2016: The Year of the Outsider?

Sep 4, 2015

The latest Iowa Poll, conducted by Selzer and Company and published in the Des Moines Register, shows billionaire real estate developer Donald Trump leading the Republican presidential field, with neurosurgeon Ben Carson the second favorite among likely republican caucus-goers. Neither has been elected to anything before, and according to Des Moines Register Political Columnist, Kathie Obradovich, there has never been a winner of the Iowa Caucuses who has never held office.

"Outsiders do do well in Iowa, despite the fact that they don't win the caucuses," says Obradovich.  

Outsiders do do well in Iowa, despite the fact that they don't win the caucuses.

  She points to examples like magazine publisher Steve Forbes, political commentator Pat Buchanan, and evangelical pastor Pat Robertson, who were able to make a name for themselves during caucus campaigns.  She says Dr. Ben Carson is getting to be much better known in Iowa and as his name recognition increases, so does his popularity.

Trump has been in the lead in nine New Hampshire polls since June. Senior Political Reporter for New Hampshire Public Radio, Josh Rogers says his state isn't an easy place to be a front runner.

"I do think this is a moment when voters are deeply frustrated in both parties and Trump has obviously done a remarkable job of harnessing that and riding that, for the moment, at the very least," Rogers says.

The Iowa Poll also shows Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders rising to within seven points of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Obradovich says people are starting to know who Bernie Sanders is, and while his approval ratings are lower than Clinton's, his disapproval ratings are also lower. 

"He is starting to make the case that he's a credible candidate to run against Hillary Clinton," says Obradovich. "That credibility factor makes a difference to Democrats who want to back someone who can win."

In New Hampshire Sanders has been in the lead in four of the last six polls taken in August.

"He's excited liberal activists in the party who want to take the Democratic Party in a more liberal direction," Rogers explains.

A majority of likely Republican caucus-goers say that whoever their chosen candidate is, they trust him or her to figure out the issues in office and don't necessarily need detailed policy positions from their candidate

  Clinton, however, has deep ties and a lot of institutional support in New Hampshire and the question for the Sanders campaign is whether he can build something that can compete with Clinton's operation in the state.

Another interesting finding in the Iowa Poll is that a majority of likely Republican caucus-goers say that whoever their chosen candidate is, they trust him or her to figure out the issues in office and don't necessarily need detailed policy positions from their candidate.  This is despite the fact that Iowa and New Hampshire voters are known for asking pointed questions about policy.  Obradovich says while it's widely known that voters take personality into account, what's troubling is that they're willing to admit it.

"I think one of the only things voters have to hold their candidates and their elected officials accountable is what they say they're going to do on the campaign trail."

Obradovich says if voters don't insist on details it's tough to hold candidates accountable.

During this River to River conversation, Obradovich and Rogers talk with Host Ben Kieffer about the Iowa Poll and campaign happenings in both of the early nominating states.