Castro’s lament

EDITORIALS

BY ART CULLEN

Irony was not lost as Julian Castro campaigned in Storm Lake while also stumping against the Iowa Caucuses in the quadrennial debate about whether we white people should be first in the nation in the nomination process. Castro argues that Iowa and New Hampshire are not diverse enough to be representative. President Barack Obama obviously thought otherwise.

Castro’s complaint echoes in the recesses of other candidates who failed to gain traction in Iowa. If you can’t win you blame the process and move on, normally. Yet Castro came and smiled and answered all questions from any of the 15 or so gathered at Coffee Tree, “because you deserve an honest answer.” All the while he continues to claim to anyone who will listen that Iowa does not deserve its special status.

He said he hopes to be the nominee but foreclosed that possibility, so far as we can tell, by throwing Iowa under the bus. What is he up to?

It would appear Castro is trying to appeal to people of color to maintain his voice in the current political cycle. He has been on the debate stage launching attacks from the side, trying to get somebody to listen. So are many others. If he wants to be vice-president, why is he in Storm Lake on a Sunday morning? The caucuses do not nominate a vice president. He is not close to the top four in polling, but Castro must think he can break through.

So do others. Tom Steyer has spent $63 million on TV ads trying to drum up votes. He is somewhere around 2%. Michael Bloomberg’s ego is as large, as he dumps $37 million from his own pocket in to a TV buy. John Delaney is buying ads in half-hour chunks in hopes of springing up like Jimmy Carter did. Iowans are not betting on the obviously wealthy businessmen defeating the purportedly wealthy businessman in the White House.

Iowans are settling around Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. Buttigieg is the leader du jour but he is taking his knocks now from rivals as Biden, Sanders and Warren have. Meanwhile, Amy Klobuchar has been plodding along, getting free TV time and moving up in Iowa as a self-styled pragmatist who can win the Midwest. (Except, a Marquette Law School poll of Wisconsin last week showed Klobuchar with the poorest standing of the five in a head-to-head matchup with Trump, which surprised us; we thought she would be a natural from next-door Minnesota. It is only one poll, but she badly trails her rivals in Wisconsin. Electability is her entire argument.)

Those stuck down below with Castro keep at it, hoping for some break like John Kerry had, until the funds run dry. This campaign has been going on for more than a year. Castro was the first to campaign in Storm Lake. For whatever reason, he has not caught on. The winnowing has begun. This is what the caucuses are supposed to be about. The field has gone from 25 down to a half-dozen, realistically. Castro, Delaney, Hickenlooper, Booker, Gabbard et al had as good a chance in Iowa as anywhere — who could have thought the gay mayor of South Bend would be in first place? The caucuses are near, and the field has taken some shape.

The Vilsacks endorse

Tom and Christie Vilsack remind us that Joe Biden is very much among the front-runners. The former governor and first lady remain well-loved among Democrats. The Vilsacks are survivors, and their endorsement says that not all the establishment is dissatisfied with the field. Endorsements do not matter that much to caucus-goers or primary voters. Mike Blouin had nearly every legislative endorsement and lost to Chet Culver in a Democratic primary for governor. Howard Dean had Tom Harkin and Berkley Bedell and went down screaming. However, a lot of people are counting out the Bidens. The Vilsack endorsement — probably the most important in Iowa, since Tom Harkin is sitting it out — is evidence that he remains among the most formidable candidates, and all the polls back it up. Biden remains the only candidate who polls indicate can beat Trump in every swing state. The Vilsacks are cautious and analytical. They see the same data.

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