Northeast Arkansas Political Animals talk Iowa, 2016 presidential campaign

by Michael Wilkey ([email protected]) 158 views 

Change has been the operative word in politics for at least a decade and voters are seeking it in a major way, the co-chairs of the NEA Political Animals group said Friday.

Republican Andrea Allen and Democrat L.J. Bryant spoke to Talk Business and Politics about the presidential campaign, which on Monday (Feb. 1) features the Iowa Caucus. After the caucus, all of the candidates head to New Hampshire Feb. 9 while Democrats go to Nevada on Feb. 20.

On Feb. 20, Republicans also head to South Carolina for their primary. From there, the Nevada Republican Caucus is on Feb. 23 and the first primaries end Feb. 27 with Democrats heading to South Carolina.

Of the presidential candidates, several have discussed their outsider status with voters during campaign stops.

“Everyone wants change,” Allen said. “You see it from (Sen. Bernie) Sanders to (Donald) Trump to (Ted) Cruz.”

“It has been there since 2008 with Obama,” Bryant said.

The first contest will be in Iowa, with Allen and Bryant differing on who may win. Bryant predicted Trump would win and an average of polls may bear that out. According to the Real Clear Politics average on Friday, Trump leads in Iowa with 31.8%, followed by U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, at 24.8% and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., in third place with 14%. Allen believes Cruz may have the edge in Iowa due to a strong get-out-the-vote campaign.

As for the Democrats, the same poll showed a close race in Iowa. The average on Friday showed former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton with a 46.7% to 44.6% lead over Sanders. Bryant believes Clinton will win Iowa, but the Sanders campaign will not give up.

The New Hampshire numbers on Friday also showed a clear advantage in both parties. The Republican average showed Trump with a 31.3% to 12.5% lead over Gov. John Kasich, R-Ohio, while Sanders has a 53.7 to 39.4% lead over Clinton.

Bryant, who has worked on a campaign in New Hampshire, said the campaign style in the state is more of a combative style that draws a lot on retail politics, helping a candidate like Sanders. However, Bryant said any momentum Sanders may gain in New Hampshire could evaporate when voters in the South head to the polls in March.

On the Republican debate Thursday night in Iowa without frontrunner Donald Trump, Bryant said the no-show may end up helping Trump, while Allen said it may be a wash.

“Skipping the debate allowed Trump to avoid tough policy questions right before the Iowa Caucus. That is an advantage for him,” Allen said. “On the other hand, his negotiation with Fox News to get Megyn Kelly off stage, failed. (It) could hurt him.”

Bryant said he does not believe Sanders will be the Democratic nominee, but noted the 74-year-old self-described “Democratic Socialist” has been resilient throughout his political career.

Rubio, 44, is telegenic with a good family and good story to tell, Bryant said. However, Bryant said Rubio may face the “youth question” that candidates like John F. Kennedy and Barack Obama faced on the campaign trail. However, Allen said Rubio did well in the debate Thursday and may be in the catbird seat.

“He is in a great spot. You know, slow and steady often wins the race,” Allen said.

After the Nevada caucus and South Carolina primary, the battle then shifts to Arkansas and at least a dozen other states March 1 in the SEC Primary. Trump will campaign in Little Rock on Wednesday (Feb. 4), with a stop at Barton Coliseum.

Allen believes the candidates will visit Arkansas in the days leading up to the primary but any decision will be last minute. In addition to Arkansas, voters in Alabama, Georgia, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia will also vote March 1.

On March 5, Republicans in Kentucky and Louisiana will vote while Democrats in Louisiana will mark ballots. Voters in Mississippi head to the polls March 8 while Missouri voters vote on March 15.

Allen and Bryant said they believe the close proximity of Northeast Arkansas to Memphis, North Mississippi and Southeast Missouri puts the region in a perfect location to draw candidates to campaign. People have until Monday (Feb. 1) to register to vote in order to vote in the March 1 primary.

Early voting goes from Feb. 16 until Feb. 29.