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What’s Really Going On In IA, NH and SC?

Bev Harris
January 10, 2012

Despite what you see about who “won” Iowa and who “won” New Hampshire and who “won” South Carolina, that’s not the main function of these very early contests. What they are really about is culling down the field, promptly, and this is not really based on who wins.

New Hampshire, and to a lesser extent Iowa and South Carolina, play a disproportionate role in removing your choice of candidates in the primary. While you watch the horse race in these three states, understand that if you live in any other state, you are going to have fewer candidate choices, or no chance to vote on the candidate of your choice at all.


If a candidate “exceeds expectations” built by TV punditry and whichever poll is being quoted at the time, three things happen:

1. TV pundits start the drumbeat, building public expectations about “inevitability” of the candidate who did “better than expected”;

2. Donor money reroutes itself, pouring dollars into the newly inevitable candidate;

3. Media then reports on the candidate’s prowess in fund raising, citing this newly found skill as reason to believe the candidate is even more inevitable.

The reverse (fewer votes than “expected”) creates an even more definitive result:

1. Media speculates repetitively on when the candidate will drop out;

2. Donor funds for the candidate dry up;

3. Media cites weaker donations as evidence that the candidate cannot win;

4. The party begins pushing the candidate to get out of the way;

5. Articles begin focusing on the cost of primaries in states where people have not yet had an opportunity to vote (underlying message: why do these primaries?);

6. Pundits begin the new drumbeat: “The longer it takes for candidates to get out of the way, the more damage to the party’s prospects of winning the general election in November.”

This is why Iowa and New Hampshire are not really about winning. They are about pushing candidates out of the way citing failure to meet expectations, or surprise in exceeding them.

South Carolina, usually the third state to hold a primary contest, serves as the clean-up round, so that by Super Tuesday (when lots of big states have primaries) only a few candidate choices remain. Non-frontrunners still in the game get so strapped financially that they can’t muster a fight.


The Iowa Republican caucus turned out to be impressively transparent, though of course TV pundits did exploit Iowa to tell people what to think for the next round.


New Hampshire uses Black Box Voting for over 90% of its votes (Black Box Voting = concealed vote-counting machines. This violates New Hampshire’s own constitution which states that the votes must be counted “in public meeting”).

I will publish a detailed, point-by-point description of several quite bad choke-points in New Hampshire election integrity tomorrow. Here’s the short version, and a preview:

– All New Hampshire voting machines are programmed by a Massachusetts-based sole source no-bid contractor with a convicted narcotics trafficker at its helm;

– A crafty change in NH law now makes it illegal for the public to examine the real ballots under right to know law;

– A change in NH law in 2008 now makes most recounts impossible;

New Hampshire does not follow its own legally required vote-stuffing safeguards.


New Hampshire will produce an anointed candidate who will “do better than expected” to become “inevitable.” Some of the other frontrunners will be hammered down firmly with “worse than expected”; all week long before South Carolina we will get treated to a persuasive TV pundit parade telling us what we should think.

It’s only gotten worse since 1988, when author Joan Didion wrote: “…those inside the process had congealed into a permanent political class, the defining characteristic of which was its readiness to abandon those not inside the process.” (Political Fictions)

In South Carolina (where, as you may recall, the paperless ES&S iVotronic touchscreens gave us Alvin Greene in the 2010 Democratic primary), the counting process is not only entirely concealed, but the original record — the voters own verified ballot — is unrecoverable, and chain of custody on the count is unascertainable. By the way, it also violate the South Carolina constitution to conceal the vote counting process from the public.


I know, I know. People will write me and say “What should we do?” I always hear that just days before the election, when it’s too late.

What you can do that might make a difference is this:

1) Think for yourself and ignore the pundits. Stop letting yourself get persuaded by a politicized media machine. Give your money to the candidate of your choice and vote for the candidate of your choice, and do not let any wonk who was invited onto a TV s…More

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