Friday, January 04, 2008

OH, NO! 0-8!: Iowa I-O-U...

Well the voters of Iowa kinda sorta made their voices heard.

Yesterday, the Iowa caucuses took place officially kicking off the voting for the 2008 Presidential race. The results for the Democratic caucus placed Illinois Senator Barack Obama in a surprising first place, followed by former Senator John Edwards and N.Y. Senator Hillary Clinton in second and third place respectively.

For the Republicans, former Arkansas Governor, Mike Huckabee beat out former Mass. governor Mitt Romney by 10 percentage points followed by former Law & Order cast member and Tennessee Senator, Fred Thompson.

Barack Obama's stunning performance wowed the media, or at least they played off being wowed. What is more interesting is how Edwards beat out Clinton, leading the Clinton camp to undergo some soul searching. An Obama victory in NH outside the margin (technically it doesn't exist as it is an actual vote), would seriously jeopardize Clinton's prospects.

All the hoo and holler aside, Iowa is not necessarily indicative of anything. Even the media outlets that attempted to make something out of Obama's win and Clinton's bronze, conceded that the Iowa caucuses, the Democratic ones in particular, are a complex process that may not be evidence of anything. Moreover, although NH is whiter, wealthier, and so forth than Iowa, it is not the same state politically or geographically. Therefore, all the Iowa caucus can fairly predict is who will get Iowa's delegates, who are actually selected by District and State Conventions before the Dems convention in Denver.

New Hampshire is a different story. The votes on Tuesday are in an actual primary and therefore significantly more direct. The process in Iowa is also more exclusionary. As it is technically a party event, not a state event, different rules apply, such as no absentee ballots. Second shift workers, the infirmed, and the out-of-state are out, according to the
New York Times.

Despite the differences it is possible to discern a few useful facts from Iowa. For example, it is clear that Obama has a significant following among younger voters. Some estimate suggest that young people in Iowa nearly matched seniors in raw numbers. Were this to happen in NH, Clinton could be in significant trouble. Clinton's campaign most appeals to middle-aged women and senior. Both are valuable groups, but in the face of record youth vote, not as made-for-TV. Still, this is not for sure. New Hampshire is proud of its first-in-the-nation status and more voters take the primary more seriously than in, say, Massachusetts. Therefore, a wider swath and not just the die-hards participate in primaries. New Hampshire is historically more conservative than rust belt Iowa. NH Polls still give Clinton the lead. Iowa may have slimmed whatever edge she had, however . When taking into account independents, however, it becomes even harder to predict.

As for the Republicans, despite Huckabee's victory, his win may mean comparatively less than Obama's. It is a disappointment for Romney who dropped a bunch of cash in Iowa and perhaps he is hoping for sunnier pastures in the Granite State. It is hard to gage where runners-up in Iowa fit in NH. Giuliani is not spending a lot of time there, but John McCain needs a second place finish to make the trip to South Carolina, the next primary, worthwhile. McCain received the endorsement of NH's most influential paper, the Union-Leader, but his war stance and the Dem's siphoning of independents in the primary will only serve to hurt the Arizona Senator. Polls do not have Huckabee in the top 3, however.

Notably absent in this conversation is John Edwards. Despite the silver in Iowa, Edwards will probably only win a few primaries in the South. He'll keep fighting for a while, but unless Clinton goes down and takes Obama with her, Edwards lacks the resonance with most of the country. They either want Obama's promise for change or Clinton's resume. His populist appeal, though nice, is not hitting the mark with voters. An Iowa ad, for example, touting his fighting for jobs, included a former Maytag worker, probably laid off when Whirlpool bought the appliance-maker, a scenario the President of the United State is unlikely to have the power to prevent. Fighting for people is great, but only when it is within one's power to do something about it.

WMassP&I will not be endorsing anybody in either party for the primaries. First of all, we, as a member of the ultra-liberal media establishment, are not interested in the Republican primary. As for the Democrats, between the unpredictability of the race and the positive and negative qualities of Clinton and Obama it is impossible to make a declared preference. The heart and the brain are moving in two different directions for us there.

Short of that, we will offer predictions. For the Dems, Clinton and Obama will take first and second separated by the narrowest of margins, leaning toward a slim Clinton victory. The GOP will yield a place for Huckabee third, joined by either McCain or Giuliani. Do not expect McCain above third, and maybe Giuliani taking second if McCain takes third. Romney is in position to take NH.

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