Perhaps Donald Trump is rewriting the rules of US politics. But let's not forget that's been said before and frontrunners often fade when the voting starts

Today, at last, we will finally start to see past the blarney and balderdash, the polls and projections, to see the outline of the US presidential race. The Iowa caucuses are being held and the voice of actual voters will get to drown out the voices of the candidates and commentators. For a while at least.

It seems that this has been an especially mad race so far, and it will be especially fascinating to see who gets the actual support of voters. And it's hard to argue that Donald Trump in particular and his frankly disgusting tactics are something unprecedentedly awful in US politics.

Yet it's worth remembering that wild card frontrunners are nothing new. It's easy to recall that Hillary Clinton herself was supposedly a lock just eight years ago, until a certain junior senator from Illinois changed that. Just four years ago that pizza CEO Herman Cain was leading the polls as late as November, followed by Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich. Each fell away.

And remember Howard Dean leading the Democratic field in 2003/04?

There's a long tradition of such swings once voters actually start paying attention to the campaign as voting begins. Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton were both outsiders and 'back in the pack' candidates for much of their first runs at the top job. But they got up to defeat those who were deemed frontrunners.

Trump, of course, has defied political gravity longer than most; his 'slip ups' haven't translated into a loss of support in the way Cain's personal life, Dean's whoop, and other vices (perceived or real) have. There remains the possibility that the anger and mischief American voters usually save for the early days of campaigns may have condensed this time into actual voting patterns. Perhaps Trump is the new normal; but let's not pretend that's been claimed before.

The evidence suggests that early frontrunners usually benefit from name recognition. And Trump has better name recognition than any politicians, perhaps save Clinton. He's also kept the outrageous comments coming at such a rapid rate that he's never been out of the headlines. But as voting begins, Americans have a habit of winnowing.

And another crucial point is the question of who turns out... not everyone who sepaks to pollsters bothers to vote, and the polls of past voters tend to be closer than the general ones (even putting Trump in second place).

So there are a lot of known unknowns and today we'll start -- but only start -- to see what happens to this year's bunch.

A lot can happen in the next few weeks. Iowa is a particular state with an odd process. Remember, in 2008 Mike Huckabee won for the Republicans and in 2012 it was Santrorum. It's quite a religious state that cares about rural issues.

It will be just as telling what happens in New Hampshire, South Carolina, Nevada, and then on Super Tuesday, March 1.

On the Democratic side, Bernie Sanders has a lot riding on the first two states, as the general wisdom is that Clinton has leads in South Carolina, Nevada and many Super Tuesday states, especially amongst black and Latino voters.

So I'm fascinated by what happens. But I'd add that I'm just as concerned about a Cruz presidency as I am a Trump one. Cruz's platform, while not getting the same international attention, involves a flat tax, "carpet bombing" Islamic State territory and standing firmly with Israel, building walls, repealing Obama's healthcare reform and doing sod all about gun control.

Today, more than ever, God bless America.

Comments (7)

by Fentex on February 02, 2016

I so want Trump to win the nomination, and not just because I'll win several bets on his losing the election, but because he and the Republican party so very much deserve each other.

Though I do have the smallest of small suspicions in the back of my head that he may just possibly be trolling the Republican party and goes home each night shaking his head with what he's been allowed to get away with. 

I'm having a little fantasy because I'd find it exceedingly amusing to have done such a thing and am projecting in the hope he isn't as much a buffoon as he would otherwise appear - but wouldn't it be a joke to ring through the ages if having won the nomination he dressed the Republican party down for being so stupid?

Either way it would be fun, fun, fun.

If they want to win they have to nominate Rubio and if they do it will make quite a mockery of all the polling and bloviating that precedes caucuses.

by Tim Watkin on February 02, 2016
Tim Watkin

I understand Clinton's campaign shares your hopes!

I think he's serious (in his own mind) about being a contender as nominee. But is he utterly guaranteed to lose? Everyone thought/all the logic said he'd crash and burn in these primaries. He hasn't yet. And Clinton has baggage. Could he win a presidential face-off?

by Fentex on February 02, 2016

Could he win a presidential face-off?

No. And I will bet real money (for my new kitchen fund) on that with anyone who really thinks he has a chance.

He's lost the Iowa vote, but not by much. I don't think the matter is settled and for the sake of my kitchen I hope Trump persists.

by Stewart Hawkins on February 02, 2016
Stewart Hawkins

"...flat tax, "carpet bombing" Islamic State territory and standing firmly with Israel, building walls, repealing Obama's healthcare reform and doing sod all about gun control".

Let's see -flat tax - estimated by many experts to be fairer and cheaper to collect than any progressive system, avoiding the need for tax avoidance measures and vastly reducing the need for accountants. Russia has a system of flat tax. Most implementations are hybrid progressive

Islamic State - the Russians already have this policy they just lack the firepower..

Israel - the only truly democratic country in the Middle East and one that does not prevent any of its Muslim citizens from voting.

Obama's healthcare - didn't go far enough to effect any meaningful change to the vast majority of poor and working class.

Gun "control" -in a country where the criminals have essentially unlimited access to handguns who are you going to control? Not the crims that's for sure!

So Cruz -  - looks good eh?! Almost Russian!



by Fentex on February 03, 2016

Let's see -flat tax - estimated by many experts to be fairer and cheaper to collect than any progressive system

Anyone who tells you that is not an expert because it's absolute nonsense.

by Tim Watkin on February 04, 2016
Tim Watkin

On flat tax, what Fentex said.

And Stewart, if you want America to behave like Russia, but with a conservative Christian twist, then good luck to you! It's not my idea of a good time.

by Colin Cross on February 17, 2016
Colin Cross

The appeal of Sanders and Trump lies in the fact they have exposed the corruption of the U.S. system which allows small establishment elites and the media to determine who becomes President

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