Friday, January 4, 2008

Iowa Recap

Well, the results are in. My predictions were a little off, but no worse than most of the pros. What's fun at this point is to handicap the rest of the horse-race.

On the Democrat side, the big news is that Clinton was THIRD. Obama was first, and Edwards just nipped Hillary by a point. Momentum-wise, this is a huge blow for Hillary. Expect to see a lot of movement from the Clinton camp toward the other two. But I think there's also something really, really cool about the Obama win, too. Iowa is one of the whitest states in the union. My dad used to make business trips to Cedar Rapids back in the 70's, and I remember him commenting once how odd lily-white Iowa felt compared to more racially-mixed SC. Yet here we have the black candidate out front... and it's NO BIG DEAL. This is nothing like Jesse Jackson's campaigns of the 80's. Obama has basically transcended the race issue. Part of that is, of course, due to his own charisma and his unique heritage. But I think-hope-pray that another big part is that we, as a nation, have grown up a little. I'm fond of telling my students that my parents graduated from the last two segregated classes at their high school, and watching them look at me like I'm discussing the stone age. It is encouraging to think that more than a generation has passed since those dark days, and that many adults have basically no memory of Jim Crow. Obama's front-runner status is just further evidence that we're on the right track.

On the GOP side, the big news is that Huckabee beat Romney by a wider-than-expected margin. Then Fred Thompson came in basically in a dead heat with McCain for third. All the experts say that now McCain (who is beloved in New Hampshire) beats Romney next week, while Huck gets taken seriously and has a chance to win SC. To quote Lee Corso, "not so fast, my friend!" For McCain, the Obama win hurts in NH. Many of the undecided and independent voters he needs there will likely find the Democrat race with Obama more interesting, which makes the New Hampshire GOP contest both more mainstream Republican and also more secular than Iowa. Not to say that Romney is guaranteed anything there, but he'll survive. I think the biggest winner is Fred Thompson. Mainstream Republicans want a candidate who will hold together the old Reagan coalition. That coalition has three parts: security hawks, tax-cutters, and social/religious conservatives. Most of Romney's support has come from those who begrudgingly admit that he might have the best chance of doing that. Huckabee just can't--he's weak on two of the three (and is the most beatable in the general election, as well). If the shine comes off of Romney, then it's a Fred vs. McCain contest to pick up the support he loses, and McCain gets no love from the mainstream GOP. Also, don't count out Rudy. His strategy doesn't really kick off until Florida.

So, the verdict is this: Obama has staked himself to a really good position on the Democrat side, but the Republican race is, if anything, even more up in the air than it was last week. Sadly, these first two traditional state (Iowa and New Hampshire) don't look anything like the rest of the nation in real life, and their disproportionate impact on coverage and momentum is a bit overblown. But hey, it's fun to watch!


bekster said...

Wow, I think I could actually follow all of that. ;)

As cool as it is that black Obama won in white Iowa, it is not surprising to me (once I thought about it) that Hilary would not do well there, since the Clintons seem to get a lot of support from the black population. Also, I think voters in general are so much readier for a black president than for a woman president. If any woman could do it, it would be Hilary, but her Iowa defeat (especially that she was beat out by not just one but TWO men) is a sign to me that maybe we can count on the chauvinists to knock her out (although it is really hard to tell just from one state).

I have to say, I was surprised at Huckabee's win. But, it does make the story that much more interesting. If Romney had won, I would be more apt to think that he could take the whole thing on the Republican side. But, the fact that he didn't shows me that anything is possible.

Well, I think the next time I see you, you will be crutch-less. I hope Monday comes soon for you. :)

Coach Sal said...

On the race/gender thing, I think most people who support Obama or Edwards over Clinton don't care a whit that she's female; it's that she's Hillary Clinton that bugs them. Sterotypically you might expect older, stodgy, country-club Republicans to harbor gender bias (although I think that's not particularly true there, either--I'll bet they'd all vote for Maggie Thatcher), but not the younger, hipper crowd that is turning out on the dem side. I DO think, however that among those who want to make a "statement" about social change with their vote, the opportunity to vote for Obama as the first black candidate is far cooler than the chance to vote for the first woman, especially when he seems so forward-looking and she represents a return to the past in some ways. In a way, Obama represents the only candidate who could trump Hillary in the identity-politics game.

I read one blog months ago that predicted Edwards would eventually win the nomination, because in the privacy of the voting booth, more people would choose the white male. At the time I hoped that we as Americans were better than that. It's early yet, but it looks like we passed the first test. Likewise, I have heard people say in hushed tones that Hillary would win among minorities in the south because the Clintons (notably Bill) are more authentically "black" than Obama. Again, I think that's hogwash. While race is still somewhat of a factor for a fraction of voters, I'm hoping this is, at least for the most part, our first post-racial election.

bekster said...

Hmmm, I think you may be right about Obama representing the future while Hilary represents the past (hadn't thought of it that way, but it makes sense).

If it's a choice between overcoming race issues or gender issues, I would definitely hope for race first. In a president, skin color makes absolutely no difference (unless there is a profound difference in cultural background, but I don't think that would really be an issue), but gender might make a difference. I do believe that woman can be great leaders, but women function differently than men. I would vote for a woman president (just not Hilary), but I think it would be something America would really have to adjust to, more so than to someone of a different race. I would much rather have Obama than Edwards (and I think the majority of Dems would probably agree with me).

C. S. Fox said...

Nothing counts until South Carolina!
That's when I get to vote.
I have picked every President since 1984 (Ronald Reagan x2, Bush 41) except for the Clinton Era. Also, Bush 43......
I'm a conservative to the core!
Huckabee is a lib in conser clothes.
I wish Fred would have shown up.
I'm watching Romney & McCain even thought they are almost as bad.
I don't want a lib in the WH....
America can't afford them...