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Key tips for candidates, 3 months out from Iowa caucuses

Key tips for candidates, 3 months out from Iowa caucuses


SIOUX CITY | Iowans who are dialed into politics will head to libraries, schools and homes in three months to state their presidential preferences in the Hawkeye state's important caucus voting.

There likely will be a lot of twists and turns among the nearly 20 candidates from the Democratic and Republican parties over those 13 weeks leading up to caucus night on Feb. 1.

Each White House hopeful will try to make a lasting impression to corral support. The polling leaders, currently former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for the Democrats and retired surgeon Ben Carson for the Republicans, will try to hold on, while those down the line will seek to seize some momentum.

They'll employ a host of strategies in the attempt to win the 2016 Iowa caucuses crown. Iowa political science professors gave some offerings on how the candidates can do just that. The professors offered concise input to the following question: What does each candidate need to do over the next three months to do well in the caucuses?

The answers came from Steffen Schmidt from Iowa State University, Tim Hagle from the University of Iowa and Christopher Larimer from the University of Northern Iowa.

Hagle said some candidates may drop out before February. "It seems that more marginal candidates are hanging on this time. If 10 or more make it to the caucuses, it might be harder for GOP voters to coalesce around a few of them," he said.

Larimer said about half the candidates -- Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Donald Trump, Ben Carson, John Kasich and Ted Cruz --- have the ability to reach the promised land of a Top 3 Iowa finish. The others will need "a great deal of luck, including other candidates dropping out and/or the mood of the electorate changing significantly," Larimer said.

HILLARY CLINTON, Democrat, former senator and secretary of state

Schmidt: Meet more people face to face.

Hagle: It’s back to inevitability status for Clinton. It would take a huge problem at this point (maybe an indictment) to keep her from winning the Iowa caucuses.

BERNIE SANDERS, Democrat, U.S. senator from Vermont

Schmidt: Stay the course, feel the 'Bern.'

Hagle: Many think Sanders effectively gave up by not engaging Clinton on the email issue during the Democrats’ debate. His organization is working hard, but he’ll need to do more to show he’s the better representative for Democrats than Clinton.

MARTIN O'MALLEY, Democrat, former Maryland governor

Larimer: Continue to talk about executive experience and governing ability.

Hagle: It seems unlikely he’ll even break double digits. Success for him might be that he’s raised his national profile and might be considered for something in a Clinton administration.

DONALD TRUMP, Republican, businessman

Larimer: Need to be visible and accessible, celebrity status may start to fade if he is not in Iowa more often. Somehow demonstrate confidence that he can effectively govern.

Hagle: A candidate needs a strong organization to make sure those supporters actually turn out on caucus night. He’s trying to strengthen his ground game, but his poll numbers may be starting to fade, which might mean his efforts are coming a bit late.

JEB BUSH, Republican, former Florida governor

Schmidt: Get Poppy Bush (former president George H.W. Bush) to campaign for you.

Hagle: Bush has had a difficult time finding his footing in the GOP race. He has the skills, record, and resources, to do well, but needs to find a better way to get his message across.

CARLY FIORINA, Republican, former business executive

Schmidt: Fire 39 worthless slackers working for your campaign.

Larimer: She needs to continue to be visible in Iowa, but just as important she needs to build an organization and lock up precinct captains.

Hagle: A compelling initial introduction can get one attention, but you need more to get supporters’ long term support. She’ll also need to demonstrate mastery of a wide variety of issues and, of course, put together a strong ground game.

BEN CARSON, Republican, retired neurosurgeon

Larimer: Likely GOP caucusgoers are apparently feeling more comfortable with Carson. For Carson to win, he will need to make sure voters feel confident in his ability to get things done.

Hagle: Carson will get increased scrutiny because of his surge, so he’ll need to be able to handle the increased attention and strengthen his organization to make sure his new support translates into supporters on caucus night.

TED CRUZ, Republican, U.S. senator from Texas

Larimer: Convince the social conservative electorate that he is the only viable candidate, that Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee have had their chances and that (Bobby) Jindal is not viable.

Hagle: Cruz seems to be positioned to do well on caucus night. One key for him may be the number of other candidates who drop out or fade between now and then.

RAND PAUL, Republican, U.S. senator from Kentucky

Larimer: The libertarian portion of the caucus electorate is no longer visible or showing well in polls. Paul needs to step out of his comfort zone on foreign policy if he wants to do well.

Hagle: Paul has been emphasizing the youth vote, particularly college students. There are so many other candidates with lesser organizations that he could still do well on caucus night if those young voters actually turn out.

MARCO RUBIO, Republican, U.S. senator from Florida

Schmidt: Join Trump in beating up Jeb.

Larimer: He needs to firm up his stances on core issues, avoid flip-flopping, and better explain past votes on immigration. In addition to visiting the state often, he needs to show he is more than just a personally appealing first-term senator.

MIKE HUCKABEE, Republican, former Arkansas governor

Schmidt: Pray harder, check out retirement homes in Boca Raton.

Larimer: He has the benefit of voters knowing and being comfortable with him but he doesn't have the newness factor GOP caucus-goers seem to be clamoring for.

RICK SANTORUM, Republican, former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania

Larimer: Unlike Jindal, Huckabee, and Cruz, Santorum seems to recognize that his chances for an unexpectedly high finish on caucus night is going to require more than the social conservative vote. He needs to continue with his message of increasing the well-being of the middle class which has broader appeal.

Hagle: The circumstances that led to his success last time aren’t likely to be repeated and voters seem to be more interested in outsiders and fresh faces this time.

LINDSEY GRAHAM, Republican, U.S. senator from South Carolina

Schmidt: Have a couple beers with John McCain.

Hagle: His success will be the extent to which he’s able to focus the discussion on foreign policy, defense, and national security issues.

BOBBY JINDAL, Republican, Louisiana governor

Schmidt: Hope 14 other Republicans drop out of the race.

Larimer: So far, being in the state is not moving him in the polls. Gov. Jindal somehow needs to demonstrate viability and electability.

Hagle: He’s working hard in Iowa, but several other candidates would need to drop out before Jindal will get the hard look that he needs.

CHRIS CHRISTIE, Republican, New Jersey governor

Schmidt: Talk louder and yell at people, because Trump has Out-In-Your-Faced you.

Larimer: If he is serious about Iowa, he needs to start by spending more time in Iowa. He needs to remind voters of the tough stances and decisions he made as a GOP governor in a blue state.

JOHN KASICH, Republican, Ohio governor

Larimer: He needs to start by spending time in Iowa. Kasich should also try be the Branstad candidate. His campaign should focus on his record as a Republican governor of a swing state not unlike Iowa governor Terry Branstad.

Hagle: He doesn’t seem to be trying very hard in Iowa, so success for him will likely depend on how many others drop out or fade.


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