Friday, January 04, 2008

First Blush Analysis of the Iowa Results

I seem to be a better prognosticator of Democratic politics than of the GOP’s. I’m too close the Republican passions I suspect. Here’s my early take on tonight’s results:

The Democrats

OBAMA: Barack Obama’s for real. FOX News’ Juan Williams is right: Obama’s victory is historic. He clearly won the white vote in monochrome Iowa and looks to rack up overwhelming African-American majorities in future primaries. I see him winning New Hampshire because 5 days is not enough time for Hillary’s goons to effectively smear him. It will be interesting to see how the press handles this victory. Do they go after him because he’s the new frontrunner? Do they try to finish off Hillary first? A lot rides on the answer to those questions.

Obama’s speech tonight was great and inspirational. He really is following a Reagan approach to this campaign. While his opponents seem like venal politicians, he’s above the fray, majestic, a man of destiny. Not bad if you can pull it off. The speech was to the nation not just Democrats or Iowans and perfect pitch. He looked very presidential, however, minus the experience and a little more gray hair.

I believe when Obama got into this race he figured he wouldn’t get the presidential nomination, maybe veep. It’d be a shakedown cruise to build an organization for many future campaigns. After all, he’s got 5 or 6 more presidential cycles to run in. Any fair measure of his resume in 2008 reveals that his experience is light in areas. I figured he’d be practically unstoppable in 2012 or 2016 with a couple Senate terms under his belt and some legislative achievements, maybe a high profile Cabinet post or governorship. Surprisingly, it looks like he just might win the nomination this go around.

However, a 2008 nomination might be too early in his career for general election success. The inexperience factor makes him more beatable by the Republicans this year. Interestingly, he looks like a candidate that could come up short in 2008, hold the party leadership after his defeat and get re-nominated in 2012. Unless Condoleezza Rice beats him to it, Obama will be the first African-American president or vice president.

CLINTON: Now we get to see if Hillary Clinton is a bleeder. She has never had to demonstrate the kind of resilience, toughness and adaptability that’ll be necessary to stage a comeback. We’ll see if she has it in her character to recover. I suspect she’ll lash out at the media, voters, campaign workers, Bill, Obama, you name it. If Buddy the focus-grouped dog were still around, she’d kick him tonight. Her campaign infighting and finger-pointing will be interesting to watch too. Chances are that she will recover and win the nomination but the inevitability talk is over.

EDWARDS: Edwards gets to hang around and menace the two frontrunners for a few more weeks. The big question is how will Edwards approach his opponents going forward? Will he pile on Hillary in order to knee-cap her and end the Clinton presidential dynasty? Or does he still see himself as fighting Obama to be the un-Hillary alternative? Obama really would love to see the Edwards shark take a bite out of hemorrhaging Hillary. If he does, the nomination will likely go to Obama. Maybe an Obama-Edwards ticket?

ALSO-RAN DEMOCRATS: None of the other Democratic candidates are of any consequence outside of endorsing one of the surviving three. And that only matters if Obama is able to run the table on the endorsements and embarrass Hillary.

The Republicans

HUCKABEE: The more I listen to Huckabee speak the more envy-laden, statist and un-Republican class warfare rhetoric I hear. Don’t get me started on his Carteresque foreign policy tripe. The Iowa caucus-goer was the perfect audience for his message and likely represents his high water mark of support. The media will continue to promote him for the chaos he creates hoping the longer he’s viable, the deeper and more permanent the divisions become within the Reagan coalition. Moreover, he’s an easier candidate for the Democrats to defeat in November if, against all odds, he actually ends up winning the GOP nomination. He has no future as a winning presidential candidate and should drop out of the race in time (March 10th, I think) to file for the U.S. Senate seat that is very winnable in his home state.

ROMNEY: Romney came in 2nd in Iowa and underperformed expectations. Traditionally, such a setback means fundraising dries up and candidates seriously start thinking about exit strategies. But this scenario isn’t an easy fit for Romney’s campaign. If he’s willing to continue to spend his own enormous personal fortune on the race, he can push through this rough spot. After all, it’s not like there is a real frontrunner waiting to put the race away. When all this is concluded, we may see Romney even try to adopt a modified version of Giuliani’s February 5th strategy. He has the resources. The Democrats and their allies in the media fear Romney’s Bush-free curriculum vitae, razor-sharp intellect and potential to unify the Reagan coalition. I suspect Romney will be savaged by the media and all of the other candidates over the next month. If he can withstand the onslaught, he will emerge stronger and be ready to win in November. Regardless, even with a New Hampshire loss (a close one, well under 10 points, not a blowout), I still see this as a 2-man race: Romney vs. Giuliani or McCain.

THOMPSON: If Thompson holds onto a 3rd place showing in Iowa, good for him (though he’ll remain a footnote in the history of the 2008 campaign.) He could have the most impact on the nomination by bowing out now in favor of his buddy McCain. The problem with this scenario is that New Hampshire is only 5 days away. Fred probably won’t see himself as a hopeless loser just yet. McCain will have to earn a New Hampshire victory without an assist from a Fred endorsement. Like Edwards, the question is who does Thompson attack Rudy, Huckabee, McCain or Romney?

MCCAIN: It was a good night for the Arizona Straight-Talker. If he would have only bested Thompson by a few points maybe he could have wrung an endorsement out of a dejected Tennessean in time to help beat Romney in New Hampshire. It doesn’t look like that’s going to happen, Fred dropping out before NH. He must win NH to continue his campaign. McCain has the opposite money situation as Romney. He’s already in debt and recently took out a $3 million loan. He can’t even entertain holding on through February 5th without some major success soon. The question for McCain is how nasty do his attacks on Romney get over the next few days? Does he look like a mean old man in doing it?

GIULIANI: The wait-for-the-big-states gambit will probably prove to be a loser for Giuliani. Huckabee’s win helps the strategy on paper but a weak 6th place finish in Iowa is very alarming. Romney has born the brunt of the negative horserace commentary over the last month because Huckabee and McCain have come on strong and bumped Mitt from the top spot in their cherry-picked states. But Rudy is the one in real trouble. His other-than-Romney opponents have benefited from his implosion. Consider, Mitt won 25% of Iowa and has held that percentage in Iowa polls since May. Basically we learned that Romney hit his Iowa ceiling and stayed there. Romney’s been in the 20’s in New Hampshire since April and will score at least in the 20’s on primary day. Maybe he has a ceiling there too. In contrast, Rudy is in free-fall and needs to find a support level before he crashes through the floor. He needs to show up in New Hampshire or the story will shift from Romney’s second-time second-place woes to Rudy’s second-time single-digit catastrophe. Florida is a long way away.

PAUL: Yippee, 10% in Iowa. Good thing none of his campaign literature says the word “Republican” on it. He can continue to use it when he accepts the Libertarian Party’s nomination. He did it in 1988 and will do it again in 2008.

HUNTER: He should withdraw on Friday and endorse Romney like Tancredo did a week or so ago. He could be a future Secretary of Defense if he handles his exit with class and dignity.

1 comment:

Jack in Phoenix said...

too much, already!!!

All this premature analyti-cation is making me crazy!

Obama won Iowa because Iowa Dems are middle aged former farm kids who went off to college and learned all about MLK and how we all need to be brothers and kumbaya pass the creamed corn.

He can get to be president depending on how his exposure is managed. If he gets to pick his spots, then people won't know that he don't know jack about the mean old world.

If he gets put in a long-form public discussion of, say, economic policy, the wheels come off if people get a whiff that he's gonna reach into their pockets to build bureucratic monuments to the Obama Administration. Call it a theme park - Obamarama.

If the discussion is about foreign policy, if he tries to get off with anything except 'we are going to scalp those IED-wearin' scumsuckers," it's buh-bye.

I read somewhere yesterday that the Iowa caucuses were a mere bagatelle until our favorite Democrat Jimmy Carter 'won' in 1976. Now Iowa is of major importance. Thanks, Jim. That's another one we owe ya for.