Iowa Shows Obama The Most Likely 2008 Winner
The only caution I would express at this point is that Obama is a charismatic figure who will stir great passions, as Lincoln, the Kennedys and Martin Luther King did. We have a tragic record of assassinations in this country. I hope the Secret Service protects Obama and his family very carefully. We don't want a lone kook, or a foreign conspiracy, to cancel out the desires of millions of voters in this great democracy.
I also have a few other conclusions, of course, about what last night showed:
1--Former Gov. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas, the winner of the Caucuses on the Republican side, is a much better candidate than I had originally presumed. His speech last night, while not matching Obama's, was very good. The commentary from pundits put emphasis on his support from Evangelical Christians, but the fact is that Huckabee will have far broader appeal than that. And with Ed Rollins and other GOP professionals entering his campaign, I would think some of the ridiculous things he says, his rough spots, will be either removed altogether or greatly toned down. He too represents change, just not as persuasively as Obama.
2--It is too early to say definitely Huckabee will be the Republican candidate. Sen. John McCain of Arizona still has a chance. But I think from this moment that Huckabee has to be considered the GOP front-runner, even if McCain wins in New Hampshire next week, as he probably will.
3--Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York and former Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts are through. They may not know it yet, they have plenty of financial resources left, but they would be better advised to invest them in the next generation of their respective families' political campaigns in the distant future than to pursue their own lost causes. For now, at least, the Bush and Clinton dynasties are things of the past. It turns out David Broder of the Washington Post was right, when he suggested that a few weeks ago.
4--Former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina did not get "a boost" from his second place finish in Iowa, as the usual foolish New York Times editorial says today. Edwards has little standing in New Hampshire, and Clinton is not going to pull out of the race in time to give him even a small chance in South Carolina. By early February Edwards will be out of the race.
5--Former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani of New York, who got a pitifully small vote last night, has been mortally wounded in the Republican race. He has been going down steadily in the polls, anyway, and now will plummet like Enron did. He may try to make a stand in Florida against Huckabee, but he won't succeed. It turns out that those who felt he had insuperable problems in a race for the Republican nomination were right.
6--Press coverage leading up to the Iowa Caucuses, with the exception of the polls that showed Obama and Huckabee taking the lead, was pretty miserable. Many of the reporters missed the full scope of what was happening, and some didn't even understand that Obama's seven-point lead in the last Des Moines Register poll pointed clearly to his seven-point margin in the Caucuses. It was, for example, a flat error for Scott Martelle to write in the Los Angeles Times on Wednesday that "polls show a statistical tie for first among Obama...Clinton...and Edwards."
7--Reporters, with just a few exceptions, were too cautious, even after the results were in. Mark Halperin of Time magazine, who authors a very useful Web site on the 2008 race, did not hesitate late Thursday to run a huge headline and picture proclaiming Obama "The Most Likely Next President of the United States." But Mark Barabak in the Los Angeles Times was much too timid about the prospects when he said, in his lead (I'm taking this from the LAT Web site) that the Iowa results were "shredding any sense of inevitability in the 2008 presidential race." And even Adam Nagourney of the New York Times understated what had happened when he said Clinton had been dealt "a startling setback," that the Caucuses "left uncertain the prospects for John Edwards" and that Romney had sustained "a serious setback." It was much worse than that for all three.
8--The Los Angeles Times and the New York Times should consider deposing Barabak and Nagourney as their lead campaign writers and promoting Peter Wallsten (who does labor under the handicap of being partially blind) and Jeff Zeleny into those positions respectively. Both have shown in the last week a much better feel for what is going on. Wallsten in particular, summed up the results very accurately in the L.A. Times when he wrote, "Barack Obama's surprisingly convincing win in Iowa on Thursday upended the Democratic presidential race and overturned some of the fundamental assumptions of modern-day American politics." He then went on to explain, without a shadow of Barabak's timidity, that "Voters in an overwhelmingly white state embraced an African American candidate. Women, given the chance to vote for the first credible female White House hopeful in Hillary Rodham Clinton, voted in larger numbers for a man. And the Democratic Party's most formidable political machine, drawing on deep-pocket donors and the celebrity of former President Clinton, was beaten by a man who just three years ago held an office no higher than state legislator." For his part, Zeleny had a fine lead when he wrote in the New York Times, "Whether it was because they were eager to leave behind the bitter divides of the last two decades or because they wanted to send a message that a small white state could transcend the issue of race, Iowa voters dispelled the skepticism that Senator Barack Obama was too inexperienced in world affairs. Instead, what seemed to drive them was the idea that Mr. Obama would present a new face for America in the world." Nearly every presidential race propels new reporters to the fore who understand what is happening and are not too shy about saying what it is. In 2008, it's Wallsten and Zeleny, and I hope the editors in Los Angeles and New York lose no time in recognizing it, or bowing to it.
9--It was disquieting that at least on its Web site, the Los Angeles Times' most prominent picture was of Huckabee making his victory statement, rather than Obama making his. This in a city, Los Angeles, so liberal that it voted for Sen. George McGovern over President Richard Nixon in 1972. I wonder whether the ridiculous David Hiller, publisher of the L.A. Times and friend of Clinton persecutor Ken Starr, may have had something to do with such a juxtaposition, or whether, somehow, the new Tribune Co. owner, Sam Zell, a Republican, may have inspired such idiocy. We'll see if more sober heads prevail by the time the print edition appears. (They did, with the print edition running side by side pictures of Obama and Huckabee. But the Web site Friday morning led with a Clinton picture. This misses what is happening).
10--Again, the Los Angeles Times editorial page was dilatory. While the New York Times and the Washington Post ran editorials on the Iowa results, the L.A. Times, with a three-hour time advantage, did not. Someone ought to wake up these editorial writers. On significant occasions, they should work nights. Also, on the Op Ed Page, the New York Times runs a perceptive comment on the election by its columnist, David Brooks, while all the L.A. Times has is the usual insipid column by Ron Brownstein, mostly written before the returns were in.
11--Television coverage of the Caucuses was good, and the TV pundits, on CNN, NBC, MSNBC and even Fox, quite outspoken and good. TV caught the drama of the occasion, and CNN did a good job of running all the major speeches live and in their entirety, or nearly so.
I guess these are my major points. I'd make just a few others, though.
Obama's victory in Iowa was all the more impressive in that he not only carried the preponderance of the counties that went for Sen. John Kerry over President George W. Bush four years ago, in short the state's Democratic heartland, but he even carried a congressional district in the northwest part of the state that was considered the most conservative Republican. This was a demonstration not only of Obama's great skills as a campaigner, but of the tremendous efficiency and vitality of his campaign organization, vastly overshadowing both Clinton's and Edward's.
The Democratic turnout at the Caucuses was nearly twice that of the Republican, demonstrating once again that a Democratic tide is running in the country.
Also, one could not help but being impressed by the appearance of Obama, his wife, Michelle, and his two lovely children, on the stage before Obama gave his victory speech. This is truly an all-American family, reminiscent in its attractiveness of the Kennedys.
Obviously, there are many twists and turns ahead. The usual skeptical press will raise all kinds of questions now about Obama, his record, his personality, and so forth. Huckabee or some other Republican will put up a vigorous, and colorful campaign. Obama has to take care to name a vice presidential running mate who will inspire confidence.
But when the votes are cast on November 4, the strong chance is that it will be President-elect Barack Obama, and by a considerable majority. Then, to paraphrase, Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman's cable to Washington when he won Atlanta on Sept. 2, 1864, Obama will be able to say, "America is ours, and fairly won."
Jesse Jackson said it all last night, as reported on Yahoo: "This is the 40th year since the assassination of The Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. Tonight, he would be proud of Barack, proud of Iowa and proud of America."
Labels: Presidential campaigning