SUNY Cortland Professor Says "Victory" in Iowa Could Come in Many Forms

Feb 3, 2020

Many New Yorkers had their eyes on Iowa, as that state starts the selection process for presidential nominees. One local political scientist says there a few things to look for.


SUNY Cortland Political Science Professor Robert Spitzer notes many candidates have been running for a year to get to this point. He says victory claims might come from more than just the candidate with the highest delegate count, or the most actual ballot votes.

"But there's another element to looking for a winner as well, and that's the perceptual winner. That is to say, the candidate that does better than as expected to do will be a candidate who will claim a moral victory."

Those claims could be significant in how candidates position themselves in the next primary, next Tuesday. Then a flood of primaries, Spitzer says, should rapidly winnow down the field of up to 15 democratic candidates who will be in all or part of the contests. Spitzer does not expect the impeachment debate and trial to have much impact on the democratic caucus or primaries. But it will have an ongoing effect on the electorate.

"The main effect of the impeachment saga has been to harden the battle lines on both sides. The Democrats and Trump opponents are convinced that he committted serious impeachable offenses; the Senate just didn't go along with that. The Republicans believe it's all a lot of show and a lot of meaningless politics, and then would simply get an effort to get Trump out of office or to de-legitimize him somehow." 

He does believe the impeachment process, regardless of its outcome, was essential given the seriousness of charges against the President. He also believes we’ll hear a lot more about it during the campaign, with more information coming out from former Security Advisor John Bolton and others, that could sway voters. 

Spitzer views the impeachment process as something historic and could be influential in the overall election. 

"This particular inquiry in the Senate is the one and only one that has not, in our history, involved any testimony. I think that's kind of a problem and puts an asterisk in the history books, at least. But, I think it has unfolded very much in the way Mitch McConnell wanted it to unfold. Although, I think he [and President Trump] would have preferred the process to be over Trump's state of the union address on Tuesday."