Archive for the ‘Iowa Caucuses’ Category

Obama’s Iowa Speech

January 4, 2008

The WinnerIt should be no surprise that Barack Obama just delivered one of the most powerful election night addresses in recent American history. This is what he does. His core skill is the inspirational speech that makes Americans, particularly Baby Boomers, feel better about themselves and their country.

I don’t mean to ridicule this. Just four years ago, the campaign of another outsider-oriented anti-war Democrat, Howard Dean, was undone thanks to a ludicrous election night rant. The fact that Obama can get up in front of the nation’s t.v. cameras and speak with such clarity, power and conviction elevates his entire quest for the presidency. He possesses a rare political skill and made the most of it tonight.

Having said that, I found Chris Matthews gushing over Obama over-the-top and embarrassing. Matthews was fixated on a victory for African-American and spoke about tonight in historic terms. It was historic, to an extent. But there’s a long campaign ahead of us. And, I’d caution Matthews and others from going too far. Those of us in Massachusetts have witnessed the limits of a chief executive whose chief strength is inspiring speeches.(Incidentally, did Mitt Romney make any speech at all tonight? If so, I missed it.)

I’m not yet sure how all this will play in New Hampshire. But remember those 207,000 new voters in the Granite State, I wrote about? I can’t but imagine them being anything other than extremely excited about what they saw tonight.

A final comment. I have to say that Obama’s backdrop, regular supporters, was far superior to that of Hillary Clinton, who was flanked by former Secretary of State Albright and President Clinton. And Obama gets points for his brief appearance with his wife, Michelle, and two kids. As skilled a speaker as he is — and that can do strange things to a man’s ego — on the surface, at least, he seems to have a very normal family life, a subtle contrast with Senator Clinton.

CNN Calls Iowa for Barack Obama

January 4, 2008

According to Wolf Blitzer of CNN, Obama has won the Iowa caucuses. Now, it’s about margin of victory. If Obama wins big enough, he becomes the story, placing New Hampshire in play.  Say goodbye to John Edwards, who appears to have performed worse in Iowa this time, than in 2004.Some astounding information is coming out voter turnout on the Democratic side. Howard Dean, appearing on CNN, said that twice as many voters participated on the Democratic side as the Republican. This reinforces my sense that 2008 is a Democratic year. But his victory seems to have come on the backs of people traditionally not thought to be regular voters, particularly the young.

Iowa Caucus Day

January 3, 2008

While my expertise is New Hampshire, I’ve been doing this long enough to make a couple of observations about Iowa. Given the vagaries of the caucus process, my sense is still that John Edwards will perform better than expectations. Remember he came in second last time and his organization has worked hard to make itself the second choice of the supporters of the lesser candidates.

The Biden Campaign is denying that it has made any deals with other candidates. Says Biden’s Iowa State Director, Danny O’Brien: “There are no discussions underway and there will be no deal with any campaign. We believe Sen. Biden is strong enough on his own. Everyone knows that Sen. Biden is a popular second choice for the supporters of all the other campaigns. We remain confident that Sen. Biden will surprise folks this evening.”

As for Hillary Clinton, her success hinges on the size of the electorate. If there are many new participants in the caucus process, she loses. But if the excitement around Barack Obama is great enough and if the energy coming from the far left is as strong as it seems, tonight could be a very long night for her. My guess is that her team has identified most of the die-hard participants, the people you need to win a caucus in a normal year. The big question is, is this a normal year?

I’m less interested in the Republican side in Iowa. The uptick in support for Mike Huckabee baffles me as did the margin of victory for George W. Bush in 2004. Both cases seem to reflect the strength of religious and values voters within the GOP — at the expense of other concerns. With John McCain and Rudy Giuliani both having opted out of Iowa and Huckabee — to me — not having legs, I just can’t see this contest being as determinative on the Republican side. That said, if Mitt Romney can win big there, I do expect him to benefit from a slingshot effect into New Hampshire.

A final thought: a string of Massachusetts politicians have profited thanks to their proximity to New Hampshire — Michael Dukakis, Paul Tsongas, John Kerry. In Romney’s case, the phenomena appears to be working in reverse. The more New Hampshire voters get exposed to Romney, the less they like him. I believe this is directly linked to the fact that the persona Romney has forged as a presidential candidate is so different to the one he demonstrated as a governor. In most cases, this wouldn’t matter. But New Hampshire voters got a close look at Romney in 1994 when he ran against Ted Kennedy and again from 2002 until 2006. So for him, the usual proximity advantage is actually a disadvantage.

I’ll post again later tonight.

Iowa’s Fifteen Percent Scenario

December 18, 2007

In the season of peace on Earth and goodwill to men, politics in Iowa is getting ugly.

The sniping between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama is becoming more heated, although his advantage over her appears to be solidifying. John Edwards’s comportment as a partisan firebrand is a far cry from his upbeat and positive campaign style in 2004. Polling suggests the winner will be one of these three candidates, all of whom are consistently garnering the support of more than 20% of those queried.

Yet the unique dynamics of Iowa’s caucus creates space for one of the three second-tier candidates—Senator Biden, Senator Dodd, or Governor Richardson — to shake up the race.

In 2004, negative television advertising dominated the lead-up to the Democratic caucuses in Iowa. House Minority Leader Gephardt of neighboring Missouri, was the early favorite in the race, until Governor Dean of Vermont caught fire in Iowa.

As the weeks leading to the caucuses approached Messrs. Dean and Gephardt directed their fire on each other in what became known to political operatives as the “murder-suicide pact.”

Each candidate was able to successfully destroy the other but they also destroyed themselves. By caucus day, weary Iowa voters were eager to look elsewhere and selected Senator Kerry as their choice.

Unlike a traditional vote, where every ballot counts, candidates who fail to receive the support of 15% of those present at a caucus hall are deemed unviable; if only 14 people show up at a caucus with 100 participants present for a given candidate, those voters are up for grabs. A second headcount then takes place.

A secondary candidate can decide to boost another politician or bury a rival by suggesting their supporters go elsewhere. Again, four years ago, Messrs. Kerry and Edwards ended up splitting up the support from Mr. Gephardt’s backers. Mr. Edwards, in particular, was a popular second choice thanks to his sunny demeanor, a quality he has ventured from this election cycle.

Read more here.

Iowa and New Hampshire

December 11, 2007

Iowa and New Hampshire might seem the same, but they are very different.

To much of the country, the early election contests of Iowa, January 3, and New Hampshire, January 8, appear as two largely white, non-urban, voting populations, which are lavished with an inordinate amount of attention every four years from presidential candidates and celebrities, such as Oprah Winfrey, who visited these places this weekend.

Upon further examination of these two states though, there are many qualities that distinguish them.

In New Hampshire, the polls will be open a minimum of eight hours on election day, between 11 a.m. and 7 p.m. Voting in most communities begins far earlier, such as the 6 start in Manchester. In Iowa, caucuses begin at 6:30 p.m., and voters have until 7 p.m. to arrive for their vote to be counted.

New Hampshire, like most states, allows voters to submit absentee ballots. New Hampshire’s secretary of state has already distributed those ballots to cities and towns. Voting can begin soon. Iowa’s caucus, however, permits no absentee ballots. The demands of the caucus are such that voters must go in person to the meeting place for their precinct at the appointed time and stay until the process is complete.

In New Hampshire, members of the armed services can vote. Soldiers and marines fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan have the same opportunity to cast their votes as veterans of the Korean War. Iowa’s arcane caucus requirements permit no voting-by-proxy which leaves those serving their country out-of-luck and without a franchise in this important contest. Likewise, the caucuses pose a problem for night workers and the elderly, among others.

 Read more here.