Tuesday, August 14 , 2018, 12:17 am | Overcast 67º

 
 
 
 

Mark Shields: Cracking the Code of Presidential Campaign Speak

“Do you ever get the feeling,” asked humorist Robert Orben, “that the only reason we have elections is to find out if the polls were right?”

But even after real, live Americans actually do vote in Iowa and New Hampshire, somehow we always seem to be left with more winners than losers.

Because you, dear readers, are busy enough, your faithful correspondent offers this translation of what the predictable statements of campaign 2016 do in truth mean.

Predictable statement No. 1: We were clear from the first day. This race in not a dash — it’s a marathon.

Delegates are the name of the game, and these first two states represent a mere 53 out of 2,472 convention delegates. With 98 percent of the delegates are yet to be chosen, we’re in this for the long haul.

What it means: A spokesperson is speaking about a candidate who finished out of the money in the actual voting in both Iowa and New Hampshire.

Predictable statement No. 2: Iowa and New Hampshire, with more farms than minorities, are not America in 2016.

The biggest city between them has fewer people than Gilbert, Ariz., or Boise, Idaho. What can anyone say in defense of a place where their idea of wine and cheese is muscatel and Velveeta?

What it means: A nationally prominent East Coast pundit was dead wrong in his predictions about who would win the first two contests and is now trying to save face.

Predictable statement No. 3: When ordinary, hard-working Americans who take both their politics and their responsibility seriously dare to defy the disdainfulness of their social superiors and brave February’s frozen tundra to vote in such impressive numbers, America should listen closely. Because they are saying, “We can do better.” 

What it means: A TV commentator is proud to have correctly predicted the winner.

A reality check for everyone: These first two states do in fact decide who will not be elected president.

In the last 11 national elections, no presidential candidate who competed in Iowa and New Hampshire and who did not win one or both states has ever gone on to win the White House in November.

Every candidate, no matter how far back in the field he ends up, insists that, somehow, he has done “better than expected.”

These campaigns must really set their sights very low. How else could a miserable, eighth-place finish still qualify as “better than expected?” 

I will happily wear the bumper sticker of any candidate who confesses that he actually did “worse than expected.”

A closing note: Running for public office, we should remember, is a very human experience. Most people who run for president are individuals already with records of significant accomplishments.

Many have been successful governors or senators who have led important causes or written serious laws; others are former military leaders who have led troops into battle.

But as we see again, most who do run lose. It’s all voluntary, of course, but there are family members and loved ones who feel the pain of such public defeat.

“It takes a lot of guts to stick your neck out and run for any public office,”​ Robert Strauss, the late Democratic leader, wisely observed. “But the only thing that’s tougher than announcing for office is withdrawing from a race, because when you drop out you are saying that you are quitting and that you’re beaten.”

Losing is almost always painfully public and publicly painful.

Mark Shields is one of the most widely recognized political commentators in the United States. The former Washington Post editorial columnist appears regularly on CNN, on public television and on radio. Click here to contact him, or click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made through Stripe below, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments and a mailing address for checks.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Noozhawk Supporter

First name
Last name
Enter your email
Select your membership level
×

Payment Information

You are purchasing:

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover
One click only, please!

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >