Top 4 Takeaways from the Iowa Caucuses

One of the hardest things to get used to this year is the condensed schedules of otherwise regular activities in my life. I’ve done a lot of travelling this fall so my teaching schedule was condensed to twice a week. The NBA lockout gobbled up two months of the season and now there’s basketball every night as the league tries to squeeze 66 games into just a few months.

And now, just as I’m finally processing and adjusting to the results from the Iowa Caucuses we’re really just a few days away from next Tuesday’s New Hampshire Primary.

To give you context, in 1980 there were 36 days between the Iowa and New Hampshire nomination contests, this year: 7 days. Nevertheless there are a few lessons worth sharing from the Iowa Caucuses that are worth reviewing before the next debate and next Tuesday’s contests.

Lesson #1: Mitt Romney’s Got Issues

I had a pretty fascinating conversation with everyone’s favorite 90’s throwback black Republican J.C. Watts during the Caucuses a few hours before the votes came in. Watts, who was part of the Republican class of 1994 that took over the House after an absence of 40 years, made it very clear that if Romney didn’t get more than 25% of the vote in Iowa it was a victory for conservatives all throughout the party. This is not so much a values issue or Romney being stiff, but according to Watts, on a fundamental level Protestant and Christian Republicans are not comfortable with the idea of a man who believes that any other book besides the bible holds the word of God. This is no small issue to the GOP base, and the press in general has been too squeamish to really talk about it other than as a cultural issue.

Lesson #2: Republicans hate Voting Rights unless it’s Their Turn

One of the consistent stories since the Republican takeover in 2010 has been national GOP efforts to limit voting access. All across the country GOP led state legislatures are trying to force onerous requirements on voters, change voting laws and locations and basically do anything they can to harm President Obama’s base. Here’s the funny part though: The very voting initiatives that Republicans fight against on the state level are standard in their own primaries. The Republican presidential Caucus in Iowa features same day registration with easy access and few if any ID requirements. The South Carolina Primary takes place on a Saturday, increasing the ability of working class and hourly employees to get a chance to vote. I’m not sure if this counts as flip-flopping on voting rights but it certainly counts as hypocritical.

Lesson #3: The Freaks Come Out at Night

Being a part of the press during marathon elections is an experience until itself. Much of your time is spent running around one large building with other members of the press, doing television and radio appearances, writing stories and talking to experts who you didn’t meet 20 minutes ago. I spent a large chunk of the day with fellow Politic365 contributor Lenny McAllister who I will forever nickname “the Haaaardest workin’ man in Media” no slight to Tom Joyner.

Once the day drags past about 12 hours things start to get a bit loopy in the press room. Think about it: most reporters, commentators and anchors have been up since 7 a.m. By 8 p.m. if the votes aren’t counted people are getting antsy. By 9 p.m. you are fighting off sleep with as much 5 Hour Energy as you can gulp and by 11:00 p.m. or so?

Let’s just say there isn’t much difference between the press lounge and a church lock-in for a high-school youth group.

People bouncing balls off the wall, talking loud, throwing popcorn and darn near losing it on air. You have to see it to truly believe it. CNN’s anchors descended into something we are now affectionately referring to as CNN After Dark when Anderson Cooper and the rest of the anchors were so tired and punch drunk they’re singing 70’s porn tunes and making late night calls to local Republican officials just to chat them up on air. Imagine your dorm lounge at 3:00 a.m. during finals week when everyone is going nuts trying to stay awake then combine that with men and women making zillions of dollars a year to inform and entertain you on air. Yeah. It was nuts.

Lesson #4: It Always Feels Like Twitter’s Watching You

An interesting report was released a day after the Caucuses by Qorvis Communications a consulting and communications firm based in Washington D.C. about the value of Twitter during the Iowa Caucus.

“Twitter doesn’t measure votes, Twitter measures momentum,” said Wyeth Ruthven, a senior director at Qorvis Communications and author of the Twitter Valuation Analysis. “The tremendous overnight growth of Rick Santorum and Ron Paul give them a social media bounce heading into New Hampshire. It proves Twitter is a uniquely scalable medium for spreading a political message.”

 

Followers at 8am Followers at 8pm Followers Gained Percentage Growth
@RickSantorum 58,048 63,115 5,067 8.73%
@RonPaul 152,634 158,255 5,621 3.68%
@MittRomney 225,097 227,987 2,890 1.28%
@BarackObama 11,731,458 11,735,320 3,862 0.02%

 

The report goes on to show that many of the GOP candidates had been gaining Twitter followers all day, suggesting a real “surge” the likes of which we’ve never been able to assess before.

Does this mean that we can start predicting local elections and results from Twitter followers?

Not necessarily, but it does suggest, as Mr. Ruthven points out, that momentum is now measurable in ways we didn’t know before. It is rather telling that on a night that was all about him and his first major contest Mitt Romney actually gained fewer actual Twitter followers than President Obama. Where was that enthusiasm gap again?

There are of course other lessons from this first electoral contest. The Republicans might learn another lesson in electoral failure if they do not find a way to fix the fact that the top three candidates on their ticket, Romney, Paul and Santorum, all have horrible racial bugaboos. Another lesson might be that we have all learned that Rick Perry has solidified himself as the Ryan Leaf of presidential politics. But overall, there just aren’t enough days between Iowa and New Hampshire to draw too many lessons. It’s much better to just watch the weekend’s debates and see how this all plays out. Trust me: there will be bigger lessons to learn once the field is thinned even more after the next contest.

This article originally appeared online at Politic365.com.

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