- - Tuesday, June 23, 2015

It never ceases to amaze me how an event like my home state Iowa Caucuses can be covered by so many smart people who have absolutely no idea what they’re talking about.
You would think with nothing less than the presidency of these United States at stake, folks whose job it is to be well-informed would up their game a bit. Except I’m frequently asked questions with flawed premises I have to correct by people in national politics, and far too often it is the candidates and/or their consultants who believe many of the same myths as well.
This column intends to set the record straight.
Lie & Clever Myth #1: Iowa isn’t really all that important and rarely decides who the nominee is. Fact: The Iowa caucuses have actually launched the last four general election winners.

Fact: Since the advent of the first-in-the-nation Iowa Caucuses in 1976, the winner has gone on to be the nominee of at least one of the major political parties 75 percent of the time.

Fact: The Republicans have never nominated someone that didn’t finish in the top three in Iowa.

So bottom line: If you’re not competitive in Iowa, you’re not competitive — period.
Lie & Clever Myth #2: The Iowa straw poll was famous for launching wing-nut candidates with no chance to win.

The Republican establishment in Iowa is even helping to peddle this falsehood as an excuse for their killing the goose that laid the golden egg. But why don’t we let the facts speak for themselves once again. Michele Bachmann’s win in 2011 was an outlier. The previous three winners of the now-defunct Iowa straw poll were named Mitt Romney (2007), George W. Bush (1999) and Bob Dole (1995). It doesn’t get any more establishment than that.
Lie & Clever Myth #3: The Des Moines Register poll is the all-seeing eye.
This one is perhaps the most ridiculous assertion of them all. Last year at this time, the Des Moines Register poll told us Congressman Paul Ryan was the most liked Republican by Iowans, and Gov. Chris Christie was viewed as the most electable candidate at the very same time he was mired in “Bridgegate.” Now just one year later, Mr. Ryan isn’t even a candidate and Mr. Christie is third tier at best.

But lest you think this is a one-time misfire, take a look at the Des Moines Register poll’s recent dubious history: The final Des Moines Register Poll of our 2010 gubernatorial primary had Terry Branstad beating Bob Vander Plaats by 28 points. Two days later, Mr. Branstad won by just 9 points and even lost his own congressional district.

The final Des Moines Register poll of our historic judicial retention election in 2010 rated that election a toss-up, with slightly more people inclined to vote for all the judges (31 percent) than would vote against them (29 percent). However, on Election Day the judges lost by 8 points (54-46).

The final Des Moines Register Poll of the 2012 Iowa Caucuses had Rick Santorum a distant third-place behind Mitt Romney and Ron Paul at 15 percent. Mr. Santorum actually won the Iowa caucuses with 25 percent.

And just last year, the final Des Moines Register poll of our Republican U.S. Senate primary predicted Joni Ernst at 36 percent — barely eclipsing the 35 percent threshold required by state law to avoid a nominating convention. Two days later, Ms. Ernst finished with 56 percent.
As Bob Uecker famously said in the cult classic “Major League”: “Just a bit outside.”
Given this track record, I wouldn’t trust a Des Moines Register poll two days before the Iowa caucuses, let alone more than seven months in advance.
Lie & Clever Myth #4: Lower turnout helps the conservatives.

The exact opposite is true. For example, in the 2008 Iowa Caucuses the Romney campaign was working on a turnout model of about 90,000 Iowa Republicans, which was the average turnout of the previous three contested GOP contests. Unfortunately, about 20,000 additional voters came out that night.
Who were all these extra people?
Well, Ron Paul out-performed expectations that night to get 10 percent of the vote, and Mike Huckabee set the Iowa Caucus record for most votes received. In other words, these people were mostly libertarians and evangelicals (otherwise known as the GOP base). Mr. Romney finished a distant second that night despite getting more votes than Mr. Dole did when he won the 1996 Iowa caucuses.
Lie & Clever Myth #5: Iowa is so unpredictable because of those dreaded evangelicals.

Actually, Iowa isn’t unpredictable at all. It’s just that we don’t really pay too much attention to what the folks inside the Beltway tell us we’re supposed to do. In fact, if you look at the GOP’s history in the Iowa caucuses you will see the same pattern repeat itself. The top two finishers are always the strongest candidate for evangelicals and/or the business community/establishment.
2012—Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney
2008—Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney
2000—George W. Bush and Steve Forbes
1996—Bob Dole and Pat Buchanan
1988—Bob Dole and Pat Robertson
1980—George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan
Regardless of current media buzz, public opinion polls and prevailing punditry from the consultant class, absolutely no one is going to win the Iowa caucuses without emerging as the strongest candidate from one of those two factions. In fact, the crowded field this go-around makes that even more likely to be true. Organization is king in Iowa, and you can’t build a successful organization in Iowa outside of these two groups. And in a state of our size, there’s only so much organization to go around.
I suspect Ben Carson, and perhaps Donald Trump, will try to challenge that paradigm this year by attempting to bring non-traditional caucus voters to the polls. Barring their ability to pull that off, we already have the profile of who will win here next February. Now it’s up to the candidates to fulfill that profile.
(Steve Deace is a nationally syndicated talk show host and the author of the new book “Rules for Patriots: How Conservatives Can Win Again.” You can “like” him on Facebook or follow him on Twitter @SteveDeaceShow.

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