A Few Thoughts on Iowa
... and the broader GOP presidential picture.
Where Things Stand
The Iowa caucus is just about here, and the safe bet — according to the polls — is that Donald Trump will win it easily. The presumed victory may even be by a larger margin that expected, being that Trump finally threw Vivek Ramaswamy (who’s been polling at around 7% in the state) under the bus. Of course, Ramaswamy was more than happy to be thrown, being that the real purpose of his campaign has already been served.
The more interesting story may be who finishes second. Ron DeSantis has spent a lot of time and campaign dollars in Iowa, and has picked up some important local endorsements, but Nikki Haley has been nipping at the governor’s heels, and may end up edging him out. If that happens, things may be effectively over for the DeSantis campaign, as it seems to be going nowhere in New Hampshire, where Haley looks within striking distance of a first-place finish.
The Role of the Right-Wing Media
Speaking of DeSantis, the governor, at an Iowa press conference the other day, made perhaps the most honest and accurate statement of his entire campaign:
“[Trump has] basically a Praetorian Guard of the conservative media - Fox News, the web sites, all this stuff - they just don't hold him accountable because they're worried about losing viewers and they don’t want to have the ratings go down.”
I guess that’s the type of thing a Republican competing against Trump (even one who’s been excessively worried about turning off MAGA voters) can finally say out loud when the numbers are as dismal as his. Some will paint the governor’s statement as sour grapes, but few can objectively argue that he’s wrong. After all, just last week, we saw Fox News host a “town hall” event for Trump (stacked with a fervently pro-Trump audience) at the exact same time as the debate CNN hosted between DeSantis and Nikki Haley. Trump, who has refused to debate his primary opponents, demanded the time-slot (a purely political calculation to take away attention from his competitors), and Fox gladly accommodated him.
DeSantis further argued at his presser that the debate situation is one of the reasons non-Trump candidates have struggled to break through. Because Trump hasn’t participated in them, he’s escaped having to face his opponents’ criticism directly. It was another good point from the governor, and a fine explanation of exactly why Trump avoided the debates. Fox actively aided Trump’s strategy, reminding us once again that the network, like several of its competitors, prioritizes ratings high above journalistic integrity.
While we’re on the topic of lost integrity, did you hear that Senator Mike Lee endorsed Trump last week? It shouldn’t have come as a surprise to anyone, being that Lee traded in his “constitutional conservative” badge a few years back for a first-class ticket on the Trump Train (even going as far as trying to help Trump overturn the 2020 election, and engaging in especially pathetic Jan. 6 revisionism).
What did raise some eyebrows was Lee’s stated rationale for the endorsement:
Ah, the old “binary choice” logic… which of course makes absolutely no sense being that we are in the middle of a party-primary (where not a single vote has been cast yet) in which multiple Republican candidates will be on the ballot (including one that polls far better against President Biden than Trump does).
Then there’s the obligatory “mean tweets” framing to gloss over things like Trump’s efforts to overturn U.S. democracy, his provocation of an insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, and multiple criminal indictments over conduct few are arguing he didn’t commit.
To be clear, insisting that “mean tweets” are Trump’s most serious infraction is like arguing that the biggest problem with O.J. Simpson was that he bought undersized gloves. Lee knows this, of course, but when you fully commit to Trumpism, there’s little room left for things like shame and self-respect.
Lee’s affirmation would be the most embarrassing of last week’s, if not for Trump also receiving the “enthusiastic endorsement” of CPAC, the organization led by Matt Schlapp… who’s been credibly accused of sexual assaulting several young, male staffers.
More on Wednesday
Bernie and I will be discussing the Iowa Caucus and the New Hampshire Primary more on this week’s No BS Zone, which may drop a little later in the day than it normally does. If you have any sub-topics you’d like us to discuss, let me know.
See you then!