History books will try to compare Ronald Reagan’s and Donald Trump’s losses in Iowa as examples of why skipping the debate just prior to caucus is a bad idea. In the case of Reagan, it was true. For Trump, it didn’t hurt him. If anything, it gave him a little bump.
This is a different age. In 1980 with three network television stations and no such thing as 24-hour news, the Internet, or smartphones, it was important for candidates to take every opportunity to get in front of voters. Reagan made the mistake of thinking that his lead was enough, but he didn’t put the effort into making his case and ended up offending some Iowans in the process. Today, Rick Santorum has probably been seen by more Iowans than Reagan was in 1980. Perhaps more importantly, Reagan’s absence was a true snub while Trump had painted his exit as a righteous maneuver against the evil mainstream media. The voters that he lost from his absence were made up by voters he gained by his unwillingness to bend to corporate media puppeteers.
The next obvious cause for Trump’s demise is his lack of a ground game. This is partially true, but don’t believe Trump’s Tweets. He put in a huge amount of effort in Iowa. He didn’t have the right playbook, but don’t listen to the mainstream media narrative that he had a feeble ground game. We can look back to August…
— Betsy Klein (@betsy_klein) October 7, 2015
— huitecouture (@huitecouture) October 17, 2015
…or you can take it further back to April of last year and see that he was already trying before he announced his candidacy in June…
— Alex Swoyer (@ASwoyer) April 7, 2015
…in fact, you can take it all the way back to February, a year ago this month, and see that he was already pinning high hopes and lots of energy on an Iowa victory by appealing to the grassroots…
— Eliza Windsor (@ElizaWindso) February 25, 2015
The bottom line is that his (and mainstream media’s) excuse of not putting the right amount of effort into Iowa is completely bogus. He came into the race fully expecting to win in Iowa and start his self-serving revolution in Des Moines. He never wavered on the importance of Iowa or the work that his team was putting into the state.
This is important because many are believing that he’ll take the loss as a rallying cry in New Hampshire the way Reagan did when he won half of the voters. It won’t happen like that for Trump. He’ll once again under-perform for one very important reason.
As dismaying as this will be to Trump supporters, the real reason his poll numbers were so far off from his actual results is because he doesn’t have the support that polls and social media show. He has the most enthusiasm behind his campaign, but enthusiasm doesn’t necessarily translate into dedicated supporters willing to get out and vote. That’s not to say that he doesn’t have passionate supporters; as he rightly declares, he is now second on the all-time list of most votes in an Iowa GOP caucus. However, just as the camera adds eight pounds to a person, so too does the Trump name add several percentage points to poll numbers.
Fox News is an excuse for Trump. Poor organization is a talking point for the media. Both are incorrect. He’s a valid candidate, but he’s not as far ahead of his competitors as his vaunted poll numbers indicate.