Final Observations Before Iowa Caucuses Begin Today

By Sal Bommarito

All parents should warn their children that they need to have thick skin if they want to run for president. The mudslinging in the Republican campaign is increasing every day. The stakes are high and the candidates are smearing each other with lies and distortions.

In national campaigns, most political strategists believe candidates must over indulge their bases, Republicans to conservatives and Democrats to liberals, in the primaries. But, in the general election, candidates must tilt to the center (and be more moderate) to capture independent votes that usually determine the victors. Juggling this flip-flop tactic is very tricky.

Republican competitors are currently very conservative because they are in the primaries, and they are competing aggressively for the title of “most conservative.” I’m finding it tiresome to hear the debates on this because, for the most part, each candidate espouses identical positions on the most controversial issues such as immigration, abortion, gun control, national security and fiscal discipline.

Yet, you hear it all the time. “I hate ISIS more than you do.” “I was against all amnesty for illegal aliens earlier than you.” “I dislike budget deficits far greater than you.” “I despise Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama more than you.” Give me a break. The candidates are on the same wavelength, so they should spend more describing specific plans to deal with ISIS, immigration, deficits and Clinton.

I rue the day Donald Trump entered the race. I certainly appreciate that he may be the  winner of the primaries, but I still hope he will fade away and let experienced politicians vie for the presidency. Call me old fashioned, but I’m turned off by people who are unable to criticize others without malice and disrespect. If a candidate supports an issue that another disagrees with, fine. Say so, and refrain from calling him or her an idiot, a loser or an incompetent. Trump is the biggest offender in this regard. He has dragged the campaign into the gutter. Yet, the electorate seems to love his brash and obnoxious attitude. My concern is that world leaders will not be so tolerant of his real estate developer shtick.

It seems that Republican candidates are very divided even though they agree philosophically on all the key issues. The venom being exuded during the primaries is going to hurt whomever rises to the top through all the muck. It’s inconceivable that also-rans will collectively support the primary winner after the bashing they are foisting upon each other. This could be a huge problem in the general election.

I have nothing against Iowans. In fact, I called upon them to take down Trump because of the way he behaves and because he skipped the last debate. Yet, I find it strange that the state has so much influence on the election. There are about 3 million people in the Hawkeye State, and 320 million people in the U.S. Iowa represents less than 1% of all Americans. Moreover, not that many Iowans participate in the caucuses. The record turnout for Republicans is 122 thousand, and if the weather is good, some say 150 thousand may turnout this year.

What does this mean? For one thing, the outcome of the caucuses is difficult to predict because the number of voters participating is so small and their votes will be divided among so many candidates. There have been huge upsets over the years. Because there are so many competitors, a few thousand votes could swing the results. The real question is why America allows Iowa to have such an inordinate impact on the selection of our presidential candidates.

Iowa selects its candidates tonight. It should be a very wild evening as the talking heads parse the incoming results.

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