04 January 2008

What do the caucus results mean?

As an indicator of where the country is headed, not much. But they can't be ignored, either. Let's see what we've got.

As a Clinton supporter, obviously I'm rather disappointed in the outcome. She ended up in an effective tie with Edwards for second (just a few hundred votes behind him), but that's not how the media spin things -- third is third. And Obama, who I think would be the weakest of the three in a general election, won by a clear margin. I doubt that this will have much impact on the eventual nomination, but what impact it does have is clearly not good.

The best consolation is that the other side's results are even worse for them. They too had a clear winner -- Huckabee, a candidate driven mostly by the Evangelical-Christian vote, who could not win the general election. Their strongest candidate for the general election, Giuliani, ended up with just 3% of the vote, barely a third as much as Ron Paul. And the caucuses have not even done the Republicans the favor of winnowing their overcrowded field -- not one of their five major candidates has a convincing reason to drop out. Huckabee, obviously, is more energized than ever. Romney's disappointing second place is still second place, and he is still the candidate of the conservative establishment. Thompson finished third, better than many expected. McCain is rising in the polls and may even win in New Hampshire. Even Giuliani's pathetic vote total means little since he never expected to do well in Iowa, didn't try very hard there, and saw the caucuses mainly as an arena for his rivals to wound each other. Republicans will remain divided. In national polls, the Democrats have a clear front-runner who is also their strongest candidate for the general election, while the Republicans remain in a muddle.

A few more observations:

Each party's caucuses gave victory to that party's weakest major candidate for the general election (though there's a grotesquely large difference of degree -- Obama is far more electable than Huckabee). This suggests to me that giving the caucuses such disproportionate weight in the nomination process does not do either party any favors.

Obama's victory in an overwhelmingly-white state seems to vindicate the observation I made a while ago -- that being black will not cost him a significant number of votes. This is not because racism doesn't exist, but because the kind of person who would never vote for a black candidate would probably never vote for any Democrat in the first place.

The United States is undergoing a powerful revival of populism, despite the punditocracy's increasingly-frantic efforts to dismiss it. Both Huckabee and Edwards owe some of their strength to this trend, and all candidates ignore it at their peril.

Four days to New Hampshire.....



Blogger tina FCD said...

Thanks for that post, it helps me understand some of the outcomes. I'm adding you to my homepage if I can, so I can see when you post more on this subject.

04 January, 2008 07:31  
Blogger Ute said...

You know, reading this makes me feel a whole lot better. I was ready to pack my suitcase and run off to Norway. Now I'm thinking I'll hang around for a while. :) And Oregon is such a good place to hang... despite the rain.

04 January, 2008 12:44  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Tina, thanks. I'll probably be posting enough about this election to make you thoroughly sick of it eventually -- but they're giving me so much material to work with.

Miss PDX, please stay -- this process still has a lot more twists and turns to go through. I'm still pretty sure the next President will be Hillary (OK, maybe Obama).

One interesting fact I failed to mention in the posting: the turnout for the Democratic caucuses was almost 240,000, a much larger number than ever before, and more than twice the size of the Republican turnout. It's not hard to see which party is getting people more excited. Just relax and enjoy the spectacle of the Republicans playing demolition derby for a while longer.

04 January, 2008 14:28  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Historically the Iowa Caucuses and New Hampshire’s primary are the shakedown cruises for candidates to test and hone their messages. It is only in the last four or five presidential election cycles that they have taken on a life of their own, and that is mainly due to the media’s over hyping their importance as well as the results. The media, including the talk shows, are driving the process and are really the king makers. If the media loves you, they play up your strengths but if you do not play their game, then they will turn a minor flaw into a shaky foundation. By the questions, choosing which sound bytes they air and the spin they give, the media is the major player. What is humorous is that some of very talking heads who talk about lack of depth to candidates positions are the same people who keep the superficial analysis going.

04 January, 2008 16:21  
Blogger Losing Divas said...

Just so long as you keep writing these very nice posts... :) And then you better be right.

Demolition derby... sounds like fun.

I can't remember excitement like this in Germany ever. Maybe Germans are just too darn boring... or maybe they're not as desperate... or maybe it's the fact that for the most part they are able to separate church and state.

I guess I could go back to Germany... but I just like it too much here. This is my place. :)

04 January, 2008 16:53  
Blogger Losing Divas said...

Ah, the media... yes. That might have something to do with it. I hadn't thought of that.

04 January, 2008 16:55  

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