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Friday, January 04, 2008

Who's Hot and Who's Not, in the US Presidential Primaries

From Frontpage Magazine

By Fred Barnes

Des Moines, Iowa: So much for the inevitability of Hillary Clinton as the Democratic presidential nominee. The biggest story in the world today is the defeat of Clinton and the entire Clinton political machine, led by her husband, former President Bill Clinton, in the Iowa caucuses. Iowa has the first contest in the 2008 presidential race, but it's not always a critically important event. This year it was.

The second biggest story is the Iowa victory of Barack Obama, a senator from Illinois who has just finished his third year in office. He is an African-American with remarkable appeal across racial and cultural lines. Obama is now not only the favorite to win the Democratic presidential nomination, he's the candidate in either party with the best chance of becoming the next president.

Mike Huckabee's defeat of Mitt Romney here in the Republican caucuses was extraordinary. But beating a former one-term Massachusetts governor is hardly as historically significant as Obama's triumph over Clinton. Until recently Huckabee, a Baptist preacher and the ex-governor of Arkansas, wasn't taken seriously by the media and political communities, including by me. But in Iowa he proved to have impressive campaign skills that may allow him to reach beyond the conservative Christian base responsible for his victory here. To win the Republican nomination, he'll need to.

So what's the status of the candidates? Some are better off as a result of the Iowa results, some worse. The next contests come quickly--the New Hampshire primary on Tuesday, then primaries in Michigan, South Carolina, and Florida, followed by 22 primaries on February 5.

Let's start with Obama. Pre-Iowa, polls showed him trailing Clinton in New Hampshire. He's likely to jump ahead of her now, though New Hampshire voters occasionally show a contrarian streak. If he wins the primary, Obama will become the prohibitive favorite for the nomination. For the past 36 years, a candidate, Republican or Democrat, who wins in Iowa and New Hampshire has always won the nomination. If New Hampshire doesn't cinch it for Obama, South Carolina, where half the Democratic voters are African-Americans, may.

Clinton has deep problems. She has a base in the Democratic party, but it wasn't enough to keep her from an embarrassing third place finish in Iowa. True, she can point to the elder George Bush, who finished third in Iowa in 1988 and then went on to win the Republican nomination. But his rivals weren't as formidable and attractive as Obama. For Clinton, winning New Hampshire is a must and now she's the underdog.

John Edwards emerges from Iowa on life support. He needed to win in Iowa, where he finished second (to John Kerry) in 2004. He practically lived in the state the past four years. It was his best shot. It's difficult to see an Edwards path to the nomination.

Now, the Republicans. Huckabee wisely added a populist economic message to his religious appeal in Iowa. It doesn't have much substance to it. It's largely sentiment. By emphasizing the populist pitch, he may broaden his appeal to Republican voters in states with fewer conservative Christians than Iowa. We'll see. In any case, the Republican race is wide open.

Romney is badly wounded, having made a massive effort in Iowa and failed. His support in polls in the early states has leveled off in the high 20s. And he hasn't succeeded in winning over rural, lower middle class, and evangelical Christian Republicans. New Hampshire is friendlier turf for him, but he must expand his base of support there, too. If he doesn't, he's facing a steep uphill climb to the nomination.

John McCain was mostly an absentee candidate in Iowa, but he got exactly what he'd hoped for there--Romney's defeat. McCain has concentrated on New Hampshire, where his poll numbers are skyrocketing. He's the closest thing to a favorite in the state now. Beating Romney would put him squarely in the hunt for the Republican nomination.

Rudy Giuliani ignored Iowa and is counting on winning later primaries in big states--a strategy that has never worked in the past. Fred Thompson, with a third place showing in Iowa, is a walking dead man, politically speaking. Duncan Hunter isn't even walking. Libertarian Ron Paul got 10 percent of the Iowa vote, which will keep him in the race and maybe catapult him into Sunday's Fox News debate in New Hampshire.

Two more things. Democrats nearly doubled their turnout--to 220,000--in the Iowa caucuses from 2004. This is a legitimate measure of their enthusiasm and zeal. Republicans drew 114,000 voters to their caucuses. This is a measure of their relative lack of enthusiasm and determination to hold the presidency.

So Iowa reinforces the odds favoring a Democratic victory in 2008. And Iowa has given Democrats a clear frontrunner who's likeable and inspiring (at least to Democrats). More important, he's an African-American who appeals to white voters. His victory in overwhelmingly white Iowa may turn out to be the start of an Obama surge to the White House.


Blogger Publia said...

Barack Obama's mom was a white woman from the nearby state of Kansas, so he also may speak the language of the US heartland. (His dad was a visitng student from Kenya) Obama also was a political organizer in Chicago, and has a lot of friends who are political organizers. This may have helped him enormously. As a Chicago politician he can call on the skills of the Chicago Democrat party. Iowa is a hop-skip-and a jump from Chicago. Also, add to the mix the fact that he and his wife are very devoted to one another, a different situation from the Clintons.

You are one of the few pointing out the sterling left wing credentials of Obama.

8:44 AM  
Blogger Nick Archer said...

I much prefer Obama to Clinton, so it was good to see the headlights in that phoney she-devil's eyes yesterday. I don't know enough about Edwards to have an opinion on him.

But Obama definitely has some kind of X factor going for him, his best strategy is to keep the idealism going in his speeches/campaign (no surprise that he mentioned Birmingham in his victory seech) to try to stoke some kind of black Camelot for himself, plus Oprah will pull out all stops for him now. Of a bad bunch he looks more appealing than the others in the Dem's...

On the Republican's side I was pleased to see Ron Paul get 10% he has appeal not just for libertarians but for those right across the political spectrum who are feeling dissafected. His best bet is to come 3rd in NH and go all out in Michigan where he is stronger...

I don't see him winning, but hope he can do a Ross Perot...

10:40 AM  
Anonymous Reid of America said...

Nick Archer says "I don't see him winning, but hope he can do a Ross Perot..."

If Ron Paul runs as an independent then the Democratic candidate will win the election. Ron Paul may have political appeal across the spectrum but he will draw many more votes from the right than left. Just as with Perot.

Bush would have beaten Clinton in 1992 if Perot wasn't running. Gore would have beaten Bush in 1990 if Nader wasn't running. Humphrey would have beaten Nixon in 1968 if Wallace wasn't running.

As a Republican I am hoping that Obama wins the Democratic nomination. He will be a pushover in a 2-way presidential election. Obama will be lucky to win a single state in a 2-way race.

1:44 PM  
Blogger Trevor Loudon said...

Publia-yes Obama has strong socialist credentials, yet that seems to be ignored while conservatives focus on his fleeting boyhood Islamic connections.

Nick-I actually like Obama-he certainly has charisma. Unfortunately he is also a socialist masquerading as a moderate.

Reid-I've actually thought the opposite. I wanted Hillary to win, because I thought she was more beatable.

Thinking about it though, Hillary is tough as nails and doesn't wilt under fire.

Obama has yet to prove himself under real pressure.

2:20 PM  
Anonymous Reid of America said...

Obama has a very weak resume. He is not ready for prime time. The Democrats are deluding themselves. The three Democrats who had a resume worthy of the presidency, Richardson, Biden and Dodd have no chance. Instead the top three Democrats are lightweight posers to the worlds top executive position.

Four years ago Obama was a Illinois state senator representing a black neighborhood. Then due to a scandal that deposed the Republican senator he ran virtually unopposed for Senator. Now because he has charisma some feel he is presidential material.

The American people aren't as dumb as the leftwing of the Democratic party. It's obvious to lots of people that Obama is not qualified to be president.

4:31 PM  

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