It’s caucus day! On the Right, will Trump’s voters show up, or will they just fume on the couch? Will Cruz’s investment in data help him get the votes he needs? On the Left, will Bernie’s followers’ passion rule, or will Clintonite pragmatism win the day? Finally, after months of posturing and media blathering, the voters have their say…well, a small, not-terribly-diverse GROUP of voters, at least. Still, I’ll take that over pundits’ predictions any time.
Most candidates won’t get the turnout they want, of course, and we can assume that we’ll lose some of the lower-ranked contenders soon. Some campaigns are clearly in this thing for the long term, though. Who’s preparing for an electoral marathon?
Donald J. Trump is famously financially independent, as he is happy to tell us at any time. His wealth gives him the resources he’d need to stay in the race to the end, though it may actually hurt him when it comes to building infrastructure. If Trump drops out, it won’t be because he’s out of money.
Ted Cruz really needs to win tonight, but he’s been building for a long race. We’ve talked about his small-donor base before, and he’s also been building data-driven field/turnout operations in later states. Plus, he goes into Iowa with money in the bank. Even if Trump cleans his clock tonight, look for him to stay in the fight for weeks or months to come.
Small donors again! Bernie’s ability to mobilize small donors and passionate volunteers is legendary by now, and it gives him a staying power other campaigns should envy. If he loses today, they’re not going to walk out on him — they’ll probably just give him more money. Plus, their enthusiasm may make up for any lack of organization in later states.
No, Hillary’s not going anywhere, whether she wins tonight and next week or not. She has cash on hand, but just as importantly, she’s long been building a field operation beyond Iowa and New Hampshire. Plus, she’s learned from Obama’s 2008 strategy, so expect her to be strong in subsequent caucus states. The one thing that would really help her? Small donors. If she loses a couple of early contests, will supporters come out of the woodwork? Or, will they clasp their wallets even tighter?
And the Rest
Which of the remaining candidates thinks he (or she) still has a real shot? My suspicion: the “mainstream” Republicans like Rubio, Kasich and Christie have an incentive to stick around, even if they don’t do well in these first contests. THEY want to be the alternative to Trump or Cruz, and it behooves them to hold out to the last. O’Malley? Your guess is as good as mine, since it depends on why he’s actually in a race he can’t possibly win in the first place. Let’s see what happens tonight.