Thursday, January 03, 2008

Into Disarray

I have to admit that I secretly hoped that John Edwards would win Iowa. Well, truly I hoped that Chris Dodd would, but that was entirely based on watching one debate and an NPR interview with him about notifying Santa of his change of address, as his daughters were worried about their holiday haul. As for the Republican side, I belong to the ABG (Anyone but Giuliani) camp. Even so, the outcome, Barack Obama and Mike Huckabee, caught me by surprise.

Not so much Huckabee. People who know governors have been talking about his folksy charm and crowd appeal for years. I saw him on the Tonight Show last night, and while I agree with none of his views other than the need to address the obesity crisis, I have to admit that he is a great interviewee. He's good at banter, doesn't get too serious, is not an unattractive guy, and definitely truly encompasses all the qualities that George W. Bush pretended to have in the 2000 election. However, I get the sense that he's not all that innovative (though he is advocating a consumption tax with pre-bates for poor folks, the merits of which I will discuss at a later date).

Obama, on the other hand, was like this cadidate that no one wanted to win, and he won in spite of the Dem establishment machine behind Hillary, and managed to overcome the John Edwards organization. As I listened to the way that the caucuses were structured and how they proceeded, it occurred to me that distribution of supporters could have a significant impact on how the votes actually get allocated. I don't know how big the caucuses have to be to be considered legitimate, but differences of one or two supporters between candidates appears to be enough to torpedo a particular candidate's chances. This illuminates the importance of turnout, I suppose, but I'm still not entirely convinced it's fair.

Which is not to suggest that I'm not pleased with the Iowa outcome on the Democratic side, I'm just still as undecided as I was yesterday. For me, the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, the violence in Kenya, the ongoing tensions with Iran and North Korea-- all drive home Hillary's message regarding experience. This doesn't mean that I think Obama can't handle it, but as foreign policy muscles its way into the campaign, I think his largely domestic policy agenda and campaign message will fall on deaf ears, which opens the door for Republicans--though possibly less so for Huckabee than for McCain, Romney or Giuliani (retch).

In any case, it will be interesting to see how the money and endorsements shake out over the next few days. I was curious about the role of evangelicals in this race, given their high-profile representatives' public disillusionment with the campaign in general. I am still dumbfounded by the deflating Romney campaign.

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