If you go back and look at the results of virtually every presidential election going back to Reagan/Carter, a clear pattern begins to emerge: When all things are equal, the candidate with the charisma wins.
Now, charisma comes in a lot of different forms, so this pattern isn’t always obvious. For instance, who wins in a charisma contest between Michael Dukakis and George H.W Bush? Perhaps “no one” is the answer to that question, but at least Bush has Reagan’s carryover charisma to work with. Also: Dukakis was a uniquely awful candidate who looked like a complete dork in that tank.
If measuring candidates by their charisma is a little too esoteric, though, you can also just look at the energy they generate. Compare the power and enthusiasm behind Barack Obama to the anemic “who cares?” feeling that John McCain generated. McCain is actually an interesting case, because the only reason he came as close as he did to winning that election was Sarah Palin, who had all of the charisma and energy that he lacked.
Now we come to the 2020 primaries and the dismal field of candidates that the Democratic Party has put on offer. The energy and charisma (if you can call it that) is clearly behind one candidate: Bernie Sanders. As it turns out, this is also the candidate that the Democratic Party establishment despises, but that’s nothing new in these situations. It was true for Reagan, and it was certainly true for Trump. In many instances, being hated by the elite is a good thing. It probably means that you actually stand for something.
But for as much obvious enthusiasm as Sanders generates online and on college campuses, it certainly wasn’t on display in Iowa on Monday night. Indeed, while everyone is focused on the absolute disaster that was the Iowa reporting process, that debacle might have actually done the Democrats a favor. It put the focus on Iowa’s incompetence and took the spotlight away from a much more damning problem: The fact that no one showed up to caucus.
Is “no one” an exaggeration? Of course. Approximately 170,000 Iowans turned out. Unfortunately for the Democratic Party, that’s right in line with the amount of people who showed up to caucus in 2016. How’d that work out for Hillary Clinton?
2020 was supposed to be the year where the #Resistance really showed the country what they were made of. This was supposed to be the watershed moment when all of Trump’s haters came out of the woodwork to put the Republican Party in the history books for good. Well…maybe that’ll happen in Nevada. Or South Carolina. Or some other state. But it sure didn’t happen in Iowa.
Whether you look at the polls, the respective crowd sizes, or the turnout in Iowa, every available metric points to this being Trump’s year. The enthusiasm is still on the MAGA side of the spectrum.