Election 2008 Analysis: Iowa

Ken AshfordElection 2008Leave a Comment

Well, since I blog about politics a lot, I guess I would be remiss in not throwing in my two cents on the Iowa results.  Here then are my random disjointed thoughts:

(1)  Obama’s win and what it means.  I wasn’t at all surprised by this, nor was I surprised by his margin of victory.  (He didn’t trounce Edwards and Clinton, but his victory was more substantial than many thought — Obama 38%, Edwards 30%, Clinton 29%).  There were signs yesterday morning that Obama had surged in the past 24 hours.

Obviously this is good news for Obama.   The publicity, the money, etc.  I don’t, however, think this translates into a "wave", as some pundits are suggesting.  This is the political equivalent of scoring a field goal in the first ten minutes of the first quarter.  It shows you can play; it doesn’t give you any trophies.

Encouraging is the news that Obama won primarily because of the turnout among young voters.  How won every age group under 44, and lost every age group over 44.  Young voters usually talk a lot about voting, but traditionally fail to show up in droves.  This time was different.

As an aside, I haven’t read/seen much news or analysis yet, but one thing I’m struck by is the lack of attention given to Obama’s race.  I’m sure it’s being mentioned parenthetically, but I find it reassuring that not much fuss is made to the fact that he is the first African-American to blah blah blah.

(2)  Edwards in second and what it means.  Edwards has been campaigning in Iowa for four years.  In that light, his second place win is good, but not great.  I think he really needed a win, both in Iowa and New Hampshire in order to sustain himself throughout the entire campaign.  Of the top tier of the Democratic candidates, I think his climb will be the steepest.  Sadly, Edwards will not get much mileage out of this, as the "stories" will be alternatively about the Obama win and the Clinton "loss".

(3)  Clinton’s third place finish.  She can spin all she wants, but the Iowa results have killed the myth — so strong just four weeks ago — that a Clinton nomination is an inevitability.  Iowa’s third place finish, while not surprising, puts a lot of pressure on the Clinton campaign to win New Hampshire.  Fortunately, she’s still far ahead there and while I expect her lead to diminish, I think she’ll hold out.  She’s got buckets of money and an incredible organization, and I don’t expect her to disappear before the convention.

(4)  The also-ran Democrats (Dodd and Biden dropping out).  The thing is, I’m convinced that none of the supporters for Dodd, Biden, Kucinich, and Richardson are pro-Hillary.  As these lower tier candidates drop off one-by-one, their supporters will gravitate toward Edwards or Obama.  And if Obama consistantly beats Edwards in New Hampshire and other upcoming primaries, these supporters will mostly go into the Obama camp.

(4)  Huckabee win.  Heee heee ha ha ha ha ha ha!  I love it.  Unfortunately for Huckabee, this is the nadir of his campaign.  Oh, he might pick up South Carolina and a few other states, but New Hampshire?  No way.  The Christian coalition ain’t what it once was, and it never was big in New Hampshire.  [Note: According to exit polls, 60% of all Republicans who attended Iowa caucus were born-again or evangelical Christian]

Furthermore, Huckabee is despised — despised — by the neocon conservatives (the "secure America" crowd) and fiscal conservatives to the point where many of them will not vote for Huckabee in the general election.  The only reason Huckabee won in Iowa was because the neocon and fiscal conservative factions of the GOP were unable to unite around any other single GOP candidate.  As the choices become clearer, Huckabee’s star will fall rapidly.

If you’re looking for a blueprint for the Huckabee trajectory, think Pat Robertson in 1988.  Iowa voters put the evangelical candidate into a surprise second place.  Bush Sr., of course, ended up taking the nomination.

(5)  Romney’s second place show.  As expected.  He got thumped, but he stays viable.  A win in New Hampshire — which is expected — will make him the GOP frontrunner.

(6)  Thompson’s impressive third place finish.  I still get the sense that this guy doesn’t want to run, so he’s probably a little pissed that he did so well.  That said, I don’t think he’s going to go much further.

(7)  McCain.  Mere fractions of a percentage behind Thompson, McCain is in it for the long haul.  He will do well in New Hampshire and be the only candidate to give Romney a run for his money throughout the campaign.

(8)  Guiliani.  The beginning of the end.  Seriously.  He came in at 4%.  Ron Paul got 10%.  Now, it’s true — Rudy didn’t campaign in Iowa, and he didn’t campaign too hard in New Hampshire.  A questionable strategy, because now he will look like a serious loser for a few weeks.  Putting all his eggs in the Florida basket (whose primary is January 28) probably won’t pay off.

(9)  Turnout and Democratic energy.  This may be the most significant showing from last night, and it has to do with parties, rather than canddidates.

In 2000, the last time there was a caucus in both parties, Republicans turned out 87,000 voters, while Democrats produced 59,000.  Last night, the Republicans produced around 115,000 voters — an impressive 30% increase.  But the Democrats produced an incredible 236,000 voters.  That’s even more impressive when you consider that the Democratic caucus process involves hanging around for a couple of hours (while Republicans basically just point to a candidate and leave).

What does this mean?  It means that people are really interested in this election and in change.  And they are particularly jazzed about the Democrats. 

Look, for example, at voter turnout for BOTH parties compared:

356,000 total

Percentage of total vote

24.5% Obama
20.5% Edwards
19.8% Clinton
11.4% Huckabee (R)

Hillary, who came in third, got nearly twice the number of votes as Huckabee, who came in first.  In a moderately conservative state!  No wonder many conservatives believe the GOP is in total disarray.

(10)  Now what?

Countdown to New Hampshire: 4 days
Countdown to Michigan: 11 days
Countdown to Nevada and SC GOP primary: 15 days
Countdown to SC Dem primary: 22 days
Countdown to Florida: 25 days
Countdown to Tsunami Tuesday: 32 days
Countdown to Election Day 2008: 305 days
Countdown to Inauguration Day 2009: 382 days