Thursday, January 03, 2008



Captain's Quarters is liveblogging the results in Iowa. Huckabee is the clear leader among Republicans. Obama, Hillary and Edwards are bunched within a small band, and that is where the real drama lies. Open question: if the Obama, Hillary and Edwards all finish close to one another, who will have "won" in strategic terms?

MSNBC is calling Iowa for Huckabee and Obama.

When a candidate "wins" in Iowa, what will it indicate about the actual political strength of that candidate? Dick Polman at American Debate explains the rules on both sides and concludes that for the Democratic party at least, "winning" doesn't necessarily mean what you think it does. It may mean less. And it may mean more.

The Republicans are actually paragons of small-d democracy; their participants choose among the candidates by secret ballot (writing the names on slips of paper), and the state GOP releases the figures, so that we spectators can see the popular vote statewide. ...

Not so the Democrats. Their rules are a Byzantine labyrinth that appears to have been concocted by Franz Kafka, Lewis Carroll, and Joseph Heller. And Democrats don't even release the popular vote of their participants. The final percentages that you will see on TV are something else entirely, although I wonder whether the TV anchors will point this out. ...

Here's roughly how the Democratic caucuses work: Participants have to physically stand with those who support the same candidate. But if that candidate draws less than 15 percent of the people in attendance, the group is dissolved, and those people have to make a second choice, and then go stand with that candidate's group. (A woman from Webster City, Janet Adams, told me not long ago that it's actually quite exciting: "The whole process is all about neighbors, you know. People say things like, 'why don't you come over to our side?'") All of which means that the official Democratic winner tonight may well attain that status because he or she has second-choice strength ...

... if Barack Obama wins decisively tonight on the Democratic side (by a margin that obliterates the aforementioned nuances), it can't be dismissed as just a flaky Iowa outcome. It would mean that large numbers of white people were willing to stand in front of their white neighbors and declare themselves for an African-American candidate. That would be significant in itself, and all the caveats about the Iowa process would be forgotten.

The structure of the Democrat's Iowa rules effectively allow a trade across platforms by creating the opportunity to create new coalitions as others dissolve. Robert Novak argued that Hillary Clinton's greatest mistake was to anticipate a trade across platforms in the general election forgetting that she had still to win over her own electoral base.

Penn, a professional pollster who was political adviser to President Bill Clinton, is chief strategist for the Hillary Clinton campaign. ... Penn's strategy from the start was predicated on the inevitability of Clinton's nomination so that the real concern was to position her to run against the Republicans by making clear she was no more a hard leftist than her husband had been. ...

He has embraced the triangulation -- coming over as a third force somewhere between liberal and conservative poles -- that characterized Bill Clinton's politics after 1994, based on advice from Dick Morris. To many Democratic operatives, Penn's triangulation prematurely introduced a general election strategy, when in fact the party nomination was still in doubt.

If Hillary cannot win her caucuses outright, what will the effect of her general election platform be upon the ability to create new coalitions on the fly? I suspect it may hurt her. The NYT Caucus has been talking about an Obama-Richardson deal and the Washington Post Trail has been mooting an Obama-Bidel deal in places where these can be cut. Hillary's greatest mistake may have been in thinking she was running for President of the United States. She is still only running for the nomination of the Democratic Party.


Blogger Sean Baird said...

A Bridge Too Far perhaps, for Hillary?

I don't see her giving up without a fight, however.

1/03/2008 05:25:00 PM  
Blogger Nomenklatura said...

Brought down by arrogance? How unthinkable!

1/03/2008 05:29:00 PM  
Blogger Marcus Aurelius said...

Iowa is next to Obama's stronghold of Illinois. It is probably a four hour drive from Chicago to the IA border so the format along with the location suits Obama.

I wonder what kind of ground operation Obama has in Texas & Florida? New York etc.

1/03/2008 05:47:00 PM  
Blogger Mad Fiddler said...

Hello, again tutekx, old friend.

You've found a new way to extricate yourself from that ankle bracelet. That's very clever. I'm very proud of your resourcefulness.

But it's time for you to take your meds again. Please be careful this time to drink from the vessel on the rolling tabouret, not the urinal on the bedside cabinet, okay?

Tomorrow we will talk about that pesky dream you keep having where you think you're running a really clever scam persuading people to take surveys hoping to claim worthless paypal credits so they can purchase non-existant Ebay items.

Please get plenty of rest, and don't stay up playing with your computer again. You don't want to go through that business with the genital cuff again, do you?

1/03/2008 11:52:00 PM  

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