Blogs > Cliopatria > President Huckabee? President Obama? What does Iowa tell us?

Jan 25, 2008 11:40 am

President Huckabee? President Obama? What does Iowa tell us?

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The NYT headline, a year ago, would have shocked:"Obama and Huckabee Triumph in Iowa." Obama? Huckabee?

The voters of Iowa have spoken. Now it's your turn. What do you think of the first election results?

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Lawrence Brooks Hughes - 1/11/2008

Of course they are nice to him now! They want him to win the nomination. After he does, all the knives will come out.

Lawrence Brooks Hughes - 1/11/2008

If McCain had been elected president in 2000 instead of Bush the grass would still be growing in airport runways, because McCain would not have had the right fiscal medicine, i.e., tax cuts and deficit spending, to handle the war. Now the war itself might have gone better. Perhaps McCain would have found the right generals sooner than Bush--we'll never know.

Watching with interest - 1/9/2008

Regarding what you call the "D.U.I. late-hit" on Bush, the impact of that could have been avoided altogether if the Bush team had controlled the situation instead of keeping quiet about it. By not doing that, he or his advisors let opponents control when and how the public heard about it.

For all the later whining about it being a "late hit", the basic facts of the D.U.I. story were accurate. Bush could have used the story to his advantage; I would have, had I been in his place in 2000. The story was bound to come out, anyway. Bush (or his spokesmen) could have told the public much earlier about the fact that he pleaded guilty to drunk driving in 1976. That way the story would have played out -- and perhaps even largely faded -- much earlier during the campaign, not hit with full force at the beginning of November 2000.

In fact, political advisers often tell candidates to do put out stories themselves, early. It makes sense to do that rather than sitting and waiting in fear for the other shoe to drop. Putting out something of that nature looks good (the principal comes across as someone who takes personal responsibility). And it takes away or weakens the ability of the opponent to slam him with it at a time of their choosing. That Bush didn't do so was unfortunate. Perhaps he got some bad advice on that matter.

Have you heard any discussion among Republican voters of what the last eight years might have been like had McCain rather than Bush won the nomination 2000? As the Bush administration draws to a close, that "what if" has been an interesting theme that has popped up a few times among some of my friends of late. (Republicans are no less likely to be candid in talking amongst themselves than Democrats, some of the silly stereotypes of Republicans notwithstanding.)

I think McCain would have won the popular vote in 2000 and would have beat Gore by a wider margin in the electoral vote than did Bush. But given the state of the party at the time and his lack of appeal to some Republican voters, it would have been very difficult for McCain to win the nomination, which, of course, he ultimately lost in 2000. The use by unknown operatives of push polling, suggesting that McCain had an illegitimate black child, represent for me a side of politics for which I have no respect whatsoever. McCain's campaign manager explained later in 2004 why, unlike what you call the "late hit" -- the basic facts of which could have been dealt with forthrightly and astutely much earlier -- such things are so hard to counter:

Jason Blake Keuter - 1/9/2008

The results iin NEw Hampshire tells us not to trust anyone under 30 - they said they liked Obama and even demonstrated enthusiasm for Obama but they had other things to do on election night.

But the absence from the young in politics is not a bad thing, unless you subscribe to the consensus among intellectuals that a politically active life is the most desirable kind of life to live. Politics is neither noble nor necessary for someone to lead a meaningful life. If the young stayed away from it, that is not a bad thing. If political dedication is necessary, then that is an indication that the government is in a position to deny people self-determination. They young are not hopeless if they don't participate in politics : they just plan on making their own lives and don't feel they need to depend on the government to make it for them. It is those that depend on government (like the lamest generation greedily awaiting social security checks drawn from an ever shrinking young population that they pretend they would like to see involved in politics) that are naive and operating contrary to reality.

So what does New Hampshire tell us? Go ahead old Clinton guard and have your political life. Why would I fight over such a sordid and disgusting and ultimately useless prize?

Lawrence Brooks Hughes - 1/8/2008

I just lumped Gore, Kerry & Obama together because all three are at the same end of the ideological scale, i.e., as far to the left as it gets. Gore had little chance to win, until the D.U.I. late-hit on Bush provided him four million votes in the final week. And Kerry wasn't, either, or why did he campaign in only 13 states, trying to eek out a victory in the electoral college? As it turned out, Kerry was smart to adopt that strategy, which nearly worked and was his only chance.

Lawrence Brooks Hughes - 1/8/2008

The Clintons are finished, one way or another. If Mrs. Clinton should survive and get the nomination she will be so badly damaged the worst Republican can beat her. Bill will have to get somebody else to appoint him to the Supreme Court. (Never thought of that, eh?)

Dan Soucy - 1/7/2008

Perhaps my research material may be wrong, but according to Robert Spencer of Jihad Watch...
"In a statement to the Times, the campaign offered slightly different wording, saying: Obama ha never been a practicing Muslim.” The statement added that as a child. Obama had spent time in the neighborhood's Islamic center."

"His former Roman Catholic and Muslim teachers, along with two people who were identified as Obama’s grade-school teacher and childhood friends say Obama was registered by his family as a Muslim at both of the schools he attended." It may be that he attends a Christian Church today for political reasons,but when a tree is seperated from its roots, it dies.

Watching with interest - 1/7/2008

Mr. Hughes writes that "Remember, the liberal media will be pushing for Huckabee, because they think he would be the easiest to beat in November, and because they love to spiel hate about Christians, one of their favorite topics, and one which makes them repulsive to most of their audience."

I don't know which media market Mr. Hughes lives in, but I've seen none of that in the largely thoughtful coverage of Mr. Huckabee in the local and national newspapers and magazines that I read. The coverage that I've seen is much more nuanced that what Mr. Hughes posits as a stance for the media. It has emphasized the appeal of Mr. Huckabee's public persona (friendly, relaxed, humorous) and reported on the voters who say they are drawn to him not only because of his values but because he seems authentic.

Michael Gerson, President Bush's former speechwriter, argues that Republicans are not going to be able to win if they adopt what he calls a "mean" and anti-government message. Huckabee, like Obama, exudes a sense of let's work together to fix things, while still signalling belief in core principles. At least according to the analysis I've read, that positive approach has struck a chord with that portion of voters in both parties which apparently has tired of stridency and whining.

John D. Beatty - 1/7/2008

Some of these bandits (alternate term for politicians) have been actively campaigning for eight years, some all their lives. The media has been watching and reporting on their every move as avidly as a cat at a mouse hole. NO ONE is governing as long as there is continual campaigning. The state cannot function as a long popularity contest.

THIS MUST STOP. For the sake of the republic it must end.

Bob Harper - 1/6/2008

Mr. Hughes opines:
"Thompson is incompetent, something like Estes Kefauver years ago, and thus out of the question."

I wonder how he came to this conclusion? If he were to take time to examine the policies Fred Thompson has proposed to address the serious problems this nation faces, and the dignity and yes, competence with which he has proposed them, he would, I believe, find this statement rather embarrassing. At least I hope so. Whether Mr. Thompson has any chance to gain the nomination I don't know. But I'm quite certain that Mr. Hughes's airy dismissal of his candidacy is utterly unwarranted.

Frank D. Toman - 1/5/2008

I think it's way too premature to conclude that Thursday's Iowa caucuses tell us anything yet.

Iowa has only proven itself to be relevant on occasion. And in those few instances, that fact was not clear immediately.

So it's going to take more state contests to know for sure whether Iowa has shown Obama to be a serious contender for his party's nomination. Ask the late Ed Muskie (1972), George H.W. Bush (1980), Dick Gephardt (1988), Bob Dole (1988 and Tom Harkin (1992) about their Iowa victories.

I'm not suggesting Obama is not a serious candidate. He may well be. I'm only saying Iowa alone is not the measure by which to judge that.

It's also incorrect to state that Iowa Republicans were hardly thrilled with their choices on Thursday. Clearly they are thrilled with Huckabee. What's unclear at this early date is whether the rest of the Republicans across the country feel the same as they do about the Huck. My suspicion is that they don't and that the Republican nomination will go to Romney, McCain or Giuliani.

cynic librarian - 1/5/2008

Faith in Public Life (h/t Think Progress) asks whether the exit polling by the media is not assuming that Repubs are religious and the Dems not.

Arkie Refugee - 1/4/2008

I would definitely agree with the second commentator. Huckebee has been fortunate so far that no one has taken a close look at his record as governor of Arkansas. Having lived there for four years, it seemed to me he was a patronage-monger of the first order and did nothing as governor to help the rather large number of poor and unprivileged people who live in that state. His Evangelical commitment is pretty selective, restricted to the low personal cost type of activities and beliefs. It will be interesting to see how long the sincerely Christian Evangelicals will take to realize that Huckebee will lead them down the same hypocritcal path that Dubbya did. The path of mere lip service to their Christian values while engaging in all manner of injustice and corruption.

Dennis Slough - 1/4/2008

"...he evokes a sense of sincerity and *disingenuousness* ..."

I think you meant the opposite of what you wrote. Or, perhaps that was a Freudian slip and deep inside you really see him as somebody that is too slick. That's the way I see Mike Huckabee.

One example; his "Jesus was too smart" quip in response to the capital punishment question back during the debates was offensive in my opinion. He managed to belittle his faith and the seriousness of committing executions by making a joke of it. Recently he added to a list of accusations against Romney the (apparently) serious flaw that Mitt never had anyone executed. I suspect most American Evangelicals do not have a problem with executions despite their pleasure at labeling themselves pro-life. And, I realize the matter isn't on the shortlist for most Americans, but he's handled other sensitive subjects in a similar manner.

He's good, but the Bush-type gaffes regarding current events and the too cute dodges around difficult questions will eventually catch up to him if he keeps it up.

Denis Sinor - 1/4/2008

The war in Iraq notwithstanding, people are more interested in matters geographically closer to them. Bush or no-Bush, the Establishment failed, let us try something new.

cynic librarian - 1/4/2008

Conventional wisdom of the talking heads is that Huckabee's win is a fluke. Many of these commentators, like Chris Matthews, say that unlike Iowa, the rest of the country has less evangelical voters. Therefore, Huckabee will not do as well and is probably just a one-hit wonder.

Chris Matthews laughed at Huckabee's lack of current affairs knowledge last night on MSNBC. I think Huckabee might have the last laugh here. For it seems that Matthews is as blind as a bat when it comes to understanding the breadth and depth of the evangelical population. For instance, just in April, the NYT reported:

Johnson and his fellow Christian right activists speak of "values voters," but most of these voters are evangelical Protestants. Evangelicals have a disproportionate part in what pollsters call the "God gap" between the two parties. They make up a quarter of the population—around 75 million people—and a far higher percentage of them are frequent churchgoers than are mainline Protestants and Catholics. Furthermore, the group as a whole has for a decade voted Republican in much greater proportion than the other two groups. In 2000, 68 percent of evangelicals voted for George Bush; in 2004, 78 percent of them did. Last summer, polls showed that the war in Iraq, corruption, and the administration's response to Hurricane Katrina had brought the evangelicals' approval ratings for Bush and the GOP down by twenty points in just two years. But on the last Election Day they turned out in their usual numbers, and over 70 percent of them voted for Republican congressional candidates. White evangelicals have, in other words, become the GOP's most reliable constituency, and they normally provide about a third of the Republican votes.
Where do people like Matthews think all of these people live? I imagine that he and others think they are distributed throuout backwoods and rural America, so-called Red America. It is my experience, though, that the evangelical movement is far and wide and includes urban areas as much as those traditionally believed by the Left to be "religious."

Perhaps someone has done more in-depth demographic analysis of the geographical distribution of evangelicals. I am open to correction and perhaps will do some research on it myself in the next few days.

Matthews and others like him seem to have no clue about Huckabee's appeal. I think Howard Fineman gets it. He coined a phrase last night to describe Huckabee's approach: "the politics of intimacy." Huckabee is a charming, disarming person in his interviews. He diverts attention away from polarizing stereotypes and runs hits at the center of the humanity of his questioners.

This is a new angle and powerful tack on how to deal with the media and seems especially suited to media-centered politics. For now, I will coin my own term for Huckabee's approach. He is the "Being There" candidate. Much like Chauncey Phillips in the novel and film of that name, he evokes a sense of sincerity and disingenuousness that belies cynicism so rampant among the media pundits.

Richard Layman - 1/4/2008

Actually, including Gore and Kerry in the list is not the same as Obama. Kerry was chosen over Dean because he was seen as more electable. Gore was chosen as the heir to Clinton. Maybe he was the most electable, but he ran a terribly wooden campaign (for a similar coronation with disastrous effect, see the Kathleen Kennedy Townsend race for Governor in MD in 2002). That could still happen wrt Clinton. I don't know what to make of IA or the presidential campaign at this time. I am merely commenting on the previous entry.

Michael Cook - 1/4/2008

I think that the Iowa caucuses tell us at least three important points: Obama has become a serious candidate for president, the trend of younger voters turning out continues, and Republicans in Iowa were hardly thrilled with their choices. I would hate to suggest that Iowa represents the nation, but at the moment it appears that Barack Obama might well win in November. He has the support of young voters.

None of the Republicans appear close to capturing the nation's attention. If we do experience a recession, a distinctive Democrat should win (as if the war in Iraq will not be enough).

Lawrence Brooks Hughes - 1/4/2008

John Edwards is now gone, but Mrs. Clinton has all the money in the world and will doubtless stay around as the alternative to Obama, suggesting subtly "he can't win," as her best selling point. But the 'crats will nominate Obama, anyway, sticking with their failed tradition of Gore, Kerry and Pelosi.
By November the idea of Barack Obama will be very stale, also seriously weakened by the Clintons' sniping, and the GOP candidate should be the favorite.

Huckabee is real now, though probably cannot win in New Hampshire. McCain can't win in NH either, unless the crossover vote of Democrats is really tremendous. He is totally unacceptable to most Republicans, who feel, as I do, that he is a liberal. He is also low on money and not liable to find any. Thompson is incompetent, something like Estes Kefauver years ago, and thus out of the question. Huckabee will draw money fast after yesterday. Huckabee might win South Carolina and Florida. Remember, the liberal media will be pushing for Huckabee, because they think he would be the easiest to beat in November, and because they love to spiel hate about Christians, one of their favorite topics, and one which makes them repulsive to most of their audience. All that could propel Huckabee. Romney will probably win New Hampshire, Michigan and Nevada.

It boils down to Romney, Huckabee, and maybe Giuliani, although the latter is said to be broke, too. Of them all, I give Romney the best chance, yet he might be finished if he fails again in NH.

Barry Biederman - 1/4/2008

1) It's thrilling to see Hillary get her comeuppance: and (for a while at least) the dynastic element in White House has gotten a setback
2) It's thrilling that Iowa, a lily-white state that one never associated with radicalism, should have disproved the cynics and given racism a slam by enthusiastically supporting an African-American candidate.
3) It's thrilling to see the fault lines in the GOP revealed so starkly, when a Baptist minister proposing economic policies so different from Wall Street's triumphs over a Wall Street hedge fund operator.
4) It would be even more thrilling if, after Iowa and New Hampshire go back to bed, the political class would reconfigure the way our presidential candidates are chosen – by regional primaries, or some other more rational means.

Oscar Chamberlain - 1/4/2008

The Iowa caucuses indicated that Huckabee and Obama both have strong core supporters who will spend an evening away from home. Really that's all.

I don't claim that is unimportant. A strong core is essential to any candidate. However, the ability to mobilize such supporters is not the same as the ability to attract those voters who have less time, are undecided, or have only a marginal interest in the issues.

Gloria Main - 1/4/2008

Huckabee attracts true believers and would be easily beatable running against either Edwards or Obama. Iowa has hurt Clinton and Thompson but not Mr. September-Eleven. Whoever wins the Democratic nomination, I hope she/he appoints Joe Biden Secretary of State.

Christopher K. Philippo - 1/4/2008

Indeed. I would not be surprised to hear that on Fox News (if I could stomach watching it), but on HNN it's surprising. It's also odd to hear it claimed that neither Huckabee nor Obama have had national exposure... they've had plenty!

Pat Davison - 1/4/2008

He was referring to Huckabee as the Muslim. We all know that Obama is Christian!

Barbara Tenenbaum - 1/4/2008

Excuse me, but Barack Obama is NOT a Muslim. He, like Huckabee, is a Christian. Let's stop spreading this misinformation.

Dan Soucy - 1/4/2008

Hmm. A Christian and a Muslim dueling it out in an election. An interesting subject for future historians to argue about. I wonder if the religious aspect behind the candidates will overshadow the fact that both of these men stand strongly upon their belief's? Neither one of the candidates have widespread national exposure and I feel that the Iowa results are an indication that America is pretty much done with politics as 'normal.' Maybe a new political party will emerge from this years race?

SiewertH. Ellens - 1/4/2008

As a Dutch cabaret artist once said: "The making of predictions is difficult, especially so when it concerns the future".