Entries in GOP Hopefuls (3)


Iowa Caucuses: The Historical Importance of Victory

Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images(DES MOINES, Iowa) -- The first-in-the-nation voting contest in Iowa is rapidly approaching, and each candidate is scrambling to either solidify or improve their polling numbers. With just four days to go, the latest poll numbers show Mitt Romney in the lead, Ron Paul polling in a solid second place, and it appears the race is on for third place among four other contenders.

Candidates spend a great deal of time and resources in Iowa, but just how important, historically speaking, is a victory in the Hawkeye State?

The Iowa caucus has had about a 50 percent “success” rate when it comes to predicting the nominee, meaning that roughly half the time the winner in Iowa goes on to secure their party’s nomination for president. On the Republican side, among the winners of the past six Republican caucuses, three have gone on to win the GOP nomination. George W. Bush, Bob Dole and Gerald Ford each won Iowa, but John McCain, George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan did not emerge victorious after that first vote.

Democrats have about the same prediction rate. Since Iowa moved to the first in the nation voting contest in 1972, five out of the total nine Democratic victors in Iowa have gone on to become the Democratic nominee for president. Two of them -- Barack Obama and Jimmy Carter -- have gone on to become president.

As for that third place finish -- the candidate who secures that spot will be in good company. Three former third place finishers have gone on to win their party’s nomination, and two have gone on to become President; Bill Clinton placed third in 1992, as did both of the eventual nominees in 1988 -- George H.W. Bush and former Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis.

Even a fourth-place finish does not necessarily indicate that a candidates run is over. In 2008, John McCain finished in fourth place, coming in just behind former Sen. Fred Thompson.

With this historical context in mind, don’t expect the GOP presidential hopefuls who do not win in Iowa to immediately throw in the towel. New Hampshire will hold their contest just seven days later, and everything can change in the Granite State.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Under GOP Fire for Iran Policy, White House Defends Strategy 

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(HONOLULU) -- Under fire from Republican presidential candidates for failing to contain Iran’s nuclear weapon ambitions, the White House offered a robust defense of its policies, even as President Obama began the potentially arduous process of trying to persuade the leaders of Russia and China to take further actions.

Ben Rhodes, President Obama’s deputy national security adviser for strategic communications, told reporters that “in the previous eight years before President Obama took office, you saw Iran go from having zero centrifuges spinning to thousands of centrifuges spinning. At the point in time when we took office, the international community was divided as it relates to Iran, and Iran was internally united. Today, we see the international community united in applying pressure on Iran, and we see unprecedented internal divisions within Iran’s political system.”

Rhodes, speaking at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation conference in Hawaii, said the sanctions against Iran that President Obama pushed to have implemented have “applied so much pressure that the Iranian economy has ground to a halt.”

Across the country, the president’s Republican rivals had a less flattering take.

“This is, of course, President Obama’s greatest failing from a foreign policy standpoint,” former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney said Saturday at a CBS News/National Journal debate held in South Carolina. “He recognized the gravest threat that America and the world faces: … a nuclear Iran, and he did not do what was necessary to get Iran to be dissuaded from their nuclear folly.”

In a report issued this week, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) accused the leaders of Iran of trying to develop a nuclear weapon before abandoning such efforts in 2003, though the IAEA warned that some aspects of that program “may still be ongoing.”

The report detailed an Iranian program that sought “uranium suitable for use in an undisclosed enrichment program. The product of this program would be converted into metal for use in a new warhead. … The agency has serious concerns about the military dimensions to Iran’s nuclear program. After assessing carefully and critically the extensive information available to it, the agency finds the information to be, overall, credible.”

On Saturday, Obama met individually with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Chinese President Hu Jintao. He said after his meeting with Medvedev that he pressed them to “shape a common response so that we can move Iran to follow its international obligations when it comes to its nuclear program.”

White House officials say there is no need for the international community to return to the United Nations to impose a new set of sanctions against Iran, given the IAEA report, since the previous sanctions contained ways to continue increasing the pressure. Officials said Obama very frankly pushed Medvedev and Hu to join the United States in taking such steps.

But there was no apparent progress to report. In their public remarks, Hu did not mention Iran, and Medvedev merely said that he and Obama had spoken about the subject.

White House officials argued that this is the beginning of the process of convincing Russia and China to go along with even more punishment of Iran, and they are confident Russia will be supportive, with China ultimately going along as well.

“The information within the IAEA reports tells a factual story of a government that’s not meeting its obligations,” Rhodes said. “And in that context, it’s necessary for the international community to respond. I think the Russians and the Chinese understand that. And we’re going to be working with them to formulate that response.”

The IAEA Board of Governors meets on Nov. 17 to discuss what steps should next be taken.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


What Is the Ames Straw Poll?

Eric Thayer/Getty Images(AMES, Iowa) -- There have been five times in America's history when Iowa Republicans descended upon the grounds of their flagship university to gorge themselves on sticks of fried food, snap photos with some of America's most famous politicians and, oh yeah, vote for who they want to be the next president of the United States.

GOP hopefuls, or more accurately Iowa hopefuls, have been dolling out campaign swag, snacks, sweets and speeches to Iowa voters in the hopes of persuading them to cast a ballot in their favor in Saturday's Ames Straw Poll. But this vote, in every legal sense of the word, is meaningless.

It does not count toward the Iowa caucus nor does it play in the general election. In fact, historically it has had little correlation with who will be a successful candidate.

Of the five straw poll winners in history, three have gone on to win the Iowa caucus, two managed to secure the Republican nomination and only one has ever made it to the White House. Statistically speaking, a highly coveted win in Ames gives a candidate about a 20 percent chance of even getting on the ballot in the general election.

But don't tell Ron Paul that. The Texas Congressman forked over $31,000 to secure a prime tent-pitching spot on the grassy knoll closest to the Hilton Coliseum, where voting will take place. Tim Pawlenty has already paid a pretty penny as well, spending at least $50,000 to bus supporters into Ames.

Not to mention the 800 or more journalists who have flocked to the Buckeye State to report every bite of pork-chop-on-a-stick Mitt Romney takes and each corndog the Sarah Palin crew distributes to hungry reporters.

As Iowa Independent reporter Lynda Waddington put it, "It's a rowdy carnival of politics, served with a side of barbeque and ice cream."

And forget voter registration and polling station regulations. At the Ames Straw Poll it's all about the flair, the money and the ink.

To vote in the Ames poll, voters must first battle through the barrage of campaign materials strategically placed near the entrance of the voting Coliseum. To gain entrance to the Coliseum, voters first have to fork over $30 to the Iowa Republican Party. And the one thing standing between GOP enthusiasts and voter fraud is a "wash-proof" stamp on the hand.

So why are political junkies glued to CSPAN Ames coverage as if it's Shark Week on steroids for a poll that is so unbinding?

Because the Ames Straw Poll is like the first inning of the World Series. It doesn't necessarily predict the winner, but it does set the tone for the rest of the game.

Ames is the first real test of voters' confidence in each candidate. And as the stock market has clearly reminded everyone lately, confidence determines where the money goes.

For example, many expected Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback to take the top spot at the 2007 straw poll. When he turned up with a comparatively dismal third place finish behind Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee, his supporters' confidence was shaken and his fundraising reports showed it.

From April to June, in the first quarter before the straw poll, Brownback raised more than $1.4 million. But the following quarter, which ran from July through October, his fundraising dropped to $925,000; by the last quarter of 2007, Brownback pulled in less than $140,000.

In Ames, it is not necessarily about winning, but about doing better than expected, which is why the nine candidates on the ballot this year are all downplaying where they hope to finish. As ABC's Matt Jaffe pointed out, Pawlenty has said he will be happy with anything higher than sixth place.

So with expectations running high and checkbooks at the ready, the political world turns to a tiny town in Iowa to eat, drink, party and poll.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio