A prominent national security expert zapped me a note the other day commenting positively on something I had posted on the blog, but he admonished me for taking Iowa so seriously. And he had a point.
Iowa is important because it can generate a powerful political tailwind for a candidate, but it is the only state in the nation where people can vote twice — and that alone may account for a very different kind of outcome than the type of election that happens in the privacy of voting by ballot.
But part of the reason why Iowa and the results there were taken so seriously had to do as much with the frustration emanating from the Hillary Clinton campaign as the euphoria from Obama advocates.
With rumors percolating out of the Clinton camp that she was furious and had tongue thrashed her closest advisers after Iowa rather than just rolling with the punch and basically laughing off the results and putting an optimistic foot forward — she and her people gave this sense that the campaign was coming apart. I know that Hillary insiders felt this stress.
Now that it is clear that this is going to be a marathon race and not a sprint in both parties — I think it’s important that the candidates realize that their own temperature gets telegraphed out, and that helped convince many in the press corps that they had seen the beginning of the end.
Hillary did manage a gravity-defying comeback, but I think that the demeanor of her team after Iowa, including the candidate herself behind closed doors, made the comeback even more impressive because they managed to sell the impact of the Iowa loss further than it would otherwise have gone.
One other oddity of this race that I think many voters find distasteful is the one-upsmanship and snarky exchanges between the top campaign strategists. In one case, Obama advisor David Axelrod goes after Clinton and implies a connection between Hillary’s past Senate votes and the conditions that led to Bhutto’s assassination. Mark Penn at various points has offered the same kind of negative dismissals of Obama and Axelrod. After Iowa, Axelrod was heard to be ridiculing Mark Penn. And now, I have heard through sources that Terry McAuliffe is behaving as smugly as ever.
This kind of adolescent, insider pettiness between leaders in the various camps actually helps undermine public confidence in the candidates they represent. Those in the campaigns reading this ought to encourage those in the limelight and in the advisory councils to understand the value of humility, graciousness, and magnanimity.
— Steve Clemons