The Thinker: Rich Galen


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Finally, the Election Year

Rich Galen

Thursday January 2, 2020

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  • Like most election years in my lifetime, this one feels like it started about the time the Articles of Confederation were adopted - 1781. The first horse out of the gate appears to have been Maryland Congressman John Delany whose campaign began in July, 2017. Two-Oh-One-Seven, so I'm not far off.

  • Remember when everyone said that Joe Biden had waited too long to get into the race? His official announcement date was April 25, 2019. On that date, Biden was polling at just over 23 percent nationally. By May 10 - just over two weeks later - Biden had skyrocketed to 41.4 percent and has only fallen out of first place once this past October when Elizabeth Warren snuck by him by a 26.6 to 26.4.

  • That lasted two days and as we begin the year, according to, Biden is still sitting atop the national polling at 28.3 with Warren trailing in third place at 15.1. Bernie Sanders sits between them at 19.1. Pete Buttigieg is in forth place at 8.3 percent.

  • But

  • As you know, this is not a national election. We are gathering speed toward the four early states: Iowa (Feb. 3), New Hampshire (Feb. 11), Nevada (Feb. 22), and South Carolina (Feb. 29).

  • The leaders in those four (again, according to the RPC aggregates are:
  • Iowa: Buttigieg (22.0), Sanders (20.0), Biden (18.8), Warren (16.0)

  • NH: Sanders (19.0), Buttigieg (17.7), Biden (14.3), Warren (13.3)

  • Nevada: Biden (29.0), Warren (20.0), Sanders (29.8), Buttigieg (7.3)

  • SC: Biden (35.0), Warren (16.3), Sanders (15.3), Buttigieg (7.7)
  • Iowa and New Hampshire show razor-thin margins between first and second - even first and forth care relatively close.

  • Biden, however, has large leads going into the back half of the first four and what experienced observers will be watching for is: (a) the finish order in Iowa and New Hampshire and, (b) assuming Biden doesn't surprise and win either of those, what a third or lower finish in the first two contests does to his polling in the final two.

  • Remember that in 2008, Sen. Barack Obama won Iowa with only 37.6 percent of the votes. John Edwards barely beat Hillary Clinton for second place by three tenths of one percent: 29.8 - 29.5.

  • Hillary Clinton, according to the Des Moines Register, "led most Iowa and national polling in the summer and fall of 2007" and her third-place finish - even if only by about 700 caucus voters - pumped the brakes on her campaign.

  • There is an old adage that there are only three tickets out of Iowa. In recent history, only John McCain came in fourth in Iowa (by a few votes behind Fred Thompson) but went on to win the nomination.

  • Those who are back in the pack, especially someone like Amy Klobuchar (fifth place in Iowa at 6.3 percent), are desperate to climb up through the candidates ahead of her with 32 days to go so she can have a valid argument to continue onto New Hampshire - not a natural fit for a Senator from Minnesota.

  • Klobuchar is polling two percent in New Hampshire trailing even Kamala Harris (3.5 percent) who isn't even in the race any more.

  • By the way, as of Sunday night no other candidate is polling as much as three percent in Iowa.

  • Getting back to that John McCain fourth-place finish in 2008, he was beaten for third by my candidate, Fred Thompson. Thompson had 15,904 votes, and McCain had 15,559 - a difference of 304 votes.

  • Thompson was loathe to claim one of the "three tickets out of Iowa" because one precinct hadn't reported and he was concerned that McCain might ease into third when it did come in.

  • I assured him that if the Des Moines Register said he came in third, he will have forever come in third.

  • That actually happened four year later when Rick Santorum apparently came in second behind Mitt Romney. It wasn't until several recounts, burning of incense, and 16 days had passed that Santorum was declared the winner by 34 votes.

  • By that time, the circus had moved beyond New Hampshire and into South Carolina so Santorum lost any momentum he might have enjoyed with an election night victory in Iowa.

  • In addition, the Iowa GOP actually lost all the results from eight precincts. Gone. Poof. Like the wind blowing the corn silk away from the shucking table at a Fourth of July picnic.

  • That was all in the past. The 2020 Iowa Caucuses will certainly present new adventures to all of the campaigns.

  • The flag is up!

  • On the Secret Decoder Ring page today: Links to the dates and order of Democrats' announcements for this race and to the Washington Post reporting on the GOP caucuses of 2012.

    The Mullfoto is of a car totally covered with stickers and signs. And it doesn't look as good as the owner thinks it does.

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