Friday, January 4, 2008

January 3: Iowa caucuses


Obama 38
Edwards 30
Clinton 29
"Field" 3


Huckabee 34
Romney 26
Thompson 14
McCain 13*
Paul 10
Giuliani 4

*did not campaign

O me of little faith; I never imagined that we would see an Obama/McCain general election. Now, the respective candidacies of America's two best men for the job is not only possible, but probable. Neither did I imagine how responsible and mature Iowa voters would be in rejecting the plastic media faces in the race (Clinton, Romney, and Giuliani) and voting for men of principle who say what they believe.

An Obama/McCain race would be one of marked contrasts: extreme age versus extreme youth (in Presidential terms), white versus mixed race, a long Senate record versus a short Senate record, decorated veteran versus non-veteran, pro-Iraq War versus anti-Iraq War, career politician versus community organizer-professor-state senator, etc. Both men embrace the innate feisty elements of their personalities. A debate between the two would be must-see TV.

But how might this come to pass?

The Democrats

Hillary is in a world of hurt for coming in third, but the candidate in most trouble after Iowa is Edwards.

Edwards spent more time in Iowa and staked more on winning Iowa than anyone else, yet Obama won the pro-change, anti-Clinton vote decisively. The activist left of the Democratic Party, which has mostly preferred Edwards's Bryan-ish, tub-thumping populism thus far, is going to split: some will stick with Edwards to the end, but most will trickle over to Obama in order to stop Hillary (whom they regard as scarcely better than the incumbent).

I see a New Hampshire outcome of something like 50% Obama/30% Clinton/20% Edwards. If Obama can break the 50% barrier and win an outright majority, the race could be over quickly, with the Super Tuesday states cascading to his banner. If Clinton can stay with 10-15 percentage points of Obama, then we have a no-holds-barred, two-horse race for the nomination that could last the entire spring.

Regardless, a third-place finish by Edwards in New Hampshire ends him.

The Republicans

Mike Huckabee is not your typical Christian-conservative Republican.

He doesn't talk about hot-button social issues that could alienate the wider electorate - he refers, with a wink and a nod, to his Southern Baptist pastorate and his encyclopedic knowledge of Scripture. He's cool in a campy manner; indeed, he has pulled the biggest coup de theatre of any candidate thus far by convincing Chuck Norris to follow him around. Most astounding, he actually cares about social justice and economic inequity.

Huckabee raised taxes as governor of Arkansas, says he will do the same as President, and says Jesus's mission on earth was serving the poor. He attacked Hillary on the campaign trail, but he saved his most vicious retorts for the putative "leaders" of his party: Rush Limbaugh, the Club for Growth, and (more guardedly) Bush and Cheney. In a way, he out-Edwarded John Edwards. Country-club, Wall Street/K Street Republicans are shaking in their boots. But what recourse do they have?

PS: Could I vote for Huckabee? No, I cannot vote for him because of his woeful, amateurish lack of a foreign policy. Still, he is a man I admire, one who I'd like to meet and drink the beverage of his choice with, and I certainly understand where his supporters are coming from.

To be continued...

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