February 1, 2016
If you haven’t seen my always accurate (except for when I’m wrong) predictions for the caucus results, check this out first.
The old saying says politics makes strange bedfellows. You never know which two pols will find their interests mutually aligned. As each candidate spends the next several hours anxiously anticipating the Iowa caucus outcome, the following pairs have reason to root for each other:
Marco Rubio and Rand Paul
If you saw these two jawing at each other in fall debates, this might seem surprising. Rubio is an interventionist, Paul is not. Rubio wants to invest heavily in the military, Paul wants to balance the budget. You can fit most of the other candidates between their respective positions.
But they have a common enemy. Ted Cruz. For Rand, he’s in the way of a respectable result. He’s not going to win the nomination, but there’s a difference between exiting after Iowa with 2% and after South Carolina. Cruz has many of his potential votes.
Rubio and Cruz compete for voters and position. If Paul can take a few voters back, Rubio moves closer to Cruz. It helps him make a case as the best Trump alternative in an eventual two-way contest. If Cruz looks like a winner, it’s easy for Paul supporters to decide Ted is the winning horse. If he’s struggling, more logic in staying with Rand.
Since Rubio and Paul are so ideologically different, there’s little chance of taking voters from each other. They can cheer without fear of harming themselves.
John Kasich and Hillary Clinton
Hillary runs better among Democrats than Independents. Kasich, at least in New Hampshire (where he has enough support to measure), runs better among Independents than Republicans.
If Clinton wins Iowa, it reduces the importance of New Hampshire. Instead of a chance for Bernie to win two straight and build momentum heading into Nevada, it’s just a home-field win.
Many Granite State Independents haven’t decided which primary to participate in. If there’s less action on the Dem side, this may push them to the GOP contest, helping Kasich. Further down the road, many states have open primaries or caucuses.
Odds are against us worrying about Kasich’s position 6 weeks from now, but should such a scenario happen, he will need the help of Independents and moderate Democrats to get nominated. Many primaries and caucuses are open to Independents, some to voters from the other party.
If Hillary appears to have things in hand, moderate Democrats and Independents can safely consider Kasich as a way to block Trump, without worrying about missing the chance to weigh in to a competitive Democratic contest.
While Kasich would probably give Hillary a strong fight in a general election, he’s still a huge underdog to get that far. If you believe Rubio is her toughest opponent among those with a decent chance (which I do), anything to slow Marco down is a good idea.
If a governor leaves New Hampshire with some viability, that reduces the odds of Rubio earning an important win in South Carolina, and hinders his chance of winning anywhere else as long as they remain in.
Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump
Trump is Bernie’s best weapon against Hillary. The Donald can go where no Democrat would dare. He can raise issues Sanders won’t. If Trump is doing well, it continues the narrative of a non-traditional year.
In a world with Nominee Trump, Nominee Sanders doesn’t sound as absurd. Meanwhile, the better Bernie does, the more Hillary needs to move left, the more she needs to grind out delegates, the less inevitable she looks.
While Barack Obama was able to unite the party in 2008 and fold bitter Clinton supporters back into the fall campaign, it might not be as easy for Hillary. Those Clintonistas were loyal Democrats. Many Sanders voters are not. They are progressive, Democratic-leaning Independents.
Should Trump make it to the fall, a bruised Democratic coalition is a big help. The other odd pairs on the list can help each other out in the short run, but have limited long-term benefit. Donald & Bernie are a useful team for the foreseeable future.
The Governors and Ted Cruz
This is the equivalent of the Rubio/Rand ticket. Few voters are kicking around if they would rather support Cruz or a Governor. Both Ted and Bush/Kasich/Christie are worried about Trump and Rubio. Particularly Rubio.
If Rubio finishes close to Cruz (not to mention ahead), that’s bad for Ted, and bad for the govs. The major argument for a Kasich, Christie, or Jeb candidacy is the idea that Rubio can’t close the deal, can’t defeat Cruz, can’t top Trump.
When Rubio and Cruz are equivalents, it takes away the Cruz plan to turn this into a two-way contest between him and The Donald. When they are equivalents, the governors are a lower tier. They need to bring him back to their pack, making Marco nothing more than one of four establishment-friendly choices in New Hampshire.
More than any of the other bedfellows, these guys have actually run similar anti-Rubio ads. Jeb’s PAC and Ted’s team have hit Rubio in similar ways, if somewhat different language.
For tonight, these teams of bedfellows are respective rooting organizations. In New Hampshire, expect them to help their teammate(s) either actively or passively, overtly or covertly. As another saying goes, the enemy of my enemy is my friend.