The Racing Form: Iowa Results
Jude Wanniski
February 14, 1996


DOLE: It hardly matters that Republican front-runner Bob Dole placed first in the Iowa caucuses. The political pros understand that Dole’s candidacy is now hanging by a thread in New Hampshire. He always does well in the Iowa caucuses, where the Republican organization marches their troops to the precincts and has them vote out in the open, where they can be checked off as having done their duty. Voters have a much harder time voting for Dole when they are allowed to cast secret ballots, as they are in New Hampshire. It should be clear a week from today that Dole soon will not be a serious contender. His home state of Kansas yesterday canceled its secret-ballot preference primary, on the grounds that “everyone knows Dole would win anyway,” so let’s save the costs of voting. There were 150,000 voters expected in Iowa, but only 100,000 showed up, and only 25,000 voted for Dole. The estimate is that if the extra 50,000 voted, Dole would have been lucky to get one in ten.

FORBES: As an outsider, Steve could never have done well in Iowa, where the two big organizations are the party regulars and the church political activists. He spent his money on ads displaying Dole’s history of voting for tax increases after he has promised tax cuts. This might have cost Steve one or two percentage points in the caucuses, but it crippled Dole. Steve’s campaign now moves into its second stage, which we will see unveiled tomorrow night in the lone New Hampshire debate. We got a taste of it in his “victory” speech in Iowa, in which he correctly celebrated his fourth place finish. Gone were the robotic messages that he used to define himself; instead he began building a foundation for the candidacy that follows. He demonstrated that he can throw punches as well as take them. His new TV spots will be sunnyside, Reaganesque positive -- unless he is attacked by Dole, who also has pulled the negative Forbes spot that was based on fraudulent numbers. Pat Buchanan and Lamar Alexander are not likely to be spending their scarce resources on negative Forbes spots. A number of seemingly minor personnel changes in the campaign structure will also strengthen it for this next stage. Grace-Marie Arnett, the consensus expert who served as executive director of the Kemp Tax Commission, will be the traffic cop in the policy/information flow. Mark Nuttle, a Forbes enthusiast who was one of the founders of the Christian Coalition and also Pat Robertson’s campaign manager in 1988, was ill during most of ’95, but now appears to be coming aboard as an untitled utility infielder. The opinion we expressed two weeks ago in “Forbes on the Move,” i.e., that the race will soon narrow to Forbes and Buchanan, now is becoming evident to the political pros, although they still see Alexander having a shot.

BUCHANAN: Pat’s strong finish in Iowa is of course due to the Christian Coalition backing him to the hilt. Its interest is in having the strongest possible “family plank” in the GOP platform, which require its members to coalesce around one candidate. Buchanan may think he can win the GOP nomination and subsequently get the Perot party nomination to climb over Clinton. His populist economic message is superior to anything the President and the Democrats are likely to embrace; even his trade protectionist proposals are rather mild when compared to some of the recent assaults on Japan and the Clinton Treasury’s fiasco in Mexico. The American electorate, though, knows that the man who will be President has to be global in outlook, and Pat has never bothered to understand the rest of the world or U.S. responsibilities in this era of Pax Americana.  His hardline views on fortress America and social issues will have the effect of rousing interest in Forbes among those who had hoped Dole could hold together for one more run.

ALEXANDER: Lamar is a fuzzy blur in a red flannel shirt, who stands for nothing but moderation. The electorate employed him in Iowa to inform Steve that he should not be so negative. That utility will fade as soon as the electorate is assured that Steve’s Iowa campaign was a strategic anomaly. He will, however, appear to remain in contention as the semi-outsider, safe organization candidate, until the voters are satisfied that Steve has been thoroughly tested and toughened for the fall campaign. Think of it as Steve versus sparring partners.