Random thoughts on the Iowa caucuses

Matthew Hoy
By Matthew Hoy on January 3, 2008

The results of tonights Iowa caucuses are in and the big winners are Sen. Barack Obama and former Gov. Mike Huckabee.

My first thought is: Wait a minute! It's January 3rd for crying out loud.

Sen. Hillary Clinton came in third. That's deep trouble for her. If she doesn't win New Hampshire now, then the inevitablility train may leave the station without her. Keith Olbermann is apparently trying to spin Hillary's loss thusly: If you don't count independents who caucused with Democrats, then Hillary only lost to Obama 32-31. Sorry, but to use a little Arkansas phraseology, that dog won't hunt. Hillary can get every single Democrat in America to vote for her come November, and she'll lose all 50 states. Both the Republicans and the Democrats have to get independents behind them, and the fact that Hillary lost so many of them may be a warning sign that she'd be in big trouble come election day.

Sens. Chris Dodd and Joe Biden are leaving the race. They were running?

Huckabee won this evening on biography.

So did Obama.

Echoing something I alluded to yesterday, Fred Barnes had a piece in Thursday's Wall Street Journal entitled "The Seinfeld Campaign" -- referring to the popular TV show about nothing.

The 2008 presidential race is different: Voters are scarcely getting any glimpse of how the next president would perform in the White House. Instead, the campaign has been dominated by uninformative debates with too many marginal candidates and by a series of unimportant squabbles.

On top of that, both Democratic and Republican candidates are spending an enormous amount of time making frivolous distinctions among themselves and their rivals. As the first actual voting begins today in the Iowa caucuses, it's only a slight exaggeration to say that voters have been cheated.

We know, of course, that the Democratic candidates are liberals and the Republicans tend to be conservative to one degree or another. But we knew this from the early beginnings of the campaign more than a year ago.

Since then, many of the candidates have issued position papers or taken detailed stands on various issues. But these are mostly of interest to policy wonks, single issue groups and some elements of the press. They aren't intended to attract much attention, and they haven't.

What matters is what the voters see and hear -- the public campaign. And it's here where the voters are learning disturbingly little from the candidates on how they'd act as president.

I encourage you to read the whole thing. Barnes is right, but it's not just about the candidates. The public is being ill-served by the media. After Huckabee's win, what are the odds that someone in the media will do a serious, and in-depth look at Huckabee's major campaign promise: the "FairTax?" Frankly, this is something the media should've done when Huckabee first started to shoot up in the polls. There's no excuse now.

Predictions of former Gov. Mitt Romney's demise are methinks premature.

Fred Thompson's get-in-late strategy wasn't a total disaster.

Where does John Edwards go from here? At first glance you'd think he'd get more press with his second-place finish in Iowa, but I suspect he'll get drowned out amidst the Barack bounce and the what-happened-to-Hillary stories.


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January 2008



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