Last Thursday was Iowa’s caucus night. It was a media bonanza. On the Democratic side Barack Obama took 38%, Edwards 30%, and Clinton 29% with Bill Richardson in a 4th at something around 4%.
On the Radio yesterday, Bob Scheer mentioned two things about the results that all Americans can be happy with: That a black guy can win a caucus for president in an almost all white state and that money can’t always buy a wining result. He also related a story about hearing from a person from Clinton’s campaign team that Hilary is a better candidate because Obama has relatively little political experience and using Bill Clinton’s first term as an example of what could happen if we elected a relative political novice. Of that exchange, Bob said it’s moments like this that keep him coming back. If this comparison made the main-stream news, I wonder how long it would take for that guy to get canned. Right, they’re campaigning subliminally on the public’s fondness of Bill and the ‘relative’ tranquility and prosperity of his time in office and selling the notion that we can expect a repeat (because they know what they’re doing). So the guy turns around and says Obama is like the Clinton you elected as president 16 years ago. Smooth!
The least talked about but probably most significant statistic to take away from the Iowa Caucuses were the turnout numbers. About 120,000 voters showed up to vote Republican while around 230,000 poured in to vote Democratic. That’s a huge difference. It’s hard to imagine a neck and neck national race on election day next fall.
After N.H. comes South Carolina and after that Florida. Too bad the Democratic National Committee (DNC) has refused to accept delegates from either state as punishment for the states’ breaking of the DNC’s ‘rules’ regarding primary dates. They dictate that only Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and Florida primaries can take place before February 5th.
A list of comprehensive breakdown of vote percentages and delegates by state in order of scheduled primary. Note Clinton got 29% of the Iowa vote and 15 delegates while Edwards got 30% of the vote but only 14 delegates. Ahh, America.
The Democrat’s system of Superdelegates already has Clinton up in delegates count at 154 over Obama at 50, Edwards at 33, Bill Richardson at 19, and Dennis Kucinich at 1. Isn’t it nice to know that someone else is watching out for us voters, deciding the favorites and setting the priorities and potentially, in a close enough race, overruling the people’s ‘incorrect’ decision. The Republicans have eliminated them from their nomination process but I bet they are wondering if they might want them back with Huckabee running loose.
Last Thursday night I caught a the post-caucus, talking-head analysis on Jim Lehrer’s Iowa Caucus special, Nightline, and Charile Rose. I must say though, Nighline was very MSM with Charles Gibson and George Stephanopolufugus. Jim Leher brought on Mark Shields, David Brooks and Judy Woodruff. And Charlie Rose went back to David Brooks, as well as having Adam Nagourney, Paul Begala, Lylah Holmes on to discuss the night and their outlook.
The big story obviously is that Obama ‘crushed’ Clinton. ‘Crushed’ is a bit of an overstatement, but considering Clinton was the punditry’s favorite to take the state by a few points over Obama made the results huge any way you look at it. Interestingly, edwards actually edged out Clinton by a point. I’m not really surprised by the numbers, but it serves to highlight the absurdity of the framing that major media outlets put on the race. After the results came in there was universal exasperation by talking-heads in all ‘news’ rooms at how unreliable polls are. But tomorrow (okay, Sunday) is a new day and the Sunday morning talk shows were rattling off the numbers for N.H. like always, as if they they more than just smoke.
Someone from Edwards campaign (I think it was his campaign manager) said the result in Iowa was actually quite surprising. They thought that if the number of participants swelled significantly, as it did, those people would likely be brought in by the historical candidacies of Clinton and Obama and it would drop Edwards in the standings relative to them. He said that as the crowds started to swell, they were getting nervous. They predicted they’d be outpaced and fall back a bit but their numbers held and Edwards stuck it out in second. If there’s any way to feel at the end of the night, it’s that more people are with you than you predicted.
I’m curious though, Biden, Dodd, and Kucinich supporters all seemed to move to the more anointed candidates… so who got their votes? I have a feeling their supporters split between Obama and Edwards. That could have a not insignificant effect in forthcoming primary contests. With Dodd and Biden having withdrawn, if their supporters move to Edwards and Obama in other states, states with higher numbers of liberal independents and progressives, it could exacerbate what occurred in Iowa. Hilary is actually the only one of the three who came through below expectations. I’d say both Barack and John came out ahead of where they were we were led to believe they would – Obama significantly more of course.
Kucinich had announced in recent days that if he was not viable in the first round (receiving less than 15% support) he urged that his supporters vote for Obama (I’m not sure if that was just a tactic to get into a second round though, where there might be a chance (slim chance – but chance) they could move back to his corner. As a Kucinich supporter however, I thought if he were to dump votes on someone it would have been Edwards. John Edwards has been appropriating many of the progressive issues Kucinich has championed ‘forever.’ Kucinich hasn’t dropped out but he was barred from ABC’s New Hampshire debate (I’ll comment a little on this in another post soon).
There was a lot of speculation about the next few primary contests last Thursday night, and every day since. Some interesting possibilities – ‘what ifs’ – were presented and questions raised.
For starters, how is this going to effect Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire? The answer was poorly. It was agreed that it’s likely Obama’s momentum will carry through N.H. with it’s large contingent of independent voters. The big question was when and how will Clinton counter?
If Clinton comes away from N.H. with a less than spectacular showing, the Clinton machine might be pressed to draw on some desperate measures. Going through Michigan, Nevada and into South Carolina, I wonder if allies of the Clinton campaign (with or without their ‘go-ahead’) will try to subvert Obama using attacks steeped with racial undertones; for sure they’ll come at him as hard as possible on every other front. South Carolina is one of the states where racial attacks can have the most significant of effects – as McCain learned in 2000 when Bush supporters passed rumors that he had a black child out-of-wedlock – otherwise known as the Bangladeshi child he adopted… and it worked. It would be sad. It would be a total disgrace.
If Clinton did so it may do significant damage to Obama’s support in S.C. but I doubt it would be to her benefit. Would she essentially be knocking herself out if she hits the wrong buttons? And at the same time, would she be opening the door for Edwards if deep-seeded prejudices get released?
Essentially, the stage is set… Hillary needs to bring Obama down a peg or two in order to stop him from pulling away. But in doing so, will she be able to elevate herself or will support for Edwards fill that space?
In pre-caucus Iowa polls, Edwards a majority of voters’ second choice, meaning if another candidate became inviable, Edwards was the favorite to will those votes. While that was for Iowa because of it’s unique caucusing structure, the same might be true for the country as a whole, not in any specific contest, but over a series of primaries.
Newsweek picked John Edwards as the sleeper candidate for a reason. It’s the media that has been trying to frame this as a two-dog race for last year. Given Iowa’s results, he obviously has healthy support out there somewhere.
My Hedge… If Edwards had invested disproportionally in Iowa and inflated his support compared to the rest of the country, Obama will run away with it 50% of the vote, leaving Clinton with 30% and Edwards and Richardson sharing 20%. If the support is really there for Edwards and I think the country (especially N.H. is angry enough to respond to him), I expect Obama to still win but not by as much and Edwards to again take 2nd over Clinton, perhaps with a slightly bigger spread between the two. Edwards recent emphasis on dismantling the levers of power for the voter’s benefit rather than simply playing them for our benefit is a powerful call to Americans who have great disdain for the Beltway apparatus.
It’s really hard to see much of any vote, beyond what the top three share left for Bill Richardson (he just seems awkward (always)) and Dennis Kucinich (his strategy for survival in Iowa leaked to his supporters in the rest of the country and interpreted as an endorsement of Obama in general).