Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of

Articles by Josh

That was not an easy speech to watch. But as political strategy it was clear cut. It was likely effective for that strategy. The White House sees 2020 as a base election and seems relatively unconcerned with expanding its political coalition. The plan is to electrify his existing coalition and perhaps grab some undecideds with an image of a proud, traditionalist nation surrounded by foes. Guns, Rush Limbaugh, ending the horror of abortion, immigrant murderers – all the touchstones of Trumpism.

What did you think?

As I noted below, President Trump’s rising poll numbers have my attention. They are worrisome. But there’s been another critique floating around since last night and that is that it’s a bad sign for Democrats that turnout at the Iowa caucuses was just on par with 2016 rather than the high numbers from 2008. (The Post’s Karen Tumulty makes the argument here.) I don’t have to remind you 2008 turned out better than 2016. But I’m pretty confident that this conventional wisdom is wrong. Normal turnout in Iowa is just fine in terms of what it might say about November. Here’s why.

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If you follow polling you know that over the last couple weeks President Trump’s approval numbers have been trending up. The differences are small. But even small differences measured in aggregate make a difference. If the President is at 43% approval on election day and gets near around that number he’s defeated. If it’s 46% or 47% victory is possible and even likely. Small differences over time count.

538’s composite average has notched up a couple points over the second half of January and this morning Gallup released the highest approval rating of Trump’s presidency: 49%.

Why is this happening?

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I wanted to share TPM Reader RB’s more positive take on the Iowa Caucus, if not this particular execution of it. And that prompts me to add this slight qualification of my condemnation. These are great participatory civic exercises. You can see that watching them. They’re just not substitutes for elections. That may be a sort of impossible answer since if they don’t “count” people wouldn’t participate in the same way. But both can be true. We have expectations of elections. And the key one is that everyone gets a voice, an equal voice, at least on the foundational act of voting. Not just everyone in the sense of people who can’t necessarily spend a whole evening out doing this — covering differences in class, having children, working night jobs. That also means people who simply do not want to publicly announce their political beliefs or get hassled by neighbors or strangers about changing their votes.

With that, TPM Reader RB

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Iowa shouldn’t matter. It’s a small state that looks very different from the national Democratic electorate. In 2016 it voted Republican. This state’s outsized impact on the presidential nominating process rests somewhere between absurd and scandalous. But this debacle tonight is difficult to process.

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Obviously this is a pretty big debacle regardless of what the ultimate explanation is. But I want to note one thing. The state Democratic party has put out a series of statements which say that they found inconsistencies among the three separate tallies of data they planned to report and that they were thus rescrutinizing or rechecking the data to make sure everything was right. They were clear that it wasn’t a problem with the results. It was a delay in the reporting. They also said that the app that precincts were supposed to use to report the data did not break down.

But there have been a number of interviews with precinct captains (one example below) who say that the app simply failed or that people couldn’t get it to work. They were then told to call in the results but they faced long holds or couldn’t get through at all.

Both explanations sound plausible. But they don’t seem consistent. Perhaps it’s a bit of each. So it’s not that one explanation is necessarily false. But they are at least in significant tension.

Here’s a precinct head or caucus-runner explaining what happened to CNN. Best explanation I’ve seen of what happened.

We keep hearing about doing “quality control” that is causing the delay in caucus reporting tonight. There are scattered reports of Iowa Democratic party officials talking about widespread technical difficulties with the app that was supposed to handle reporting. It seems like something went wrong with the reporting and party officials are either trying to reconstruct the results or perhaps re-canvass the results without the app. That part is speculation. What is not speculation is that something clearly went wrong. The only good I can see coming from this is perhaps this will be the last caucus in the American political system. It’s a terrible system when it works right. Make it more complicated, multilayered and totally different from how we run real elections and perhaps you get this.

Before we get started and start seeing results let’s remember that the “modern” caucus system is absurd, anti-democratic and shouldn’t exist. It’s basically voter suppression for well-meaning Democrats. There have been some reforms this cycle, in response to the primary controversies of 2016. But it’s still just retooling a system basically designed to exclude people.