January 4, 2008

Amazing results from Iowa tonight, as it would appear the caucus attendees chose to go a different route than anyone could have thought possible just two months ago. Illinois senator Barack Obama and former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee turned in fine performances, drubbing the long-time favorites – former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney (who dropped a TON of his own cash into Iowa) and New York senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, who discovered that the shine from her husband’s presidency doesn’t quite extend to the other side of the bed (er, so to speak).

In Huckabee’s case, there’s no doubt that evangelical Christians came out hard and heavy for the Baptist pastor. While that might work in a place like Iowa, I have my doubts whether he can carry that same passion into places like New Hampshire and South Carolina. As for Hillary!, there’s no question that any remaining shred of “inevitability” her campaign might have hoped to flaunt going forward has been smashed once and for all by the more charismatic and likeable Obama.

(A quick thought: Is there any doubt that, given her flagging poll numbers over the past month, were Clinton to have finished even slightly ahead of the pack her campaign would have dubbed her “the Comeback Kid”, a la husband Bill in 1992. Now THAT would have made me – and a lot of others – b-a-r-f, big time!)

One cannot, I think, discount the “likeability” factor both Huckabee and Obama possess; it could very well be that voters are looking for less-polarizing candidates to be their party’s candidate. As I’ve often mentioned in these parts, the country is tired of the divisiveness that the Clinton and Bush presidencies have brought, and may very well be wary of candidates they perceive as being either unlikeable or unable to unite the country. In that vein, it could very well be that Iowa voters viewed Romney’s religion – like it or not – and Clinton’s general unlikeability and phoniness as a politician as poison in a general election and went in a different direction.

So where does it go from here? I think the Obama bandwagon is gonna pick up a lot of people – Democrats and Independents alike – wanting to send a message and drive the final stake into the heart of the Hillary! campaign. She can still pull it out, but she’s in a difficult position right now – if she tries to stay positive, people will see her as insincere; if she goes negative on Obama, she’ll only be meeting people’s expectations, thus driving her negatives even higher. Hillary HAD to win Iowa to keep that “aura of inevitability” going; now the emperor has no clothes (perish the thought!), and one would have to say it’s now Obama’s race to lose. Something he can still do, by the way, but it’ll be difficult.

(If I were Obama, I’d be getting on my suit of armor right now, as his campaign is about to experience a withering assault from the Clintonistas, who’ll dredge up every negative story they can possibly find on him. The snake is most dangerous when it’s cornered, and the Hillary! campaign is indeed cornered. It’ll be interesting to see how Obama’s campaign responds.)

On the Republican side, it’s Romney who is the most severely damaged right now. You’d have to say that McCain and Thompson now appear to be the anti-Huckabee conservative alternatives, leaving Mitt out in the cold. Romney simply cannot afford to lose Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina, but he’s gotta think this is a likely scenario now. It’ll be interesting to see what kind of traction McCain gets if he wins New Hampshire – if he goes on to take South Carolina, he’ll be in a very good place.

Make no mistake about it – the big losers tonight were Hillary Clinton and Mitt Romney, and, in the case of Iowa, who lost is far more important at this stage than who actually won.

Filed in: Politics & World Events by The Great White Shank at 01:52 | Comments Off on A Raucous Caucus
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