Tag Archive for Iowa

Some Contests Are More “Nonbinding” Than Others

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Rick Santorum had a great night last night — he went three for three in primary and caucus contests, beating Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich handily and gaining a deluge of free media attention. Observers of these events are likely already clear on a few key points:

  • Newt Gingrich wasn’t even on the ballot in Missouri, and Romney had close to zero organization and media effort there as well. Both campaigns have claimed that they didn’t even bother because the primary was “non-binding” (of course, Gingrich also failed to get on the ballot in the more important Virginia primary coming up, so take the previous statement with a grain of salt).
  • The Romney camp is surely disappointed in the results of the Minnesota and Colorado caucuses, given that they made a greater effort to play to win in those states, and now they faced renewed charges that Romney is disliked by Republicans and won’t be able to rally their support against Barack Obama in November. But the spin since last night downplays the results of these contests as well, in part because they are “non-binding.”

So what do we make of today’s media framing of the Santorum wins?  Well, what complicates matters is that, to awkwardly paraphrase Orwell, all non-binding contests are non-binding, but some are more non-binding than others.

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New Hampshire and Beyond: What Did the Primary Mean?

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In the hunt for the GOP presidential nomination, we have moved past the “first in the nation” contests — the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary — and are now headed toward two key “make or break” contests for the second and third tier candidates: South Carolina on January 21, and Florida on January 31. Over the past week we’ve seen the candidates put their best face on the results (except for Michele Bachmann, whose ticket out of Iowa took her back to Minnesota), and the punditocracy unpack the implications for the various candidates.

As the Denizens see it, the suspense regarding the eventual Republican nomination is over: Mitt Romney wins. There, we said it. What’s more interesting, and arguably far more important, is how the symbolic importance of the primary results and the discourse between the candidates (and between them and the media) will shape the near-term future of the Republican party, as well as the identity of Romney as a candidate going into the general election campaign.

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The Iowa Caucuses: Do They Actually Mean Anything?

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So, it’s the day after the Iowa caucuses. The first votes in the 2012 presidential nominating contest have been cast, and we’ve seen some results that are surprising, some not. What do we now know, and what have we learned?

Well, at this point what we know is easy to see. Mitt Romney won the Republican caucuses by a mere eight votes, in a statistical tie with Rick Santorum, the former Pennsylvania US Senator who will soon undoubtedly be dubbed “the Comeback Kid” by some blogosphere pundit somewhere. In an unexpectedly strong second place, Ron Paul more than doubled his 2008 caucus vote count and demonstrated his dominance in the constituencies of young and first-time caucus voters – groups that are far less likely to vote in big state primaries. So it is likely that the news media will continue to frame Paul as an iconoclastic also-ran with little chance of winning the nomination (as they still focus more attention on Newt Gingrich, who trailed in an embarrassing fourth place)… with the end result for public opinion that Paul will be an iconoclastic also-ran with little chance of winning the nomination.

The booby prize for the most precipitous fall from glory is a bit harder to determine: is it Michelle Bachmann, who went from Ames straw poll winner to near-last-place cellar dweller (beating only John Huntsman, who didn’t seriously compete, and two former candidates who are out of the running), who dropped out of the race today? Or is it Newt Gingrich, who saw his meteoric rise to front-runner status after the downfall of Herman Cain (prompting no small amount of front-runner braggadocio) melt away in the face of an attack ad blitzkrieg? In any event, less clear is how these results affect Rick Perry, who rapidly moved from “suspending the campaign” back to “here we come, South Carolina!” faster than the scrolling news ticker on the bottom of a cable TV news screen.

That’s what we know (and what we don’t). But what have we learned from Tuesday? As Alice observed, the GOP nominating contest becomes “curiouser and curiouser.” The lessons?

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The Iowa blitz: A college admissions perspective

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Kent Barnds, our friend at Augustana College, is the Vice President of Enrollment, Communication and Planning. He supervises our college’s admissions recruitment efforts; in his former position, he ran this operation directly. So, as a registered Republican in Iowa, Kent has a unique take on how his fellow Iowans receive the deluge of media appeals from prospective presidential candidates in advance of the January 3rd caucuses.

He recently blogged on the experience, from his unique perspective, for The Washington Post. The Denizens share that piece with you. It’s an intriguing look at political marketing from the perspective of someone who is both the target audience and a perpetrator of not dissimilar marketing strategies. Enjoy!

 

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In recent years, it has become trendy for college presidents to temporarily live in a residence hall to gain insight into what their students experience and, on occasion, to develop a degree of sympathy for their short-term neighbors.

In the last few weeks, I feel like I have accidentally stumbled upon a similar experience: I am an enrollment professional at Augustana College, a small liberal arts college in Illinois. And I am a registered Republican living in Iowa who is on the receiving end of hard-core — at times really annoying and inconvenient — recruiting by virtually every candidate seeking the nomination of the Republican Party.

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Debates: Discourse for Citizenship, or Televisual Tactic?

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The Denizens took their students to Springfield, Illinois earlier this month to visit the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, as well as selected Lincoln historic sites.It gave us a great opportunity to examine the intersection of institutional politics and public communication in the historic work of perhaps the iconic American president. Among the episodes of Lincoln’s mythic history that are highlighted in Springfield is the rivalry between Lincoln and Stephen Douglas, the “Little Giant” who bested the “Big Giant” in the 1858 US Senate race but lost to him in the 1860 presidential campaign. The seven 1858 Lincoln-Douglas debates over “popular sovereignty” and the extension of slavery into US territories were an epic political circus at the time, launched Lincoln into the national spotlight, and became the historic archetype for debate as a component of campaign discourse.

Flash-forward fifty-three years, and we observe a pair of provocative phenomena: a candidate for president using debate challenges as a game of political chicken with opponents, and media pundits pondering whether a debate-driven campaign is actually valuable. What’s going on?

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Ron Paul, Media Framing Victim?

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So, the big news coming out of Iowa over the weekend was a new poll that puts Newt Gingrich as the frontrunner in the GOP nomination race for the caucuses, which will be held January 3rd, with Mitt Romney dropping to third place.  A key element to this story is Romney’s “slide” into third place.  What doesn’t seem to be discussed: the surge of iconoclastic GOP candidate Ron Paul in the face of declines by Herman Cain and Rick Perry.

My friend Eric Ostermeier at Smart Politics provides another insightful media content analysis that reveals a key part of Paul’s inability to capitalize on this good fortune. Check this out… if I were Paul’s camp, I’d be furious:

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Will the Bath Wash Off the Pepper Spray?

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Last Saturday at a forum for Republican presidential candidates at a church in Des Moines, Iowa (one must hesitate before labeling this event a “debate,” as precious little competition of ideas actually took place), Newt Gingrich took on the progressive Occupy movement with some words that provided red meat to the cultural conservative GOP base. These words came a day after peaceful Occupy protestors at the University of California – Davis were subjected to point-blank pepper spray from police, a moment that quickly became a point of national controversy and a rapidly viral internet meme.  Gingrich’s remarks illustrate both how he has filled (at least for now) the rhetorical leadership gap in the national Republican party, and why his candidacy is ultimately doomed.

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