Friday, January 04, 2008

The Iowa Surprise Package: Analysis

Obama! ...and Huck?!?

The Dems

Obama

For those of us who weren't thrilled with the idea of revolving political dynasties - the Bush-Clinton-Bush-Clinton mantra - Iowa's caucuses came as a refreshing surprise. Given Hillary's "brass balls" approach to belligerent foreign policy, obvious ties to Big Business and business as usual, and her penchant for dirty politics, I think she got what she deserved - a sound slap-down.

It's not that I like Barack Obama that much either, or that the mostly rural, stoically rustic population of Iowa is a particularly good representative of America in general (or the political leanings of the nation). But when Hillary Clinton set her staffers on Obama with repeats of already established lies and smears, it's gratifying that Iowans turned against her in droves. The *last* thing this country needs is just another dirty politician in a bad suit.



All that said, Obama is going to have to learn some things quickly that my personal favorite - John Edwards - had to learn the hard way back in 2004. Like Edwards then, Obama is a relative rookie. He's mostly an unknown factor for the country at large, and while young and energetic and extremely well-spoken, he's got some serious deficits.

His health plan is weak, though so is everyone else's now in the arena save for Dennis Kucinich. Kucinich could still weild some power and contribute single payer as a platform plank at the convention if he can stay afloat through the early primaries. Obama's tried hard to out-balls Hillary for so long that now Democrats must wonder who will finally do their expressed bidding - reflected in the '06 voting - and get us the hell out of Iraq.

Obama's never faced the Republican slime machine either, at least not in as significant of ways as Hillary and Edwards have. Still, if his middle name, ethic heritage and kindergarten transcripts are the best that Hillary's minions could dish out he may be a shoo-in.

Edwards beat Clinton for second place by a mere nose, but New Hampshire should come in a little differently. There I'll be brave and suggest that Edwards and Clinton will be neck and neck for the top spot, with Obama bringing up the rear. Looks to me like the real race is between these three, even though I'd really like to see Kucinich and Richardson show well in at least one of the early primaries.

Possibly the most gratifying thing about the caucuses was the turnout. Independents overwhelmingly caucused with Democrats, bringing in 236,000 participants. In 2000, all the Dems could pull for the exercise was 59,000. This should be telling ALL the candidates something. People are upset that their Congressional votes in '06 didn't manage to sway the leadership into doing what We the People want done. Now we want an administrative leader who will.

Both Joe Biden and Chris Dodd used the opportunity to bow out of the race gracefully. While we know that the fields have to be trimmed by the process, I'm a little sorry to see them go. Our Democratic field this cycle is the best I've ever seen in all my long years, and any of them could have beaten any Republican in the race. Here's hoping that the best ideas among them end up in the platform when the Convention's final bell has rung!

The Reps
Huckabee

Republicans drew around 115,000 participants in the caucus, compared to a mere 87,000 in 2000, a 30% increase. So it's clear that the citizenry is more than ready for a big change in D.C. and the country after 8 years of depression and anxiety from Bush and the 'Borg.

Mike Huckabee, another former Arkansas governor, soundly defeated the strong Republican front-runner Mitt Romney, an upset that has the campaigns re-thinking strategy a little bit. Particularly in regards to the notorious "Base" of reliable voters that come from the megachurches of the Religious Right. Huckabee's sudden surge appears to have come based on his rather radical theocratic rhetoric in the past few weeks, while other Republican candidates have been downplaying ties to the RR base of Bush voters.

As a Democrat I'd love to see a Romney-Huckabee horse race deteriorate into savage inter-religious back-biting, which would disgust mainline Christian voters - and possibly whole branches of the once-independently minded Baptists - enough to start looking elsewhere for national leadership.

Rudi Guiliani, the arguably mob-connected ex-mayor of New York City running on the "Hero of 9-11" platform, came in #6 with just 3% of the caucus support. His organization had pretty much ignored Iowa and had no active on the ground campaign going there, so this result isn't too surprising.

John McCain, who is possibly the strongest real-life candidate for his party's nomination, will have an opportunity to turn Romney's loss and Guiliani's poor showing to his advantage in New Hampshire. In Iowa, however, McCain lost third place to Fred Thompson, a latecomer to the race. Not a very good showing, though he's still a favorite in New Hampshire.

To tell the truth, I think that either Huckabee or Romney would be excellent candidates against any Democratic ticket we could put together. The issue of religious oppression and wannabe theocrats who have been trying for decades to usurp our national charter - that pesky Constitution - for establishment of their own version of Sharia Law - must play a large role in the 2008 elections. I am hoping that sensible religious people are finally waking up to our national nightmare and all these radical end-timers so eager to launch Armageddon in the Middle East over oil instead of simply invent our own ways of fueling our country. Tuesday should be very interesting!

Links:

NYT: Obama Takes Iowa in a Big Turnout

Kos: The Iowa Results

David Brooks: The Two Earthquakes

The Big Winner: Democrats

NYT Analysis: 2 Newcomers Jolt Parties' Status Quo

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