Some odds and ends on last night’s caucuses and the state of the presidential race:
— We will miss Chris Dodd and Joe Biden. In a strong field of Democratic nominees, this simply wasn’t the year for the white, Northeastern liberal. Fortunately, they return to the Senate, which will benefit from their intellect, devotion and savvy.
— As many have suggested, Obama’s win in Iowa does not mean the race is over. Far from it. In fact, even if Obama continues to win in New Hampshire and South Carolina, Clinton should not be counted out — she has the resources and base of support to continue through the big states regardless of what happens. Edwards, too, has opportunity to rebound — though it seems unclear exactly how or where that would happen. What should worry Clinton is the palpable differential in enthusiasm between her camp and Obama’s, as demonstrated by the feel of their respective post-caucus speeches. I expect that recordings of the Clinton speech, featuring old, disappointed-looking faces in the background, will show up on blogs and news a few more times before next week.
— The most resounding defeat for fear politics has nothing to do with the Democratic race. Fear-based candidate Rudy Giuliani took sixth in Iowa with 3% of the vote. He and Ron Paul are the two candidates who have run most on foreign policy, and Paul took roughly three times as many votes as Giuliani. Rudy gave up on Iowa a while ago, but let’s remember — he was leading in Iowa polls at the beginning of the year and was competitive until just a few months ago. I am no fan of Ron Paul’s anti-international law and anti-international institution foreign policy but I am grateful for the challenge that his candidacy presents to the “bomb first, ask questions later” crowd that has dominated the GOP in recent years. Problematic as Paul’s worldview is, the fact that Iowa Republicans prefer it to Giuliani’s heavy footprint unilateralism is a very, very good thing.
— I could add something about Huckabee’s win, Romney’s defeat and the resultant boost for John McCain and Giuliani — but to be honest I don’t think I have anything all that original to say about it.
— The turnout is good news — for everyone. Democrats, Republicans and independents — and supporters of every candidate — should be thrilled that young people showed up to vote yesterday. Hopefully this will continue and put to rest the myth that young people don’t vote.
— I’m excited by Obama’s movement candidacy and think his leadership style would yield a steady, level-headed decision-making process in the White House. I admire Clinton’s work ethic and intellect but I am still waiting for her to articulate a rationale for her candidacy that isn’t in checklist format. In other words, why her? I love that John Edwards is paying real attention to poverty but I don’t like his overly confrontational rhetoric. Richardson and Kucinich have added good perspective to add to the race, but it seems obvious now that they don’t have what it takes to win on the campaign trail.
On the Republican side, John McCain’s posture as an internationalist and his commitment on climate change and torture give me hope for the GOP, even as his zeal to rely on the military to solve problems and “good guys vs. bad guys” outlook turns me off. There’s not much else to like over there for me at the moment. I do wish Chuck Hagel had run — though I’m afraid that a Bloomberg-Hagel independent ticket could spell disaster and put Romney or Huckabee in the White House.
More coming soon.
— Scott Paul