Presidential election season 2008 is upon us and it has already delivered some rather exciting fireworks. On January 3 the people of Iowa kicked things off with their famous caucus in which two surprise victories happened, one for Barack Obama and the other for Mike Huckabee. Now, January 8, we have the first-of-the-nation primary in New Hampshire. As I write this, it is a close match for the Democrats between Obama and Hillary Clinton. For the Republicans, it was called early for John McCain. So at this very moment we still have a wide open race, at least for now.
Barack Obama, the junior Senator of Illinois, went into Iowa and won handily over Hillary Clinton. And he is giving another great performance in New Hampshire, trailing Clinton by 4000 votes. After Iowa, he was looked at as the frontrunner going into the Granite State, and rightfully so. All the polls leading up to today had him leading and the actions from the Hillary camp were anything but confident. There is an electricity in the air--so we're told--when Obama enters a room to give his stump speech. He is particularly liked by younger voters. But after all of this, he is still trailing Clinton.
Ah, Mrs. Inevitibility! She came in third in Iowa, getting beat by, not just Obama, but John Edwards. She has had a tough weekend in the press between then and tonight. And yesterday, she was holding back tears when explaining why she so badly wants to be president. Well, New Hampshire may just be the spark that ignites the inevitibility of Clinton to where it was just four months ago. It is looking pretty good that she is going to take New Hampshire and then the Democrats go on from there. The next state is South Carolina and the question is whether or not the predominantly black Democrat voters will support her or Obama. Many of the Democrat leaders within the black community are not sold on Obama so she may just come out on top, we'll see. One thing is certain, if you are an inevitible candidate, you do not loose even in Iowa.
On the Republican side, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney has plenty of money and--according to him--the best organization. He spent more than any other Republican in Iowa and came in second to Huckabee. In New Hampshire, he went up against John McCain and again came in second. Seems that we have a running theme. A couple of things stand out though. In Iowa, Romney beat all Republicans when it came to non-evangelical caucus goers. There other thing is that the conventional wisdom said that, because of New Hampshires open primaries, McCain was going to have to court the independents in order to beat Romney, meaning that the Republicans like Romney despite some of the hangups that have been flung around his kneck. One more observation: Romney has plenty of money to make it to the end and he is the only Republican to finish where he was the state before.
He didn't really spend much time in Iowa and he technically came in fourth behind some one who was considered lazy when it comes to campaigning, Fred Thompson. New Hampshire was supposed to be his to loose, after all he beat a sitting president there in 2000 and is well liked in New Hampshire. McCain's biggest problem is that the Conservative base does not like him, and let's be honest, Iowa and New Hampshire are not good indicators into the preferences of the Conservative base. He has to go to South Carolina where it is expected that he will not do quite as well as he did tonight. The other state that is looking for McCain is Michigan, but he will have to do battle with Romney there once again and it will not be easy. McCain could be considered the darkhorse in the Republican race, but realistically I don't see him winning.
The victor in Iowa came in....third in New Hampshire. Not too surprising. Huckabee is running on his evangelical credentials with a splash of economic populism. He is going to South Carolina where his chances are remarkably better than they were in New Hampshire. He poses a great threat to the other Republicans because the Conservative coalition is heavily populated with evangelicals. He also poses a great threat to the Conservative movement because many within the movement that aren't evangelicals will have a hard time voting for him due to his economic acts while governor or Arkansas.
America's Mayor is waiting until February 5 when Florida and a whole host of other states are voting. Something like 22 states will be casting ballots, and Rudy is hoping that those states, many of which are friendly to him, will be there to propell him to the top. It's a gutsy move giving the rest of the field a whole month to gain momentum and peel off some of the states that the mayor is banking on. He, like Romney, does have a substantial amount of money, so with him skipping out of the hardcore campaigning in the early states he will have some ammo come February 5. The question for the Rudy camp is will it be enough.
The bottom line for both parties is that their nomination race is wide open. For the Democrats it is really a two person race between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, while for the Republicans it is a little more wide open. The Republicans can claim no real frontrunner and right now it looks like a four way race. No one has won back to back and only one has held steady at second place with a lot more game to be played. The Democrats are going to have decide if they want to add more fuel to the dynasty fire that has risen since '88 when Bush 41 began the alternating presidencies. Or are they going to want to go with the guy that is being compared to the second coming of Bobby Kennedy. Either way, this year is going to be one of the most exciting presidential elections in my memory.