My Fearless Prediction of the Republican Iowa Caucus Winner

One of the Republican presidential candidates is headed to a victory in the 2012 Iowa Caucuses that could be historic, and I don’t mean that in a nice way.

Since the Iowa caucuses became important in the 1970s, the lowest proportion of votes captured by the winning candidate in either major political party was 26%. That was Republican Bob Dole’s total in his ill-fated 1996 campaign. This year’s GOP “winner” has an excellent shot at breaking Dole’s unenviable record.

A feeble Iowa win hurts a political party in several ways. First, weaker candidates are less likely to drop out, meaning that time and money that might have been used to attack the other side are instead burned up in an internecine primary (Dole was being bloodied by Pat Buchanan and Steve Forbes into early March of 1996). Second, it raises doubts in the party about the front runner at a time when coalescence around an eventual nominee is the desired outcome.

Given the evident inability of any of the current candidates to generate enthusiasm in even one third of Iowa Republicans, and the fact that the caucus “winner” could well be someone that 3/4 of the voters rejected, I am comfortable predicting right now the winner of the GOP Iowa Caucuses: President Obama.

Author: Keith Humphreys

Keith Humphreys is the Esther Ting Memorial Professor of Psychiatry at Stanford University and an Honorary Professor of Psychiatry at Kings College London. His research, teaching and writing have focused on addictive disorders, self-help organizations (e.g., breast cancer support groups, Alcoholics Anonymous), evaluation research methods, and public policy related to health care, mental illness, veterans, drugs, crime and correctional systems. Professor Humphreys' over 300 scholarly articles, monographs and books have been cited over thirteen thousand times by scientific colleagues. He is a regular contributor to Washington Post and has also written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Monthly, San Francisco Chronicle, The Guardian (UK), The Telegraph (UK), Times Higher Education (UK), Crossbow (UK) and other media outlets.

25 thoughts on “My Fearless Prediction of the Republican Iowa Caucus Winner”

  1. I get the feeling that the longer the chaos endures, the more likely the Republicans will accede to a Romney candidacy (purely out of necessity). This will be good because Romney’s record of successful executive leadership will contrast nicely with President Obama pre-election innocence of the private, for-profit sector and even executive-level political responsibility.

    From a libertarian perspective, there is a small glimmer of hope about a Romney administration: his incessant flip-flopping will dog him throughout his days, making the The American People somewhat more skeptical of government in general. A more pervasive and evenly distributed skepticism is badly needed in America.

    1. When you buy failing companies, restructure them, hide their fundamental unsoundness, sell them off, walk away with $300,000,000, and see those companies rapidly fall into bankruptcy that’s known as defrauding investors and stealing $300,000,000 from their bondholders, not “successful executive leadership.”

      1. No, that is successful executive leadership. Loot, pillage and burn; dump the ashes on somebody else.

        And fallibilist, you find a single slimeball on the GOP side who’s done as well with the mess that he was handed as Obama has.

        1. And fallibilist, you find a single slimeball on the GOP side who’s done as well with the mess that he was handed as Obama has.

          No can do; we only have one President at a time. (Since ’09, it’s been Obama. No one else was handed this mess. Thus, no comparison is possible.)

        1. You might want to try not lying. Bain provided start-up capital to Staples when it was a single store; It did not provide management or executive leadership, nor did it make Mitt Romney anything like the kind of money for which he and Bain Capital are known. Shortly after that Bain Capital switched from a venture capital model of business to the vulture model of business for which it is now universally known and where the real fortunes of Mitt Romney were made.

    2. I’m having a difficult time understanding the point you’re trying to make about President Obama’s lack of “private sector” experience and executive-level responsibility. You seem to be using his lack of experience as a predictor of his likely performance as president. Unless you are simply recycling comments from the election, I don’t under the significance of something which arguably might predict how Obama would perform as president when he has, in fact, been president for more than three years and is running for reelection to a second term. I see no need to have some hypothetical metric to evaluate his “fitness” for the presidency when he is currently doing the job of president and therefore has a substantial record upon which he can be judged by the voters.

      Furthermore, you seem to treat it as axiomatic that private “for profit sector” experience is the highest credential possible when it actually seems to be problematic as a qualification based on historical experience. We have had exactly one president with significant experience in the private, for-profit sector. His name was George W. Bush.

      Also, you may have noticed that the masters of the universe who rule in the “private, for-profit” sector ran the world’s economy over a cliff in 2007 and have made things worse every year since. Large portions of the private sector seems to derive their profits not from selling goods and services to the public but rather from criminal ventures and crony capitalism. So I must question your implicit elevation of experience in “the private, for-profit sector” as a qualification for the presidency. The historical evidence suggests that such experience should actually be considered as disqualifying.

      1. Okay, most Americans think the country is “on the wrong track.” The question is, “How much of our national woe is attributable to President Obama’s performance in his job?” A lot? A little? None? All?

        If one thinks that Obama is significantly culpable for poor performance, why? What’s his problem?

        1. Considering the fact that you broke the country, and that you are openly striving to keep it broken to retake power, the answer is: it’s your fault.

          1. Assume much? Seriously, if you’re interested in my politics (hint, look at the handle), then ask me.

  2. Gee, what a shocking prediction, Keith! I never would have suspected you might have found some labored spin to explain how this will work in your candidate’s favor.

    1. Okay, Reddie … explain to us how the clown show called the Republican Primary redounds to the advantage of the GOP.

      1. Yeah, I gotta say, I think Obama is in a bad spot politically, but I’m honestly curious about how a Republican can look at the current primary situation and be pleased. If Redwave can enlighten us, that’d be great.

        Political pundits like to spin weird scenarios – the brokered convention being a favorite – but this year, among the Republicans, it seems to me as though anything could happen. Christie could still parachute in. Or Huckabee, though he’s certainly not an establishment favorite. Palin! Anybody at all. I mean, people are talking about Gingrich as a serious candidate.

        1. “Political pundits like to spin weird scenarios – the brokered convention being a favorite – but this year, among the Republicans, it seems to me as though anything could happen. Christie could still parachute in. Or Huckabee, though he’s certainly not an establishment favorite. Palin! Anybody at all. I mean, people are talking about Gingrich as a serious candidate.”

          James Joyner covered this over on ‘Outside the Beltway’; it’s probably been covered by good pundits (i.e., the ones who don’t just deal in the spin of the day):

          In short, somebody’s got to come in at the last minute, *after* filing deadlines have expired in key states, build organization in all states within a few weeks, raise tremendous amounts of money instantly (and put it to good use), and then sweep the primaries.

          What we have seen with everybody up through Newt, and are about to see with Paul, is that ‘non-Mitt of the day’. Somebody comes in, spikes due to novelty, then his/her massive flaws become public knowledge, and he/she sinks.

    2. Labored spin?

      I appears that the only cohesive trait shared by every self-branded Republican at this point is projection.

      But, by all means, Redwave, please share who the powerful candidate will be. It must be obvious to you.

      1. Well, it is pretty clear Romney will be the candidaate. Each day, the brokered convention seems to be more of a longshot, and it was always a longshot. The advantage to the current process (as much as I despise it) is that after 14 debates, the survivor is actually prepared to take on the incumbent. Never an easy task.

        Whether Romney wins Iowa is not especially important. The caucus has rarely settled on the eventual nominee. However, Romney can take Iowa’s electoral votes to the bank in the general.

  3. When Christie declined to enter the race after practically being begged to, it was clear to me that 1) the field of GOP candidates were clearly a bunch of losers and 2) Obama would have more appeal than any of them to a majority of voters. Romney is just the least bad of the lot.

  4. Don’t forget that Republican primaries now proportionately allocate delegates, rather than winner-take-all. This potentially will get even more drawn-out — with a sane slate of candidates, the winner will at least be able to say they have broad backing among the Republican electorate, but with the current bunch? Who knows.

    1. I’m afraid this is something of a myth. Republican primaries before April are indeed required to apportion delegates proportionally, but the details matter greatly. Apparently they have been permitted to assign delegates winner-take-all at the Congressional district level, rather than at the state level, as being a version of proportional representation. This makes it likely that only two or three candidates will get any delegates at all, and conceivable that one candidate with a very weak plurality will in effect have or nearly have a statewide winner-take-all result.

  5. Obama, all signs point, is due to win reelection.

    Without campaigning yet in earnest, with his possible opponents ripping him to shreds on televised debates, campaign stops and advertisements, with unemployment hovering around the 9% mark…he still polls better or even against all the Republican contenders in individual states like FL,AZ,SC,OH, WS and PA.

    And he hasn’t even gone full throttle against this bunch of lunatics, charlatans and asswipes. Obama is on his way to a second term and …get ready teabaggers….packing the USSC.

    Suck on that awhile, biotchs.

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