Driving The Process

As we enter the countdown to the first Presidential primary in Iowa on February 1st, a new level of behind-the-scenes activity is engaging. These activities, largely unknown and unobserved by the public, play a critical role. Not only will they impact who the eventual nominee will be, but also how he or she will govern.

Donald Trump continues to defy the prognostications of seasoned pundits that his campaign will falter…

He has now led in the polls for six months. The establishment is now facing the reality that there is a measureable chance that he may be the Republican Party nominee for President. At first, certain party leaders and their cohorts met in secret to plot a path to derail his campaign. They were discovered. Ben Carson initiated the response of outrage.  Surely the party wasn’t going to revert to back-room politics where a select few choose the nominee for the people. This cabal immediately denied the effort.

Now this so-called establishment is seeking avenues of access into both Donald Trump and Ted Cruz’s campaigns for influence, just in case they are successful. We have seen this before.

In 1980, Ronald Reagan challenged the establishment Republican Party for the nomination. Early in the process most gave him little chance of winning. By the convention, even though then-Governor Reagan had won enough delegates to secure the nomination, the establishment convinced the campaign that, for a smooth convention without protest, and for the good of unifying the party, establishment personnel should become part of the key strategic inner circle. Over the protests of some of the Reagan campaign, the establishment offer was accepted. The convention ended in a vote of acclamation for Governor Reagan. This, however, may have been standard ceremony, for in the past, that was the party’s protocol.

After he was elected, President Reagan then at times struggled in advancing his agenda when it included reform measures that threatened the establishment.

It appears that the electorate is desirous of an outsider as someone who can relate to their frustrations in government failure and gridlock. However, if the primary process results in three or more candidates solidifying positions, and therefore sectors of support, the primary contest will be extended into later state primaries. In this scenario, the establishment becomes more and more important as they leverage their position in support. The later primaries of New York, Maryland, Pennsylvania, California, and New Jersey, are states in which the establishment party organization is stronger than the grassroots conservative movement. Further, the angry, rebellious class of voters who support Donald Trump is largely not subject to grassroots organization. Earned media may not be enough by itself to carry the day. And in that regard, the establishment has great influence in how the earned media is framed in its delivery.

The intensity of special interest groups’ ground activities now become a major factor in the early states. The average turnout in a primary election is 10% of the electorate. The identification and turnout process of key voters can make a major difference. Let’s look at the numbers. The number of caucus attendees for the entire state of Iowa will be somewhere around 125,000 people. In a crowded primary such as the current Republican field, a candidate can win with no more than 20,000 to 25,000 votes. A special interest group, like Right to Life, or an evangelical association, or the National Rifle Association, that has voter lists in excess of 2,500 people, can make a 10% difference in the total vote of an individual candidate. In New Hampshire, the total turnout for a ballot vote is about 120,000 people. Therefore, in caucus states and smaller non-urban states, such organizational turnout can make the difference.

An early victory in Iowa or New Hampshire changes the perspective and image of a campaign and can propel it forward in both voter appeal and fundraising. This is why you hear so much about Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. If a candidate does not win, or at least come in second, in one of these three early states, he or she is unlikely to be one of the last candidates standing at the end of March.

The group that is not engaging or influencing the primaries is the general electorate. Most do not participate. Ninety percent of American citizens are willing to wait until the general election to choose between two candidates delivered to them by the establishment and their counterpart special interest groups. And they have little awareness of how their candidate choices are encumbered by the compromises of the primary process in which they have exercised no say.

Whether or not a Democratic and Republican nominee are crowned by the end of March, or the campaign primary season is extended through the conventions, the choices rendered may be handicapped by the terms and conditions of a primary process when driven by a 10% that may or may not embrace the vision and hope of the electorate at large.

Like the stagecoach lines of the old west, the transportation of passengers and their luggage was fraught with discomfort, unexpected occurrences, and danger. The journey required segments, replacement drivers, horse exchanges, and support stations along the way. The passengers depended upon the competency of the system and the ability and commitment of the drivers. Both the passengers and the drivers, though, knew and were committed to arriving at an agreed upon destination.

Our country has many problems, none that we cannot solve. In the selection of nominees for President of the United States, the driver and horses that pull the coach may be intent upon their own destination. It’s up to the passengers who rely upon the system to inform and direct the drivers to the destination they seek.

It is time to work together toward a future in which we can all agree. It is time to know and commit to that in which we believe. It is time to participate in the American electoral process. Now is not the time to allow a few people to make the choices of leadership for all of us.

Now is the time to honor our citizen responsibility. Now is the time to choose our own future.

My name is Marc Nuttle and this is what I believe.

What do you believe?