Thursday, January 3, 2008

Now it gets interesting

The GOP's Wall Street wing and East Coast Establishment (to whatever degree either bloc is non-mythical) both loathe Huckabee. Winning in Iowa will definitely help his fundraising, but he's still short of cash coming into Super Tuesday. If he can keep riding the evangelical vote, the difference in fundraising may not be as decisive as it would be for some other candidates. Still, it looks as if a GOP bloodbath is in the works. The knives will be out, and as I said a bit ago, paraphrasing someone else I can't remember, no one does a political knife fight better than Republicans.

Of course, a lot can happen between now and the time the primaries are over. The only Republican to win Iowa and go on to win the election was Bush 2000. Still plenty of time to coalesce around another candidate, and try to put down the upstart preacher who doesn't understand the role of the evangelical vote in Rove's GOP--to reliably turn up at elections, then go back to church and wait another 4 years, until they're needed to vote Republican again. No, the evangelicals are refusing to go to the back of the bus, and the rest of the party is looking on in horror. They embraced the fusion of politics and religion; they are now reaping the whirlwind. Whether they can get past this point without going through a complete purge and meltdown is very much up in the air; having perfected the politics of division and destruction, they appear ready to be consumed by it.

Which makes the Ron Paul situation all the more interesting. Ten percent of the vote, fifth place finish, behind Fred "Campaigning is such a bother" Thompson and McCain. But it seems high enough that Fox News' decision not to include him in the Republican debates is even more transparent than it was before. After all, it's still very very early in the process; too early, it seems, to be able to say with justification that it's only about including 'viable' candidates. Paul has a number of ideas that are distinctly crackpottish, but he's the only republican candidate talking seriously about limits on executive power, which is the defining issue of the next administration. As for his crackpottish ideas, sunlight is the best disinfectant. Let him explain himself; that'll do the job of sinking his candidacy.

On the Dem side, well, this makes thing interesting indeed. Hillary is trying to sell herself as the agent of change, while also running on nostalgia for Bill. Um, hel-lo.... The 'inevitability' narrative just took a hit close to the waterline. She came in third. Not far behind Edwards, but third all the same. This raises the pressure for New Hampshire; she has to win there, convincingly, or the 'inevitability' meme is dead and the campaign is over. (If she loses Iowa and New Hampshire, then her last chance is South Carolina; but if she loses the first two, what are the chances of taking the third? It seems the more the voters get to know Hillary, the more they prefer someone else...)

Edwards has got to be sweating it. His campaign is still viable, but no more than that. He was hoping for a win, he came in a rather distant 2nd. He's got to do well in NH and in the south. Whether his trial-lawyer skills will be enough.... we'll see.

For Obama, he's celebrating, and rightfully so. His speech hit all the right notes, he won by a respectable margin with a large turnout...he can legitimately claim a very real victory. Yes, if he takes the nomination, the choice of a running mate becomes very important; it has to be someone with serious foreign-policy chops. But that's a very good problem to have. Yes, the slime machine (both the Clintons' and the Republicans') will kick into high gear. But the campaign has a way of testing a candidate; so far he's risen to the challenge every time.

Also, John Aravosis has a hilarious statistic.

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