Despite the numerous traditional media reports of a "come from behind win" for Obama, I was not surprised. I was surprised by the margin of his victory, but the conventional wisdom had long been that the higher the turnout and the more new caucus goers there were, the better Obama would do. At 212,000 caucus goers (roughly twice the Dem turnout in 2004), 56% of whom were new to the process, it's clear that Obama's ground game to mobilize young voters and to woo independants worked.
What's more, Obama is poised to to tremendously well going into New Hampshire, where independent voters are a much larger presence. After that, it's not hard to imagine that black voters in South Carolina who had been supporting Clinton will change their tune. With the compressed primary schedule, Iowa momentum for a candidate like Obama puts him at a huge advantage. Without a doubt, Hillary Clinton was the big loser in Iowa.
What of Edwards? His 2nd place finish was a fraction of a percentage point ahead of Clinton (ABC refused to call it for Edwards even with 100% precincts reporting..."it's just too close"...I attribute that less to the debacle of calling Florida for Gore in 2000 than to Network incredulity that the establishment candidate had finished third). His speech last night, and his talking points in the post caucus media are correctly (in my view) framing the 1,2,3 Obama, Edwards, Clinton, finish in Iowa as a repudiation of the status quo, and suggesting that from this point on it's a 2 man race (not so sure about that).
I do think, however, that as we move into more Democratic primaries (not Indie strongholds like NH) I think voters are more likely to have second thoughts about Clinton because of Obama's win, but they will also be asking questions about Obama's progressive bona fides and (yes, that dreaded word) electability. Edwards will be the beneficiary of Dem doubts, and I think he should not only continue pushing his populist message (which has clearly resonated, despite traditional media reporting), but also remind voters of how well he does in head to head match-ups with the republican field. On the electability question, Edwards has a valid claim to the top spot. If Nevada ends up meaning anything in this cycle, it may be the place where Edwards makes his stand, with labor at his back.
Doomsday scenario: We have a '68 flashback, and a wingnut freak terrified of a black President named assassinates Obama, then everything changes in odd ways. Clinton would pick up here "experience in troubled times" message, but as a woman, would herself have to be seen as a target. Edwards, as the heir of RFK's populist candidacy, and the other "Change" candidate in the race, would be in a position to lead the Dems from tragedy to victory. Don't get me wrong, I'm in no way predicting this scenario, and certainly I'm not hoping for it, but ever since Obama entered the race, I've had the dark thought of his being assassinated by a racist wingnut at the back of my mind, and when he got Secret Service protection early in the race, my fears were only confirmed....clearly he's getting threats. It's a tremendous thing that whitebread Iowa gave Obama the win, but we're still a country with a troubling number of extremist fuck-ups.
Hillary: Did she really stand at the lectern with a sign that said "Ready For Change, Ready to Lead" and talk about making this an election of "change" while flanking herself with the 42nd President of the United States and one of his Secretaries of State? Yes. She did. Bill Clinton on one side, Madelaine Albright on the other, and calling for change. That picture tells you all you need to know about Hillary's vision for change.
This one's easy: The Huckster, Fuckabee, Huckabee got his evangelical Christian victory. Big Whoop. He's toast in New Hampshire.
The real winners in Iowa were McCain and Ron Paul. Huckabee might have won, but it's anomolous. Romney proved vulnerable, and will continue to fade. Thompson came in 3rd, but the dude is so obviously unserious and lazy as a candidate, it's only a matter of time before he drops out, so McCain's 4th place finish might as well be 3rd. McCain's finish in Iowa despite his opposition to corn subsidies and his views on immigration (so-called by wingnuts 'amnesty') shows that increasingly the republicans (who are not blinded by their religion) are looking for a candidate who is not Huckabee and not Romney. McCain, while he may not be perfect to the republicans, is at least a known quantity.
In NH Huckabee will do poorly, and Romney and McCain will duke it out for the top spot. McCain won NH in 2000, and his message resonates with indie leaning folks. Even if he doesn't get the top spot, he'll be poised to begin a comeback, and the media loves a comeback kid, especially when it's their buddy, McMaverick. I still predict McCain will be the candidate in the general.
Ron Paul got 10%, ahead of 9iu11ani's 4%. He's headed into NH where he'll likely have solid indie support from the 'live free or die' crowd. AND, we get to watch Fox News squirm and see if they invite him to the NH debate that they'd excluded him from...a debate to which 4% 9iu11ani has already been invited. I don't think Paul will win NH (as one Crinch Pinner privately predicted), but he'll continue to do well, and will increasingly become a factor, especially if this whole mess leads to a brokered convention, where Paul would have the chance to pick the candidate by awarding his delegates to another candidate, and negotiating for a place in the administration. Ron Paul will be more than a "insurgent phenomenon" in this race. He will be very important. And I'll repeat my prediction that 9iu11ani will drop out for "health reasons."
Tuesday in NH is only a few days away!