Six Tickets Out of Iowa?

The Des Moines’ Register‘s Jennifer Jacob had a better line than any of mine about the ever-burgeoning GOP presidential field:

Nobody’s not running

.

Among the 2016 White House hopefuls who have visited Iowa’s presidential testing grounds most frequently, it’s becoming more and more clear that they’ve all left the state thinking, “I’m in!”

“I am unaware of any candidate currently in the buzz preparing to shut things down,” said Republican David Oman, a longtime Des Moines political insider.

The practical effect when likely Caucus-goers start Caucusing could be to lessen the political Grim Reaper’s impact:

Even if the GOP contestants are bunched together within a couple of points in 2016, only the top half, perhaps six or seven people, would advance, Oman said. “If you’re in the bottom half, the gas tank gets dry really quickly,” he said.

Wow. The time-honored cliche has always been that there are “three tickets out of Iowa.” That’s always depended on how you define “tickets.” In 2012 two candidates (Pawlenty and Cain) didn’t make it to the formal starting gate, and two others (Bachmann and Perry) dropped out immediately after the Caucuses. Four candidates survived to compete into February, though nothing was going to knock Ron Paul out of the race, just as nothing was going to make him victorious. So there really were basically “three tickets out of Iowa,” and the state did indeed fulfill its role of winnowing the field.

If six or seven candidates survive Iowa, and they all have enough money to keep a campaign going, then you actually could see some later-than-usual uncertainty, in a year when Republicans would really prefer a short nomination contest before their early convention.

For those pundits and political scientists who believe party elites can pre-determine nomination contests and conduct their own winnowing, it’s beginning to look like 2016 could provide an acid test.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.