As news organizations tried to sort out the Iowa caucuses on Monday night, many TV viewers were following another intense competition: the latest installment of the ABC series "The Bachelor."
The caucuses had a Democratic nail-biter, but "The Bachelor" had a cliffhanger. The rose ceremony, in which bachelor Ben Higgins chooses who gets to continue by giving the lucky women a rose, was postponed a week amid conflicts among the contestants.
Which is too bad, since the giving of a rose is a lot clearer than "delegate equivalents."
Is it really that much of a leap to look at "The Bachelor" as political metaphor? After all, it has a large field of candidates battling for the affections of a voter, Higgins. They try to woo him by showing their skills, discussing the future and promising good things. He, in turn, questions their intentions and rejects possibilities who don't measure up. As Higgins was sending home one candidate on Monday night, so the Iowa results prompted Democrat Martin O'Malley and Republican Mike Huckabee to suspend their campaigns.
Suspend them because, these days, no one officially drops out of the race when there's a chance an opening will appear later. On "The Bachelor," rejection may also be temporary — with rejects from one season brought back in another, or a loser on "The Bachelor" chosen to star in the next season of "The Bachelorette."
I started thinking about this when I realized that Caila Quinn, currently on "The Bachelor," reminded me of John Kasich — not in her policies but in her context.
Quinn, charming enough on her own, has stood out on "The Bachelor" by not being as dramatic and obnoxious as some of her competitors. Although Kasich has not done well in the polls, he has drawn praise for not being Donald Trump, Ted Cruz or others in the GOP grudge match. The New York Times endorsed Kasich for the Republican nomination as "the only plausible choice for Republicans tired of the extremism and inexperience on display in this race."
But the presidential comparisons don't end there. The biggest match: Olivia. She's clearly Donald Trump — aggressive, generally hyper-confident, unabashedly touting her own success, bulldozing past other women and grabbing huge amounts of TV time. Her gift for causing offense is immeasurable. The comparison may prove more apt since Iowa, when Trump's much-proclaimed record as a winner took a hit — just as Olivia has been taken by surprise when others have gotten dates she felt entitled to.
In contrast, Olivia should be glad that Emily's twin, Haley, has already been eliminated. Emily solo is Ted Cruz, ferociously battling Olivia, questioning Olivia's love credentials and taking her case to the voters, er, Ben.
You could point to Rick Santorum and see "The Bachelor's" Leah, who keeps staying in the race with little or no camera time (although Santorum did drop out a few days ago). Becca can be likened to Ben Carson, since both are virgins — her in life, him in politics.
The now-gone Lace recalled Carly Fiorina; both had flashy moments but it has not added up to long-term success. Jubilee was Martin O'Malley, complaining constantly and still sent packing. I'm not sure who qualifies as Hillary Clinton, but it sometimes feels like JoJo, who has all the attributes you'd expect in a supposed front-runner — including the ruthlessness to turn Jubilee's departure to her own advantage — but not yet able to close the deal.
While this isn't a perfect model, when we have any kind of election, even one with a single voter, similar campaigns and candidates will appear.
At the same time, we should be grateful that no one on "The Bachelor" is picking justices for the Supreme Court.