Daily Kos
Political analysis and other daily rants on the state of the nation

Sunday | August 03, 2003

Gep and Kerry teaming up to thwart Dean?

It may only be a hiccup, but news out of Iowa today was not all good for Gephardt.

First of all, the DesMoines Register's first Iowa Poll of the campaign season did not look good for Gephardt:

Dean: 23
Gephardt: 21
Undecided: ~20
Kerry: 14
Lieberman: 10
Edwards: 5
Kucinich: 4
Everyone else is at less than one percent.

In addition, Dean leads among labor, and he leads by 10 points (outside the poll's 4.9 MOE) amongst those who say they will "definitely" attend the caucuses.

This seems to be the first DesMoines Register poll of the season, so we don't have trends to look at. And other Iowa polls have given Gep a comfortable advantage. So we'll have to see if this poll is an anomaly or a leading indicator of the race's dynamics.

Regardless, Gep is under increasing pressure as support wavers in Iowa:

When Richard Gephardt announced his "leadership team" of Iowa supporters a month ago he said, "I don't take one bit of support for granted," and touted what he called "a great team of folks behind me."

But in politics, a month can be painfully long, and if Gephardt looks behind him now he'll find that his leadership team is fading in a state deemed crucial to his presidential hopes.

Of the 34 "leadership" individuals listed until Friday on Gephardt's Iowa campaign Web site, 11 say that in fact they are either undecided in the presidential campaign or actively supporting one of Gephardt's rivals.

At least seven of those listed, including three mayors and a county supervisor, say they never intended to be counted among Gephardt supporters to begin with.

Among the 15 individuals who identified themselves as actual Gephardt supporters, several appeared to be wavering. "I said I'd support him for now, verbally, but that's as far as it goes," said Joe McCasland, the mayor of Calmar, Iowa.

Ouch. And let's not forget -- Iowa is a must-win state for Gephardt. If he can't win a state in his own backyard, he's toast. It's the same dynamic that Dean and Kerry face in NH and Edwards faces in South Carolina.

Now, check out this scenario:

A Dean victory in would be disastrous for Gephardt and crippling to Kerry. An Iowa victory is always good for a few extra points heading into NH, and the Kerry/Dean race may be coming to the wire at that point. So Kerry will have every incentive to limit his damage and pray for a Gephardt victory and Dean second-place finish.

Now here's where things get really interesting. In the past, campaign supporters would go to their polling place and haggle their votes. That's because each candidate needs to reach the 15 percent mark to garner any delegates. The supporters of candidates under the 15 percent mark (in each precinct) can either cast worthless votes, or shift their vote to a second candidate thus ensuring their vote counts for something. This is not a "secret ballot" type of situation.

In the past, campaigns had no control over how their supporters would vote. But we now have these nifty inventions called cell phones and blackberries.

If early results show Dean headed for victory, the Kerry campaign may very well call its organizers across the state and order its supporters to shift their votes to Gephardt, thus denying Dean his victory.

Given that 15 percent rule, look for Kerry to start doing things that might help Gephardt in Iowa. Kerry must slow Dean's momentum in Iowa to stave off a disaster in New Hampshire. If Kerry can't stop Dean by himself here, maybe he can help Gephardt do it. Look for the Kerry campaign to eventually tell its supporters to caucus with Gephardt's preference group if they can't become viable on their own at a caucus.
The danger, of course, is a result that gives Gephardt a narrow victory over Dean, with Kerry getting nearly no support, either a distant third or worse. A narrow IA victory, with obvious support from Kerry's supporters, may not be enough to stave off questions about a "troubled" Gephardt campaign. And Kerry may simply have to bite the bullet and try and get double-digit support lest he head into the NH primary looking extremely weak.

Choices, choices. Politics can often resemble a chess match, and the caucus system, coupled with new communication technologies, only serve to make things even more interesting and unpredictable.

This Iowa caucus will be like nothing we have ever seen before.

Update: From the comments:

kos said: "In addition, Dean leads among labor, and he leads by 10 points (outside the poll's 4.9 MOE) amongst those who say they will "definitely" attend the caucuses."

Kos, the margin of error is larger when you're only relying on a subset of the data. In this case, Dean's lead among definite caucus-attenders is outside the margin of error assuming the percent of those who said they would definitely attend the caucuses was greater than 24%.

Good point. That lead is inside the MOE.

Posted August 03, 2003 10:39 AM


Bush Administration
Business and Economy
Foreign Policy

© 2002. Steal all you want.
(For non-commercial use, that is.)