Among the greatest political quotes of the 20th Century was Ross Perot’s October 19, 1992 presidential debate retort to Bill Clinton’s constant citation to his success in addressing problems that confronted Arkansas and its governor. Perot, a Texas billionaire, when that was a lot of money, said: “I grew up 5 blocks from Arkansas . . . It has a population less than Chicago or Los Angeles . . . [w]hat he did as governor of Arkansas is irrelevant.”
The classic put down rivaled only by Lloyd Bentsen’s “Senator you’re no John Kennedy” to Dan Quayle during their 1988 vice-presidential candidate debate proved inaccurate as Clinton balanced the federal budget and reduced the deficit as he had in his little “irrelevant” state.
The spirit and voice of Perot is needed now relative to the recent Democratic presidential candidate contests in Iowa and New Hampshire and those imminent in Nevada and South Carolina. They are not irrelevant, having functioned as weed killers, but beyond that the First Four will have little impact on who the nominee will be. Nor can they substantially sharpen predictions in that regard.
The First Four are barely relevant, not merely nor primarily for the reason stated ad nauseum about Iowa and New Hampshire, their lily-white populace. Their limited importance primarily derives from their modest total of electoral votes and the fact that only one, New Hampshire with its four electors, is a swing state.
New Hampshire still is nominally Republican with two percent greater voter registration in the GOP. But New Hampshire uncharacteristically still is home to many classic Republicans. They bear little resemblance to Donald Trump, his enablers or the new debased Republican party.
New Hampshire Republicans still more closely identify with people like Senator/Governor Judd Gregg, the two governors and one senator named Sununu and David Souter, a Republican state attorney general before his distinguished service on SCOTUS. The defection of that type of New Hampshire Republican was responsible for Trump’s narrow defeat in New Hampshire last time. Its four swing state electors might be the difference this time in certain exotic and unlikely scenarios.
Iowa and its six electors are almost certainly Trumps. He won by ten percent last time. And though midwestern contender Amy Klobuchar would reduce that margin – not enough to change the outcome. Her real work – if she gets the job – will be in Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania.
Iowa’s big contribution to the 2020 nominating process is pervasively negative. Disarray and award of the most delegates to the second biggest vote-getter. To commemorate the fiasco, Gus Van Sant can cast Keanu Reeves in “Iowa’s Own Private Electoral College.”
South Carolina’s nine electors certainly go to Trump. In 2016 he won by 11 percent, but more tellingly the state went for John McCain and Mitt Romney, each time by 10 points, over Obama and despite the state’s large African-American population.
The one moderately blue state among the First Four is Nevada. Its six electors will vote for the Democrat, as they did in the last three presidential elections. More important is that Nevada “recently” solidly Republican has steadily trended Democratic as its demography has the look and feel of America’s near future.
With all but four of those 25 electors in the First Four, accounted for, the real contest for the residual 513 will begin on March 3 – Super Tuesday. And on Hangover Wednesday we will know if, as HL predicts, a no-show in the First Four will emerge as one of three remaining viable contenders. The other two will be Bernie Sanders and Amy Klobuchar. The so-called winner in Iowa and close second in New Hampshire will not be among them, or so wethinks. And if that happens, so much for the relevance and importance of the first in nation caucus and primary. Good riddance.