Monday, January 25, 2016

What do the Iowa caucuses...

 ...and the monthly unemployment report have in common? While the actual result (or number) is important, of course, it's just as -- if not more -- crucial who over- or under-performs expectations.

For example, it's pretty much a given that the winners and runners-up in both parties will be Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders and Ted Cruz. Here's the latest from Paddy Power:


Hillary Clinton, 4/6
Bernie Sanders, 11/10


Donald Trump, 2/5
Ted Cruz, 13/8
Marco Rubio, 20/1
Ben Carson, 50/1

And from the Huffington Post:


Clinton, 46.7 percent
Sanders, 43.6


Trump, 30.6
Cruz, 26.0
Rubio, 12.8
Carson, 7.5

So here's the deal: First of all, are we talking about anyone else next Tuesday? Does a Marco Rubio or a Ben Carson somehow finish in the top two? Or a really close third? Or how about someone no one is thinking about, like Jeb? What if he --  somehow -- has a big night?

And what about the actual winners? Does either Clinton or Trump win by double digits? Or does either Sanders or Cruz finish in first? And by how much? If either Sanders or Cruz wins by a comfortable margin, what does that say about Clinton's and/or Trump's prospects going forward? If Bernie should win big in Iowa and New Hampshire, it's hard to see how Hillary comes back. And, similarly, if Trump wins handily in the first two contests, who's going to beat him? And where? Conversely, if Trump's supporters don't show up next week and Cruz defeats him soundly, will the air finally come out of the Donald's balloon?

So while it's important to win next week, it's also important to win the expectations game. That's what we'll be talking about next Tuesday.

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