Four years ago President Newt Gingrich was leading the Republican primary, famously declaring, “I’m going to be the nominee. It’s very hard not to look at the recent polls and think that the odds are very high I’m going to be the nominee.” A week later President Ron Paul was leading in Iowa and preparing to audit the Federal Reserve.
In the final Fox debate before the caucus Rep. Paul promised, “There has been no enrichment (of uranium) in Iran,” and was eventually disproven. Texas Governor Rick Perry declared, “I hope I am the Tim Tebow of the Iowa caucuses,” and eventually got his wish.
Of course eventual caucus winner Senator Rick Santorum was polling in single digits. If Fox News had thought of having an undercard debate, that’s where he’d have been.
Why recount this ancient news? Just to remind folks that poll respondents in California or New York don’t elect presidents, actual Iowa voters do. As I talk with Iowa voters, they are not locked in for any one candidate, rather they are still evaluating them, kicking the tires, and will likely keep changing their minds right up until caucus night.
For example – a few months ago I wrote about my gun toting, mother of two, small business person, Cyclone fan, fitness nut and yoga buddy – who I dubbed “Xena the warrior princess” to protect her anonymity. Xena delights in disturbing the tranquilly of my thoughts by stopping at my yoga mat to ask “have you seen this column by Bill Bennett?” or something similar.
I wrote back in October Xena is, or was, a Trump supporter because she wants someone to blow up the system. However, in November she messaged me on Facebook, “I think I have waivered from the Trump camp.” Suddenly she was leaning to Dr. Carson because of his flat income tax plan. That turned out to be a short lived phase not lasting through Thanksgiving. She was back to Trump because while really appreciating Carson’s plan and his intellect, she was afraid that he was too “weak” and would be easily overwhelmed by others.
Not too long later I checked in with Xena and she was flirting with Senator Ted Cruz. Her concern was focused on who would best combat ISIS in Syria. Her “biggest priority is securing a safe place for my young boys…” “I’d just as soon not help one Syrian refugee if it meant that my kids would have more security here in our country.” Ultimately she decided that many of Cruz’s views on social issue views were too ridged for her.
Its interesting to note – my friend would not describe herself as a social conservative and consequently was turned off by Cruz – yet many social conservative activists around that state are attacking the Senator for saying one thing to Iowans on the issue of marriage and quite another to New York donors hosting fundraisers for him.
Although my friend waffled back and forth between Cruz and Trump – others weren’t in contention. Governors Jeb Bush and John Kasich “need to hang it up.” While not being “poll dependent”, Xena isn’t going to “waste” her vote on someone whom she believes can’t go the distance. And while liking Senator Marco Rubio’s positions, “he’s too young. Call me old school, but he just isn’t presidential.” Xena saw Carly Fiorina as “very smart and aggressive,” but she couldn’t get on board because “I just don’t think she will carpet bomb the middle east.” (Looks like I have some work to do there.)
What may really make some establishment types heads spin – she caucused for Romney in both 2008 and 2012, but has had it with a Republican party that doesn’t deliver. She’s done with the political correctness at the expense of effectiveness. Its tough to pin her down on any one issue, but if there was a triad… (ouch…) it’d be national security, debt, and the growth of political correctness.
In a troubling sign for Team Trump – remember, she keeps flirting with other candidates – she has had zero contact from his campaign. No door knock, no mail, no phone call. I got a Christmas card from Trump proclaiming his love for me, well, for all of us or so it said, and I am not a fan. Yet she’s a supporter and isn’t on his list. One of the criticisms of the Trump campaign apparatus (as opposed to what he says) is that they are not organized enough to turn out all the Xena’s they’ve won over on caucus night.
With thirty days to go, I’m sure there will be a few more times my friend Xena will change her mind.