Why Iowa Will Eventually Deliver The Presidency to Hillary Clinton

Iowa has historically been Hillary Clinton's Waterloo. With her recent victory there over Bernie Sanders, the state may become her lucky charm. Here's why.
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Iowa has historically been Hillary Clinton's Waterloo. With her recent victory there over Bernie Sanders, the state may become her lucky charm. Here's why.
New York Senator Hillary Clinton (L) lis

Demons of the past have the potential to paralyze the growth of a person and their ability to move forward.  But demons, when successfully overcome, can be liberating and provide a person with a reinvigorated sense of purpose, direction and joy.

Hillary Clinton political demons began in 2008 when relatively unknown Senator by the name of Barack Obama surprisingly won the Iowa caucus. The loss was particularly stinging because Hillary was the odds on favorite to win the democratic nomination at the time -- but she lost to a man whose ambition was matched with superior organization and an inspiring message of hope. On that frigid January 2008 night, Obama told his supporters:

They said this day would never come, but on this January night, at this defining moment in history, you have done what the cynics said we couldn't do. We’re choosing unity over division and sending a powerful message that change is coming to America.

Obama artfully played on an implication -- that Hillary Clinton was a divisive figure in American politics, and that America needed someone who could unify a nation after the disastrous years of George W. Bush. After the Iowa loss, Clinton’s campaign never fully recovered and she watched Obama out maneuver her strategically and operationally at every phase of the process, with him eventually capturing the democratic nomination.

Now it is 2016 and Hillary Clinton was determined to purge the demons of 2008 with a victory over Bernie Sanders. And she did. Her persistent presence in the State of Iowa and improved organizing helped her pull out a victory by the slimmest of margins, but a win is a win. Todd Purdum from Politico, argued that the victory was unimpressive and exposed Hillary Clinton’s short term and long term vulnerabilities. The Washington Post's Greg Sargent interviewed skilled democratic operatives about the lesson Clinton must learn from the razor thin victory. The two most prescient points came from David Axelrod and Mark Mellman, with Axelrod, Obama’s former campaign strategist, telling Sargent this about the appeal of Bernie Sanders:

He speaks to what so many feel. Which is this sense of a changing economy, in which success is kind of a closely held asset, and the fundamental premise that we grew up with — that if you work hard you can get ahead — seems like a cliche that’s not true.

Mark Mellman, a veteran democratic pollster told Sargent this about Clinton:

Her message has tended to focus on solutions and not really reflect back to people the feelings that they have....Bernie is reflecting back to people their feelings. She has to do a better job reflecting back to people what they feel and think. Forging an emotional connection is critically important. She’s not always done that very effectively.

What was evident in their assessments was a recognition that Hillary’s propensity to display her impressive grasp of policy often comes at the cost of being perceived as mechanical and impervious to the anxieties and fears people have about the future. And if these perspectives were to be believed by the Hillary camp, her past as an advocate for children and women’s issues suggest that a transition towards presenting herself as more empathic, may not be all that difficult.

The state of Iowa gave Hillary Clinton a much needed victory against a formidable opponent in Bernie Sanders. And the way this race for the Democratic nomination is shaping up, it’s not going to end anytime soon. That being said, in the end, I believe Hillary Clinton will earn the Democratic nomination and will be an improved candidate because of Bernie Sanders. She will have more clearly defined a progressive agenda and earned the backing of most Sanders supporters because the alternative would be a Republican who would undo gains and represent the antithesis of everything a #FeelTheBern voter believes in.

In the general election, there are typically 16 states that are considered ‘toss ups’, meaning some states don’t automatically vote Democratic or Republican. These are the states that presidential candidates disproportionately spend their time and money. Iowa, historically, has been one of those states. Also, one could assume that President Obama will campaign hard for Hillary because he has a vested interest in protecting many of his accomplishments from Republican emasculation. And given Obama’s continued popularity in the state of Iowa, he would happily be dispatched there quite often. Iowa has 6 electoral votes and could possibly swing the election in favor of the Democratic or Republican candidate. It is easy to imagine on election night, Hillary Clinton winning Iowa, and the timing of the announcement giving her the 6 electoral votes she needs to reach 270 -- the magic number needed to become President of the United States. After years of being Hillary’s Waterloo state, Iowa puts her over the top with the help of her original nemesis, Mr.Obama.

Talk about irony.