on the same night, so it’s unlikely you’d be able to be at two at the same time. Note: Democrats and Republicans do not caucus together. If you’re carpooling, make sure you’re birds of a feather flocking together.
There are other candidates in the hunt, too, and maybe you should consider them. On the right, Marco Rubio and Ben Carson are well-liked by many, and it’s difficult to find anyone who has much negative to say about them. There are others, too, but limited resources make it difficult to mention each of them. On the left, there’s O’Malley, the governor from Maryland, who does get some mention. As of this printing, though, he’s only polling around 5 percent.