This year’s presidential primary season is much more like 2004 than 2000 or 2008. Some of you (Democrats and Independents particularly) may need to find some way to relate to the current media frenzy in advance of tonight’s Republican Caucus in Iowa. So here’s a little look back that might help handicap the 2012 GOP primary race and look at the candidates through “blue-colored” glasses, circa 2004.
No one saw Sen. John Kerrycoming in Iowa when he scored a huge victory based largely on electability. Gov. Mitt Romney no longer has the same element of surprise going for him, but if there was a Twitter-verse or Facebook in 2004, maybe Kerry’s big win would have been obvious too. They were both elected by the progressive, Commonwealth of Massachusetts, both have amazing heads of hair, and both shared MANY of the same policy positions until recently. Look for Mitt to score a solid win in the first Caucus and continue to roll in New Hampshire.
The next best and closest comparison for candidates, but perhaps not order of finish is Rep. Newt Gingrich and Sen. John Edwards. Both men can be exciting orators, policy wonks, and have Southern appeal, but both have also had some marital troubles and ego issues. Gingrich has recently slipped in polls, but could still score a second or third place finish, which would be a coup for a campaign that imploded in early 2011. While Gingrich may not be a willing number two on a GOP ticket, he, like Edwards (pre-scandal) would probably make a strong choice.
Gov. Howard Dean captivated so many, so early, with meet-ups and an intense email operation – but finished a distant third place in the Iowa caucus. Rep. Ron Paul may be a very apt pairing here for those reasons and more – grassroots organization, broad fundraising base, etc. We’ll see if the Dean Scream turns into the Paul’s Bawl tonight…
Rep. Dick Gephardt, for whom I worked in the late 90’s, spent more time in Iowa over the course of his life than most pols in the 2004 matchup, but finished a very disappointing fourth in 2004. Even though most picked him early as the frontrunner in the Iowa matchup because of his strong showing in 1988. Also a member of the House from neighboring Minnesota, Rep. Michele Bachman, an Iowa native, is in a similar boat and probably peaked way too soon to finish in the top three.
Rep. Dennis Kucinich and Sen. Rick Santorum – not many obvious similarities here. However, both really revved up the fringe bases in their respective parties and fell short on the fundraising. Santorum seems to have the advantage going into tonight — look for him to do far better than Kucinich, but he still might not crack the top three.
Finally, General Wes Clark, the former Supreme Allied Commander, was a godsend for Democrats who were perceived as weak on foreign policy and national security issues. His campaign stumbled early and didn’t take off in time to make the impact it could have. Similarly, Gov. Rick Perry and Gov. Jon Huntsman are most like the General and will also be bringing up the rear of tonight’s caucus. While both could have the cash and qualifications to compete in New Hampshire and beyond, it will be an uphill climb.
So enjoy tonight! If history and this Caucus mash-up hold up, we’ll be watching an Obama-Romney matchup this fall (results from 2004 Democratic Caucus and my predictions for this year’s GOP Iowa Caucus are below).
Results from the Iowa Democratic caucuses in 2004 (Candidate - Percentage):
John Kerry 37.6%
John Edwards 31.8%
Howard Dean 18.0%
Richard Gephardt 10.6%
Dennis Kucinich 1.3%
Wesley Clark 0.0%
Predictions for the Iowa Republican Caucus in 2012 (Candidate – Percentage):
Mitt Romney 25%
Ron Paul 21%
Newt Gingrich 20%
Rick Santorum 19%
Michele Bachman 8%
Rick Perry 6%
Jon Huntsman 0%