Some Iowa Thoughts


Jesse blogged last night about the one group of Iowa Caucus voters that Paul won: independents. That comforted some of the Paul people I talked to, but it would have been warmer comfort if, say, Hillary Clinton had won the caucuses. The belief around here is that there is an angry, mobile vote for "change," You hear it on talk radio, too, pissed-off voters who voted for Buchanan in 1992 and 1996 and McCain in 2000 who believe in "the establishment" and want very dearly to burn it down. If Obama didn't look viable they might vote for Paul: They see both candidates as unnaturally honest and straightforward. But Obama is viable, and these voters see a chance to both 1)make a difference instead of a statement and 2)end the craven Clinton campaign. (On the drive to Manchester's Elm St you can see a frightening Soviet realist billboard for Hillary, a glamorous profile of the candidate and gigantic letters spelling "READY.")

The Paul people whose canvass lists include independent voters say they're finding more and more support for Obama and precious little for Clinton. They're of two minds about this. They like the idea of Clinton going down, obviously. But most of them say she's the easiest Democrat to beat, a poll-driven Frankenstein who's taken the wrong position on the war. And, as stated above, they want every angry voter in the state to discover Paul, feeling that once they do they'll be locked in.

The network and bloggy coverage of Iowa has been completely fatalistic about Clinton. I'd normally call that silly: This was the first caucus, she's going to retool her campaign, Obama has to face frontrunner heat for the first time. But I'm startled at how many events that were supposed to boost Clinton completely failed to. The Des Moines Register endorsements actually boosted McCain more than it boosted her. The hostage situation was supposed to refocus attention on her. The resilience of the "Obama's a Muslim" smear was supposed to help her. The Bhutto assassination was supposed to help her, too, but most Iowans who said it was "somewhat" or "very" important voted for Obama. If endorsements and events that were supposed to move the ground for her didn't, what kind of campaign tactics will bring her back? Blistering attack ads? I'd believe that if Romney's blitz against Huckabee hadn't just failed so humiliatingly.