Friday, January 04, 2008

Iowa - The Message From The Great Plains

Welcome back,Joshua's Army members and Happy New Year!

The Iowa caucus results are in, with the usual accompanying media frenzy.

As I expected, Weekend Monkey continues to demonstrate his amazing savvy as a political animal, predicting the results New Year's Eve with unerring accuracy.

And it ended up exactly as he said it would,with Mike Huckabee easily winning for the GOP, Romney well behind,and John McCain barely aceing Fred Thompson for third place and with Barack Obama decisively winning for the Democrats, while John Edwards and Hillary Clinton brought up the rear.

I should also mention that I ascribe a lot less meaning into an early caucus - not a primary - victory than a number of other commentators, but there are nevertheless some important indications to draw from this.

The first thing I note is that Americans, particularly in the Heartland are concerned about bread and butter and quality of life issues like the economy, education and healthcare and are no longer as focused on foreign policy and security as they were before the good news from Iraq and the Iran NIE.

Mike Huckabee and Barack Hussein Obama are both playing to this, if from very different angles.

In Huckabee's case, he is using his natural empathy and ability to communicate to attract social conservatives who also favor a populist slant, as opposed to the Gordon Geckko breed of insiders. One of the best lines I've heard in the entire campaign came from Huckabee on Jay Leno's show when he said he thought people would rsther vote for someone who looks like the guy they work with rather than the guy who laid them off. Huckabee appeals to people who consider themselves `values voters' and think of America's culture as the great war to be fought to create change.

Obama's angle is different, but similarly aimed. His message, if it could be capsulated into one word would be `change' and rather than focusing on changes to America's culture focuses on expanding government to effect change, a message that resonates with Democrats.

In actuality, all three of the Democratic front runners are running, to a more or lesser degree on the idea of increased government control and indeed, socialism. Obama is the most successful of the three because of his charisma and because he is the least identified with the old order.

Another similarity between the two aside from their relative inexperience and emphasis on domestic issues rather than foreign policy is their ability to connect on a visceral,personal level with voters.

While this concern with economic and social issues is a trend, it remains to be seen how it will play out nationwide.In more populous, prosperous areas of the country,these issues might simply not resonate in the same way. The kind of retail politicking that wins in places like Iowa and New Hampshire is not possible in states like New York or California.And there's also the everpresent possibility of a foreign policy issue rearing its ugly head to remind Americans that we're at war and we live in a dangerous world.

As a final note, I would point out that InTrade's smart money has Mrs. Clinton as a 15 point favorite to win the nomination. A loss in Iowa of this kind is a hard shot, but hardly a knockout blow.

We will see what we will see...

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