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News Service

News Service:

Annette Hacker, director,
(515) 294-3720

Office: (515) 294-4777

06-04-07

bystrom2008

Dianne Bystrom, director of ISU's Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women and Politics, has been following presidential campaigns closely. Photo by Dave Gieseke, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Contacts:

Dianne Bystrom, Catt Center for Women & Politics, (515) 294-4185, (515) 451-5084 (c), dbystrom@iastate.edu

Steffen Schmidt, Political Science, (515) 294-3825, sws@iastate.edu

Mike Ferlazzo, News Service, (515) 294-8986, ferlazzo@iastate.edu

ISU political scientists ponder Thompson's GOP entry, Clinton's Iowa strategy

AMES, Iowa -- There's already been a "rock star" following for some of the 2008 presidential candidates, so a former Tennessee senator-turned-actor may feel quite at home entering the race. Fred Thompson's decision to run for the Republican nomination adds more intrigue to an already crowded field that still has more than six months of campaigning ahead before the Iowa Caucuses in January.

But with 10 GOP candidates already vying for precious party campaign funding and votes, two Iowa State University political scientists question where Thompson's support will come from -- particularly in Iowa, the first battleground state.

Meanwhile, on the Democratic side, national party favorite Hillary Clinton just can't seem to overtake John Edwards for the polling lead among likely Iowa caucus voters, said University Professor of Political Science Steffen Schmidt. Clinton's strategists suggested that she bypass Iowa in favor of other early big-delegate states. But her insistence to continue her Iowa campaign may actually have been the strategy, according to Schmidt.

"The Iowa strategy memo was leaked on purpose. It was basically done so Hillary could say, 'I'm not going to skip Iowa, we're going to continue to run,'" said Schmidt, host of "Dr. Politics," a weekly political call-in show on National Public Radio-affiliate WOI-AM. "That's my view. I actually said the same thing as the strategist (about skipping Iowa) months ago. With the new schedule and more big states jumping in on Feb. 5, it is possible for someone to get really strong momentum going in several other states and not necessarily from Iowa."

Dianne Bystrom, director of ISU's Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women and Politics, concurs with that theory.

"When I saw that story (about Clinton's Iowa strategy), I thought the same thing," said Bystrom. "I thought it was an intentional leak by their campaign so that Sen. Clinton, in turn, could make a strong statement that she was committed to Iowa."

Thompson's name doesn't necessarily carry Iowa clout

The ISU political scientists also agree that Thompson has plenty of name recognition from his acting career, but that doesn't guarantee him anything in Iowa -- at either the GOP Iowa Straw Poll on Sunday, Aug. 11, in Iowa State's Hilton Coliseum, or the January caucuses.

"Iowa is a caucus state, which means organization is everything," said Bystrom. "While Thompson will do well in polling because of his name recognition -- because he's not only an actor in a popular TV series (NBC's "Law and Order"), but also has played roles that portrayed him in positions of authority and power in movies -- he's starting later than the other candidates in terms of Iowa organization. John McCain, (Rudy) Giuliani and (Mitt) Romney are already established here. So the key for Thompson in Iowa is ultimately his organizational strength."

Schmidt said it's hard to tell what impact Thompson's candidacy will ultimately have on the GOP race because of all the variables.

"Number one, with so many people already in, his big task is to find the stragglers among the elite of the Republican Party who can help him fund his campaign," he said. "There are already so many other people in the race who have gone to their sugar daddies. Most people I've talked to think there aren't that many people left who want to bundle money for another candidate.

"Number two, there is a question of why we need another Republican in the system," he said. "Where does he (Thompson) fit in? What voters does he provide a critical 'must-support' to? Most of us think that he doesn't have a clearly identified constituency, but rather will nibble from several of the candidates among voters who will find it refreshing to see someone new. So he'll pick up some people and get out of the single digits."

Clinton still poised to make strong Iowa run

As for Clinton, things may not be as bad inside Iowa as they appear.

"I'm not sure that she's losing traction in the state," said Bystrom, who has contributed to 11 books on politics, including "Anticipating Madam President" (2003). "John Edwards clearly has the early advantage in Iowa. He's practically lived in the state since the last election. His strong organizational strength was shown in 2004 with his unexpected strong finish, and he's kept up in the state since that time. He enters here as the leading candidate in terms of organization.

"One thing that may be affecting Clinton's lower polling numbers in Iowa, as compared with her national numbers that put her in a strong lead among Democratic presidential hopefuls, is the state's below average record of electing women," Bystrom added. "We might be seeing a bit of a bias against her in a state that has not done a good job electing women to state and, especially, federal office. But she has a chance to turn that around by getting out and meeting the voters of Iowa."

Schmidt isn't surprised by Clinton's Iowa showing thus far.

"The thing is, Edwards has spent a lot of time here, and Barack Obama appeals as a fresh face to idealists and college students and so on," he said. "For the rest of the Democrats in Iowa, some of them are more conservative and as a result, they were at one point taken aback by some of the Clinton behavior in the White House. So the Clintons were not their favorite people, really."

Time will tell whether this Clinton can turn her role as the party favorite into an Iowa victory.

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Schmidt

Steffen Schmidt

Quick look

Two Iowa State political scientists assess Fred Thompson's decision to run for the Republican presidential nomination among an already crowded field, and why national party favorite Hillary Clinton just can't seem to overtake John Edwards for the polling lead among likely Iowa caucus voters on the Democratic side.

Quote

"The Iowa strategy memo was leaked on purpose. It was basically done so Hillary could say, 'I'm not going to skip Iowa, we're going to continue to run.' That's my view. I actually said the same thing as the strategist (about skipping Iowa) months ago. With the new schedule and more big states jumping in on Feb. 5, it is possible for someone to get really strong momentum going in several other states and not necessarily from Iowa."

Steffen Schmidt