Thursday, January 03, 2008

Iowa: Third Not as Bad As Second

Ouch! Hillary in Third. I'm disappointed that my candidate Hillary Clinton finished in third behind Barack Obama and John Edwards. Not that I have any objection to spin (spinning is as much a part of politics as money). But there isn't much room for positive Hillary spin. Obama beat her by 7 points. That's a big margin in what was a close race. As Kos points out, however, there is plenty of room for Democratic Party spin. Obama, Clinton, and Edwards ran strong campaigns in Iowa. They all became better candidates over the last year and there's a good chance that any of them could beat the relatively weak Republican they're likely to face. The Democratic Party and progressive politics in general are stronger for the Iowa campaign.

She's Got To Win It to Win. I find myself becoming more strongly pro-Hillary and more critical of Obama and Edwards as the campaign moves along. Despite the fact that I'm impressed by Obama, I'm like many progressive bloggers in becoming annoyed with his "I can work with anybody," "above partisanship," "against polarization" stance. Hasn't he noticed who has been driving the polarization--the right!. But the hard fact is that Obama's "we can change by bringing everybody together" rhetoric is popular with moderates and young people. And he's also going to get a lot of votes from African-Americans who normally wouldn't fall for this line. Hillary Clinton was up by more than 20 points in national polling in today's RealClearPolitics average. If she wants to keep that lead and win the nomination, Hillary and her people are going to have to figure out a way to defeat Obama's particularly attractively progressive version of the moderate message. Neither Hillary nor Obama are going to be the nominee by default. They have to WIN the nomination and that's the way it should be.

The Romney Problem. Hillary's third-place finish is not as damaging to her as Romney's second-place was to his Republican candidacy. Unless he mounts an impressive comeback in New Hampshire, Mitt Romney's strategy of riding the momentum from big early wins in Iowa and New Hampshire is down the toilet. It looks like Romney, McCain, Huckabee, and the gang are going to be slugging it out state by state with nobody having a clear road to the nomination for at least a little while. It's difficult to see how the Republicans are going to put up a strong candidate. Taking off on Michael Tomasky, the battle for the Republican nomination is looking like a brawl between the evangelical wing represented by Huckabee, the economic royalists and Washington elite embodied by Romney, and neo-cons now represented by McCain. Given the mutual contempt of the Republican factions, how can this be anything but ugly and dispiriting for GOP voters?

It's hard for me to imagine Huckabee as the Republican nominee, but I have to admit that Huckabee has the advantage of an evangelical "base" of support. Neither McCain nor Romney have a comparable core of voting support. Huckabee might be able to nickle and dime his way to the nomination by winning primaries in rural states like Iowa and Nebraska while staying competitive in a fractured field by pulling down 20% in other states. At the end of the day, exhausted Republican leaders might say "why not?"

For my money, Mike Huckabee is God's gift to the Democrats and progressive politics. Gaffe-prone, ignorant, and at least as unethical as Giuliani, Huckabee would be easy pickings in a general election.

Altogether, a good night to be a Democrat!

1 comment:

Scottye said...

Considering roughly 240,000 people voted for the Democratic candidates versus the just above 100,000 for the Republicans it seems that the Democratic base might just be more galvanized and mobilized than its Republican counter part. I for one would be happy with any of the top three Democrats winning the nomination. It is true that I prefer Hillary but Barrack and John Edwards would be capable leaders as well. I'm interested in New Hampshire now, I wonder if Obama can keep his momentum.