Dem 51
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GOP 49
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...Meanwhile, Pence, Scott Go Where Campaigns Go to Die

In the last week, we've had one item (see here) about how Mike Pence's presidential "campaign" has reached walking corpse status, and two items (see here and here) about how Sen. Tim Scott's (R-SC) presidential campaign has gotten there as well.

To put a finer point on it, Politico has an article right now headlined: "Inside Mike Pence's Sad, Dwindling Presidential Campaign." Actually, that's the main page headline; on the article page it's "He Was Once a Favorite of the Right. Now, Mike Pence Can't Get a Crowd of 15 to a Pizza Ranch." And between them, those two headlines really tell the story. The former VP has basically taken up residence in Iowa, and he'll go anywhere willing to give him a microphone. That means doing guest appearances as a play-by-play announcer for high school football games, appearances at drug stores where he's lucky to draw 30 people, and speeches at restaurants (like Pizza Ranch) where the attendance is in the dozen (note lack of plural).

Pence is clearly making his campaign stops with "his people" (i.e., rural voters in the reddest parts of Iowa) in mind. This being the case, despite the poor attendance at most of his events, there are plenty of would-be Pence voters who have met him between three and ten times. And yet, they are not moving off their preferred candidate (usually Donald Trump). Even the people wearing Pence '24 stickers while listening to him speak admit to reporters that they're just doing it to be polite. The former VP wants so badly to be the future P, but no matter how hard he works, he gains no traction, while looking kinda pathetic. If not for the hateful and harmful policies he's championed, you'd feel sorry for him.

Yesterday, meanwhile, Scott announced that he was going all-in on Iowa as well. So, he'll soon be on the Pizza Ranch-drug store-HS football circuit as well, although we suspect there are some establishments in the more rural parts of the state where Pence is welcome but folks like Scott are not.

There have been a total of 25 Iowa caucuses, 13 Democratic (dating back to 1972) and 12 Republican (dating back to 1976). Across those 25 occasions, there is only one real case of a candidate shocking the world with a good showing, and then going on to win his party's nomination. That would be Jimmy Carter in 1976, when the caucuses were still new. Since then, fringy candidates have tried to replicate what Carter did, with no success. What happens is that a fringy candidate (Dick Gephardt, Pete Buttigieg, Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum, etc.) wins, and then gets crushed when the nomination process moves on to more heterogeneous states, or else the fringy candidate just gets crushed in Iowa and has to drop out. And that's the real role of the Iowa caucuses: They don't propel second-tier candidates to the first tier, they just serve to identify which candidates have absolutely no chance of winning. The only question is whether Pence and Scott spend the next three months tilting at hog castration mills, or if they interpret a failure to make a debate stage as a sign it's time to go home. (Z)

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