Friday, January 04, 2008
Pondering the Results in Iowa
The outcome in Iowa was informative. A number of observations:
Mark Shield's principle of candidates either "doing better than expected" or "worse than expected" rules the day here.
Evangelicals were more organized and more monolithic in their support around Mike Huckabee than Clinton supporters were motivated by the big, old Democrat machine.
Only a small percentage of Huckabee supporters claimed not to be Evangelicals, about 14%, which means this is a feat that will be difficult to repeat, particularly in the Northeast.
McCain, despite coming in fourth, may be bigger news than meets the eye. He was all but out of it, and essentially ended tied with Thompson for third in Iowa, which I believe gives him momentum into New Hampshire. If McCain wins there, he could enter the southern states with a lot of juice.
Giuiliani, who is banking on Florida and points south may already be toast. Huckabee will likely motivate Evangelicals in South Carolina, and McCain may momentum coming out of New Hampshire into the southern primaries, so it may be all over but the crying for Rudy.
Ron Paul was supposed to have been the big surprise that wasn't. His motivated followers who were out fundraising all the main candidates, and their youthful exuberance was supposed to move him into a very visible third or fourth place. He ended up fifth with 10% of the vote. I predict he'll hang in until the end, and will go to the convention with a dozen or so delegates. And that will be it, though one must admire his pure libertarian principled ideas.
Thompson's third place is, to me at least, a pleasantly "better than expected" surprising outcome, though I don't see him reappearing in any solid position above 3rd place in any of the upcoming primaries.
Romney (worse than expected) will continue to fight on, but I think he comes in second in New Hampshire, then begins to fade in the south.
Huckabee remains to me an interesting and problematic phenomenon. I see him as representative of the recent fads in Evangelical churches, which have been undergoing a significant transformation in the past decade. Evangelical church demographics are becoming more liberal. As a result, churches that bring in more of the "prosperity gospel" and simplistic worship music in place of doctrinal, conscience challenging hymns are breeding pastors and lay people like Mike Huckabee, with fewer Chuck Colson's, J. I. Packer's, R. C. Sproul's, Jim Dobson's but more and more Mike Huckabee's. As mentioned in a previous post, Huckabee's Fair Tax idea is rather scary, though his views on social issues are, in my humble opinion, right and on the mark. Moreover, he has shown himself to be an exquisite debater, self deprecating and humorous. His foreign policy ideas are, however, reckless at best. What do you do with a candidate like this? I suspect his win in Iowa will go down to something akin to George H. W. Bush's victory there in 1980 before Reagan swept the table.
One thing is certain, the status quo is over. We are likely not going to see a return of Clinton, though they will fight hard and to the end. Obama, who has far more intellect and gravitas, is likely to hold on through New Hampshire, though I suspect the Clinton's will do a lot of damage along the way. Obama is reminiscent of John F. Kennedy. He is attractive to a new generation of voters, but also those, like me, who have been around a long time, and remember John Kennedy, a literate, articulate and fresh face.
Don't get me wrong, Obama is a liberal, and his ideas on health insurance and taxes is a notch and a half toward full out Socialism, and his views on the Iraq war are as isolationist as Paul's, but I think he is more electable than people give him credit for. Some Republicans are rooting for him because they think he is beatable. I think they are mistaken. He could take the country by storm. I hope not.
But the way the media portrays Huckabee along side him is an error. Huckabee and Obama may both be relatively new faces on the presidential path , but Huckabee has a far narrower constituency. And though I am sympathetic to that constituency, I see a lot of problems with Huckabee's electability, and mainly because of his ideas.
So what next? I see McCain and Obama winning in NH. Huckabee will rise a bit in the standings there, though he will end up well behind Romney.
After that, there are too few equations with too many unknowns.
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