Iowa Thoughts


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


14 comments on “Iowa Thoughts

  1. bob h says:

    Hilary should play the long game, which gives time for Obama to make a big mistake and the initial euphoria about him to wear off. If he is just a prarie-fire candidate, lets find out before it is too late to do anything about it.


  2. Kathleen says:

    I wondered why Kucinich chose Obama too, but perhaps he holds Edwards and Clinton responsible for being excluded from the Iowa debates. Remember the on camera tete a tete between Edwards and Clinton about narrowing the feild down for the subsequent debates?
    Also, if Edwards or Clinton had won, it wouldn’t have shown that white America would support a black candidate, an imporatant question for Obama’s viability… again it keeps the process open still. obama would be more appreciative of the other candidates and their ideas, perhaps.


  3. croatoan says:

    What boost for McCain? Dude finished in fourth place, behind a somnambulant Fred Thompson.


  4. JoeCHI says:

    “Forced, stale and inauthentic”?
    Whatever, dude.


  5. S Brennan says:

    Good point Carroll,
    From yesterday and a post below:
    I think it holds up well.
    —– Original Message —–
    From: S Brennan
    Sent: Thursday, January 03, 2008 1:09 PM
    Subject: It’s pretty funny to watch all the second tier candidates rally to Obama
    It’s pretty funny to watch all the second tier candidates rally to Obama.
    Biden Staffer: “Our People Likely to Go Obama”.
    Does Biden strike you as a “Change Candidate” type…he’s been running for president since 1988 and didn’t he introduce the bankruptcy bill that his Delaware Bank Corporations wanted? Aren’t he and Hillary pretty close? I can see why his donors wouldn’t want him supporting Edwards, but why doesn’t he support Clinton? Maybe, just maybe, he is. Remember Bill Clinton was the one that started talking Obama up in 2004, considering what Bill’s been saying lately, you’d think maybe Obama has become the Clinton’s Frankenstein, still the man could keep Hill in the race.
    Richardson Will Help Obama
    Richardson has been playing nice with Clinton throughout the run-up, perhaps with the thought of a position in the Clinton administration? Why the sudden turn to Obama? Is Richardson really a “Change Candidate” type? Hmmm…well, truth be told Obama’s positions are consistent with Reid’s and Pelosi’s strategy of the last two years, he may talk big [change], but the walk is small [conventional policy], so Richardson is not straying too far…but why stray at all from Clinton?
    Dennis Kucinich was asking his supporters to back Obama.
    Which brings up Dennis Kucinich, why is he supporting the most conservative candidate? I mean Hill’s health plan is closer to Dennis’s ideas than Obama…what gives? All talk and no walk…really, this endorsement smacks of x-files and aliens.
    These last minute endorsements smack of desperation…and I don’t believe Obama is desperate. Who is? Well if Hillary finishes a distant third to a photo finish tie she is still in the game, but if Edwards or Obama splits are big enough, the Clintons will have a hard sell ahead of them. She should do well in New Hampshire…New York state is as close as 40 miles…if only she can get past the Iowa news cycle. Are these “endorsements” in Obama interest? Are the Clinton’s going to use these last minute “endorsements” to attack a Obama Iowa win as something less than significant? Or are the Clintons being too clever by half and boosting Obama to their demise?
    It’s going to fun to watch how the Clintons spin this Iowa news cycle out.
    Hillary has enough money to make to the convention and can outlast Edwards in the money race if she remains competitive…And I have absolute faith she can out maneuver Obama on the convention floor…tonight could not be more interesting.
    Posted by S Brennan at January 4, 2008 04:15 PM


  6. Scott Paul says:

    JoeChi, Steve:
    Gracious and classy the speech was — but it felt forced, stale and inauthentic. I heard it with a group and a number of us thought it came off weird. Low and behold, I read this morning that the entire event was put together in a matter of minutes and only campaign staff were there.
    Also interesting that her speech emphasized “a victory for Democrats.” Might this become a theme for Hillary? Might she suggest that she’s been standing up for Democrats her whole life and that Dems can’t really trust Obama, who is aggressively reaching out to R’s and independents and putting down some core Dem constituencies (i.e. trial lawyers)? Food for thought.


  7. Steve Clemons says:

    Scott — I’m sort of with JoeCHI. Given how tense the Hillary camp was — I thought her speech was classy, energetic, and kind of defied the gravity of the situation. I thought Bill looked terrible — but she was on top of things I thought….but so was Obama.
    Best, Steve Clemons


  8. Carroll says:

    Someone explain to me why Dennis threw his supporters to Obama. Considering his big position on the “little people’s” problems I would have thought he would have given them to Edwards.


  9. john o. says:

    Hillary can continue to vote for the war from her senate seat for many years to come….


  10. Kathleen says:

    I’m going to miss Dodd and Biden and Gravel. I think each of them has a solid record of accomplisments in the Senate, unlike the so-called front runners, all juniors in the Senate.
    Kyl-Lieberman is where Hillary’s lead went. She had been gaining ground with the hard left as she distanced herself from the Iraq War, contributed to Ned Lamont’s campaign and ultimately, calling Darth, Darth. That all got blown when she voted Yes on Kyl-Lieberman and them hubby Bill went on live tv and said she would use this President for something… Say what???? Then he’s going to Globetrot with Poppy? I give up, show me where the change is in that, s’il vous plais. I can’t see it.
    Meanhwile, back in the Beltway, Obama says he was opposed to the war in Iraq when he was not in a position to vote on it, but when he was in the Senate for the Iran Resolution,Kyl-Lieberman, he skipped the vote. Too chickenshit for me.
    Plus, he doesn’t see anything that rises to a high crime???? Well it also says Misdemeanors, Senator,,, see any of those? I want to know where you stand on Congressman Robert Wexler’s call for hearings on the impaechment of Darth Cheney. That’s my litmus test on defending our Constitution.
    I’m very grateful to Senator Dodd for filibustering the FISA bill and also to Senator Joe Biden for saying he would call for Impeachment if Dopey used force in Iran without coming to Congress for authorization and also calling for an Independent Counsel on the CIA. Tapes. I’d prefer eithor of them to any front runner in this race.
    I do think Hillary’s speech was very gracious and admire her ability to maintain grace under fire. I give her a lot of credit for that.


  11. Dreams, Hope, Blah, Blah, Blah says:

    The preternaturally jaded among us need a refresher course on the role of realized dreams in the American historical experience:


  12. JohnH says:

    Well said, Scott–
    “I am still waiting for [Hillary] to articulate a rationale for her candidacy that isn’t in checklist format.” In many ways, her candidacy reminds me of Bush 41: the incumbent entitled due to superior knowledge and ‘experience.’ Problem is that most of her experience is defensive–fighting off the right wing noise machine. Which gets us back to the central problem: what is she running for? Will she do anything for the majority of voters? Or is she just another tool of Wall Street, the DLC, and the Chamber of Commerce?


  13. DonS says:

    On the Republican side, the numbers indicate a skewing due to evangelical participation/voting so significant that I am suspect of drawing any conclusions about who’s up or down. Especially since the evangelical vote for Huck had some anti-Romney/mormon overtones. Finally, I’m at a loss as to how McCain supporters find a silver lining amidst this confusion and his actual 4th place numbers?? I think the evangelical skewing precludes much generalizing to national numbers. Unless of course we are watching the emergence of the evangelical Republican party of the U.S. vs the Bloomberg spoiler wing (and, yes, I fear the results of that).
    On the Democratic side, we know how radically candidates can trade lead positions for all the reasons that makes politics politics. So, no, I don’t think the Obama movement will necessarily steam roll.
    I must say, I wish the enthusiasm and good hearts of the ordinary folks who want change, who gave him good numbers, was DESERVED by the politicians upon whom their optimism is bestowed. But this gets to the underlying rot in the entire system that has been often documented here, and on progressive blogs — the question always being whether the system can be fundamentally altered to more accurately reflect “the people”, or whether is shall remain an oligarical construct.
    As for Edwards, whose steamy rhetoric I am not so offended by, I’d say he remains an enigma. Given the future uncertainties of the process and possible outcomes and influence, the one thing I think we can say about him — and about deals going forward — that as of last night it is less likely that an Obama/Edwards deal with Edwards as the presidential candidate is less likely. And I guess we can surely rule out Edwards being at all interested in the number 2 spot. So what other plum can Edwards command of Obama going forward (I say plum in a purely individual sense since I doubt that any of them is idealistic enough to deal for policy changes).


  14. JoeCHI says:

    Personally, I thought Clinton’s speech was gracious and classy.
    That you took away such a cynical impression of it says more about you then about Clinton or her speech.


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