Friday, January 04, 2008

The Iowa caucuses: a reason to party!

Whenever I hope something produces a certain result, the exact opposite typically occurs. That didn't happen last night at the Iowa caucuses.

Barack Obama has been my pick throughout the campaign, and last night reminded me why. As much as he and his issues stand out on his own, CNN analysts made a crucial point last night defining a major part of his appeal: actual appeal. Whereas most of the candidates offered stump speeches or otherwise dry statements, Obama's speech was passionate and inspiring. Granted, he didn't say a whole lot regarding specific policy issues. No one typically does at this point. But Obama's rhetoric speaks well of the man he is: a quick thinker, optimistic and youthfully energetic. He also possesses a fervor largely absent from the Democratic Party. Even as the Iraq war reaches its nadir, it's surprising to hear a mainstream candidate say outright, as Obama did last night, that the war needs to end now. Some call it naivete, a testament to his lack of political experience. But as Obama himself pointed out on The Daily Show, the poster boy for experience was Dick Cheney. And electing a president with relatively little national experience - present idiotic company notwithstanding - has given us such luminaries as Abraham Lincoln and Bill Clinton.

And that is precisely what Obama has going for him at the moment: he's every bit the nimble, intelligent and passionate leader that America (and the world) needs at this juncture. Most importantly, he's everything he is without the baggage of establishment. Hillary Clinton placed a dismal third in the Iowa caucus, voters apparently unimpressed with her veneer of inevitability. Though Clinton is hardly a terrible choice, her bronze finish behind Obama and John Edwards may reflect the same kind of generational shift we saw in 1992 and need now.

Of course, Iowa is only one state out of 50, and much lies ahead. In most recent cycles, the winner of Iowa did not ultimately win their party's nomination. Still, this wide-open race seems truly indicative of trends to come. I expect Hillary to gain ground over time, but Obama can take it all. If he wins in New Hampshire, count on it. A CNN analyst surmised that twin wins in Iowa and New Hampshire would energize southern voters, who would otherwise vote for Clinton or Edwards as a safety, to vote for Obama. Indeed, last night's results showed that not only can he win in the literal heartland, he can do with by more than a touchdown's worth of percentage points.

On the Republican side, Mike Huckabee accelerated to victory. I didn't pick this to happen, but I wanted it. The popularity of Huckabee, along with Mitt Romney at silver, shows a certain regression within the GOP. Both candidates have bickered over religious issues, something I'm surprised the party is still touching after recent years. Rudy Giuliani's rise suggested to me that the Republicans would divert from the faux righteousness and stick with simple fear as their main issue. Apparently GOP voters would prefer a religious right race, which (on top of being entertaining) is almost certain to sink them if it continues. At least, I hope so.

Much campaigning and ugliness lies ahead. For now, though, wheeeeeee!


oyster said...

Indeed. Double "Wheee!"

musing85 said...

Off-topic, Ian, but you have me listed as a "Louisiana Link" when I should rightly be in "The Other 48," given that I'm in Illinois ;-9