The conventional political wisdoms, that's right wisdoms, not wisdom, about Hillary Clinton before Iowa went like this. One, she bombed badly in Iowa in 2008, losing to both Obama and John Edwards, therefore if she doesn't do well in Iowa it will be 2008 all over again, and the wind will quickly taper to a faint breeze behind her campaign. Two, Iowa is one of the two whitest states in the union. This was tailor made for rival Bernie Sanders to bag the states Democrat's fiercely independent, contrarian, and liberal voters. Some polls showed Sanders with a clear edge over Clinton. Three, a Sanders win and a Clinton loss would ramp up support among more mainstream Democrats, party officials, donors and bundlers for Sanders. It would also give him an enormous public and media boost and dispel doubts about his electability.
Clinton's win made mush of each of those political wisdoms. Make no mistake, Sanders did do well with the vote, revving up and inspiring voters, especially young voters, and effectively messaging his call for an assault on Wall Street greed, wealth and income inequality. The brutal political reality, however, is that though he made the Iowa vote a close run up against Clinton, it was a loss for his campaign in more than just the vote. Let's do the math first. Sanders needed to win roughly 70 percent of Iowa's proportioned out delegates to stay close to Clinton in the projected national delegate total needed for the nomination. He didn't come close. He will get about 50 percent of Iowa delegates. That totals out to about 21 delegates. He needed at least 31 delegates to stay close to the projected national delegate totals for both candidates. Sanders got lots of support, and many of his votes, from ultra-liberal, progressives, and college students in Iowa.
However, that's a voter demographic that pales in number, percentage and geographic placing to the Democratic voter base in other states, particularly the South and the West where blacks and Hispanic voters make up in some states a majority of Democratic voters, and in others a significant minority of the voters. They make up a big part of Clinton's core supporters, and polls repeatedly show that despite energetic efforts by Sanders to break the Clinton lock on her minority voter support, so far it has produced little results. One example is South Carolina which will hold its primary February 27. 84% of black voters in South Carolina supported Clinton, compared with only 7% who backed Sanders. Clinton racks up the same top heavy percent of the black votes in the other Southern state primaries.
The reasons Clinton beat the expectations of many
in Iowa are the same reasons that polls still show her handily beating Sanders
nationally. While it's true that a
majority of Americans are sick of and disgusted with the dysfunctionality, deal
making, and big money manipulation of American politics, there is little
evidence that this now or for that fact ever translated into a repudiation of
traditional party politicians at the polls. Sanders, for one, has done
everything by the standard campaign book, made clear he's a staunch Democrat,
and carefully frames his mantra issues of wealth and income equality, and the
need for a "political revolution" as being a movement for reform not a radical
overhaul of the system.
The drumbeat knock against Clinton from Sanders' fervent backers is that she's a Wall Street beholding, Iraq war backer, foreign policy hawk, and a beltway Democratic insider. The typecasting aside, she's also one of the best prepared White House candidates in years.
Her experience in international relations and her hands-on administrative experience in White House policy affairs have already insured the allegiance of millions of voters to her. Polls consistently showed two years before she declared her candidacy and in 2014 that she was the one sure Democrat who would beat any GOP contender. There's also the widely held perception that she has the political savvy to wage the blood battles with a GOP-controlled Congress.
There are two other political realities that even force many of Sanders supporters to concede that if he doesn't get the nomination they'd vote for Hillary. One is that though she is a moderate, centrist Democrat, she will give a hard nod to the interests of minorities, gays and women. She will continue and expand Obama's policies that expand government programs and initiatives, hike spending on education, health care, and jobs and markedly increase taxes on corporations and the wealthy while enforcing and even tightening regulations on the banks and Wall Street.
The other is the terrifying prospect of a Trump, Cruz or Rubio winning the White House and having say-so over the next round of appointments to the Supreme Court, as well as White House say so over dealing with climate control, jobs, taxes, abortion, gay rights, police violence, and the Middle East conflicts. The frontal and collateral damage of a GOP controlled White House should be more than enough to seal the Democratic Party deal for Clinton.
Iowa then was not just a big step toward the nomination for Clinton. It was a monster win for her.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His latest book is Trump and the GOP: Race Baiting to the White House (Amazon Kindle) He is a frequent MSNBC contributor. He is an associate editor of New America Media. He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on Radio One. He is the host of the weekly Hutchinson Report on KPFK 90.7 FM Los Angeles and the Pacifica Network