The morning after the Iowa caucuses changed the American political landscape, the editors at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer chose to lead the home page with Gov. Chris Gregoire's decision to tear down the Alaskan Way Viaduct by 2012.
What were they thinking? All politics is local? Not last night. The mandate for change delivered by the Iowans was seismic.
A couple months ago, I asked a very wise Democratic friend of mine in Washington, D.C., how he felt about Barack Obama's candidacy. "I don't think he's made the sale," my friend said. He may have been right then, but last night, Obama took a giant step toward closing the deal. Mike Huckabee's victory was stunning in its own way, but I'm dwelling on the Democrats.
Obama may not win it all. The track record of Democratic winners in Iowa isn't great. There's a lot of danger for him out there. We can be as violent to our political leaders as the Pakistanis. But no one can deny the importance of what happened in Iowa, no matter how idiosyncratic and unrepresentative the caucus process. Obama took his alleged inexperience and turned it into a virtue. He gave the voters a persuasive message. He had a fabulous organization. He energized a new, smart, technically astute political base. These are important achievements for a political leader.
You want tech savvy? At 8:15 p.m. Seattle time, my wife received the following e-mail from Iowa. "Turn on your television," read the subject line. And the message:
Mimi -- We just won Iowa and I'm about to head down to talk to everyone. Democrats turned out in record numbers tonight and independents and even some Republicans joined our party to stand together for change. Thank you for everything you've done to make this possible. Barack
My wife's role? She gave the Obama campaign a few dollars several months ago. That personal, timely e-mail went to thousands of Obama supporters around the country.
Hillary has a tough job. She's got to poke holes in Obama, a guy that Democrats, independents, and even a few Republicans (i.e. David Brooks) are falling in love with. She's got to play the mother who tells her daughter that the guy she's fallen head over heels for isn't good for her. No one in love wants to hear that, even if there may be a smattering of truth to it. And when the guy is as charismatic as Obama and his family? A guy who speaks to, and embodies, the America we all wish for? Good luck.
Look at how the two campaigns chose to picture their candidates for their ritual speeches last night. Obama? Just the family on stage. That's it. Picture perfect. Hillary? The old style with a stage full of supporters and friends. Husband Bill, yes, but also Madeleine Albright, Bob Kerrey, Iowa politicans, union bosses. That speaks volumes.
This is generational. Suddenly, the Clintons are looking tired and the old Clinton campaign song, "Don't Stop Thinking About Tomorrow," sounds about as hip as, "Yes, We Have No Bananas."
David Axelrod, Obama's political strategist, is looking more and more like a genius. Somehow, I don't see a spot opening up for Bob Shrum in the Obama campaign.
Keep an eye on what emerges from the Bloomberg-Boren summit of high-status political moderates Monday in Oklahoma City. Remember that Obama publicly paid a call on Bloomberg in New York a month or so ago. I'm thinking Mayor Mike likes Barack. Iowa may have ended the idea of a Bloomberg candidacy, but by no means does it mean the end of Bloomberg on the national stage. Does he work as a vice presidential candidate? How about treasury secretary in an Obama administration? Lots of appeal there.
I'm sorry for Joe Biden, my favorite among the Democrats, but he had a King Canute role as the Iowa scenario played out.
Mitt Romney's campaign is in a death spiral. John Ellis at Real Clear Politics writes that Romney could have run a Gary Hart-style campaign. Put himself out there as the agent of change in the Republican party. A successful guy open to lots of new ideas. Romney has a good track record for making things happen. Instead, he manufactured a new persona that people instantly saw as phony. You can't fool the voters en banc, especially, voters in states like Iowa, who literally know how to separate the wheat from the chaff.
Like what you just read? Support high quality local journalism. Become a member of Crosscut today!