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Some takeaways from Iowa

Nick Oxford / Red Dirt Report
An Iowa voter in the town of Rippey sports a Bernie Sanders sticker during Monday night's Democratic caucus.
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OKLAHOMA CITY – Let’s face it. Hillary Clinton is a flip phone in an iPhone 7-ready world.

That was my impression after encountering a rather unpleasant Clinton campaign staffer at a Des Moines rally, it left a pretty sour taste in my mouth. But it contrasted so much from the accessibility of Bernie Sanders or any of the Republican candidates here in the days leading up to the Iowa caucuses, held on Monday night. Clinton's approach and that of her team was, well, Clintonian, if not Bush-esque.

The hostility we experienced, while trying to do our job, was simply another example of the way things are done in Clintonworld, a place where anything goes, damn the consequences. We’ve seen it for years. And you know, it's dated, no matter how hard she tries to embrace the political zeitgeist of 2016. She has her following, obviously, but the energy is taking place far to her left. While Sanders is like Britain's Labour lefty Jeremy Corbyn, Hillary is Britian's discredited warmonger Tony Blair.

And that we must be “re-introduced” to Hillary after she has been campaigining – more or less – since 1991 – is preposterous. She is part of yesterday trying to pass herself off as “today’s progressive.” It's a joke. 

So, we didn’t get to cover that Clinton rally. But we did cover Bernie Sanders. And Martin O’Malley. We covered Carly Fiorina. Chris Christie. Ben Carson. Rick Santorum. Mike Huckabee. Rand Paul. Marco Rubio. We were there, giving our readers in Oklahoma and elsewhere on-the-ground, immediate coverage here at Election Central. And it was very exciting to witness this political process in motion. We did not see nor cover Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz, Donald Trump, Jim Gilmore or John Kasich.

What we saw was America at its best. And on the ground, in a great state like Iowa.

So, leaving Oklahoma City on Saturday morning, together with my hardworking team of Tim Farley, Sarah Hussain and Nick Oxford, Red Dirt Report hit the ground running – literally – when we rolled into Des Moines on Saturday afternoon.


Martin O'Malley hits the streets in Iowa. (Nick Oxford / Red Dirt Report)

Here was a guy straight out of Hollywood’s central casting, both in the looks and policy departments. A gung-ho progressive, O’Malley – former mayor of Baltimore as well – made a few gaffes early on (“white lives matter” comment, racial issues in Baltimore) and could never overcome Clinton’s name recognition or Bernie Sanders’s economic populism.

O’Malley had hoped that his strong pro-immigration stance would resonate with Latino voters and activists.

When Red Dirt Report spoke with Hispanic construction worker Ramon Roman of Des Moines, outside a Kum & Go convenience store, it wasn’t O’Malley’s name that was spoken when we asked Roman whom he supported. It was actually Bernie Sanders AND Marco Rubio.

“I don’t like Donald Trump,” Roman said. “I like whoever is supportive of the Hispanic community.” And yet O’Malley had come out strongest for Latino immigrants, even meeting with hunger-striking immigrants at deportation detention centers.

And while Red Dirt Report met O’Malley several times and spent time with volunteers campaigning for the personable, guitar-playing candidate, clearly 2016 wasn’t his year, dropping out on caucus night.

 I doubt, though, that this is the last we have heard from Martin O’Malley.


Marco Rubio in Iowa. (Nick Oxford / Red Dirt Report)

A few weeks ago I heard Marco Rubio say that if he placed third in Iowa, that that was exactly where he wanted to be. And that’s exactly what happened. It was clear that by the night of the caucuses, that Rubio was gaining steam with voters, particularly in moderately conservative West Des Moines where voters in Precinct 313 voted strongly in favor of Rubio, due to his “electability.” It seems as though many Iowa Republicans felt the same way.

Red Dirt Report predicts that Rubio will do well in New Hampshire and beyond as the remaining Republicans pile on frontrunners Ted Cruz and Donald Trump.


Ben Carson in Iowa. (Sarah Hussain / Red Dirt Report)

It’s one thing to “speak softly,” but its another to speak so softly that you can hardly be heard over the gentle hum of an air conditioning unit. Ben Carson certainly had his support among social conservatives, but his mild-mannered persona and lack of political experience seems to be working against him beyond his base. Will Carson still be in the race beyond Super Tuesday? Probably not.


Carly Fiorina in Iowa. (Sarah Hussain / Red Dirt Report)

Watching former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina speak to a roomful of folks (including actor Richard Dreyfuss, as it turns out) in suburban Des Moines was interesting in that she touts her “foreign policy” experience. While that is “true,” in a respect, it was as a corporate executive, not a public official. Regardless, she did not do well in Iowa. Despite her “outsider” persona, she is still viewed as part of the “establishment,” with her corporate experience. And while that may work with the bombastic Trump, this doesn’t seem to be Fiorina’s time.


Mike Huckabee in Iowa. (Nick Oxford / Red Dirt Report)

The former Arkansas governor is certainly a personable guy and his “aw shucks” routine was on display when we covered one of his rallies (a small one, truth be told). After he failed to do well in Iowa on Monday night, he faced reality and dropped out of the race. It will be interesting to see who Mike Huckabee will support as the field narrows.


Chris Christie in Iowa. (Nick Oxford / Red Dirt Report)

The current New Jersey governor and former federal prosecutor seemed to focus on his experience as the latter, rather than the former, interestingly enough. Chris Christie’s stump speech focuses on foreign policy and particularly fighting terrorism. While that worked well in the mid-2000’s, the world has changed and economic issues are rallying people around other candidates who embrace that sort of populism. Also, Christie’s dismissal of concerns about the government expanding its surveillance of the citizenry is particularly concerning to civil libertarians. Remember that Christie is the only one in the GOP mix to have actually used the Patriot Act, while working as a federal prosecutor. Something to consider going forward.


Rick Santorum, in the trees. (Nick Oxford / Red Dirt Report)

Not too much to say about Rick Santorum, other than that he had his day in 2012 and history did not repeat itself in Iowa. Santorum's days as a viable candidate are done (and he may be, as I write this, be dropping out as well) and he just wasn't a good fit in this rapidly-changing political landscape.


Rand Paul in Iowa. (Sarah Hussain / Red Dirt Report)

As we write this, we have learned that Rand Paul, the senator from Kentucky, has dropped out of the presidential race, following his fifth-place showing on Monday night. 

While Rand Paul wasn't as fiery on the stump as his father Ron Paul, he did talk about civil liberties, the expansion of the surveillance society and the endless wars, all issues largely ignored by other Republican candidates. 

As Iowa Rand Paul supporter Jonas Cutler told Red Dirt Report: "I think people are reacting out of emotion and fear and its being fueled" by the Republican frontrunners. And now that Paul is out of it, those aforementioned issues about liberty are largely being abandoned by the remaining candidates.

So, all in all, a brief overview of the candidates we saw and heard from. On to New Hampshire and beyond.

Stay tuned!

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Andrew W. Griffin

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Andrew W. Griffin received his Bachelor of Science in Journalism from...

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About Red Dirt Report

Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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