A bit after 11pm this evening, we sat in our living room--Annie waiting to go to bed, me polishing off my third celebratory beer--and listened to Barack Obama's victory speech. Here's the key line:
...I’ll be a President who... understands that 9/11 is not a way to scare up votes, but a challenge that should unite America and the world against the common threats of the twenty-first century: terrorism and nuclear weapons; climate change and poverty; genocide and disease.
That's it. This is what we've been waiting for, more than six long years in which our hearts have been broken by degree, as we've watched our country stray so far from what we hoped it would be, what we wanted it to be. Obama's not a superhero, he's not a saint, and he's not infallible--but he is the embodiment, in our national politics right now, of what Lincoln called "the better angels of our nature." He makes me proud to be an American--and I'm pretty sure I've never felt that about a viable presidential candidate before.
The race for the nomination certainly is not over, but it's now his to lose. Clinton came in third; she was beaten by John Edwards, whose own speech, and the remarks to MSNBC of his top advisor Joe Trippi, made it pretty clear which of the other two Democrats they view more favorably. The campaign now shifts to New Hampshire, where the same independents who boosted Obama's margin tonight from "narrow" to "clear-cut" might well give him a second dramatic victory, then to South Carolina, where African-American Democrats seem to be shifting decisively to Obama, and Nevada, where Clinton might still win but Edwards' strength among union voters seems likely at the least to deny her a momentum-shifting triumph.
Maybe New Hampshire Democratic voters make a conscious decision to thwart Iowa; maybe all the independents do what they did in 2000, hurting Obama as they did Bill Bradley while stampeding to vote for John McCain. Failing either scenario, though, it quickly becomes tough to see how Clinton wins there on Tuesday.
A few other observations and half-informed guesses:
- The Republicans are in huge trouble. The Establishment of that party threw everything they had at Mike Huckabee–and he blew out their guy, relatively speaking. The only question now is whether the Club for Greed slimebags will rally ’round John McCain--who evidently finished behind Fred Thompson tonight--in New Hamphire, or try something else to stop Huckabee–because they realize that once the Christianists grasp they can lead, not just follow in the Republican Party, they’ll probably never accept an Establishment candidate again.
- Add in that the Democrats probably want Huckabee as the Republican candidate as desperately as the Establishment Republicans want anyone but the former Arkansas governor--his religious views, gaffes on the campaign trail and acceptance of public funds would put him at an enormous disadvantage for the general--and it’s not impossible to envision a landslide Democratic win in November. Were Clinton the nominee, I'd worry that Huckabee's clearly superior political skills and potential to run to her left on some economic issues and seize the "change" mandate could get him elected; not so if it's Obama, however.
- I *love* that Ron Paul finished ahead of Il Douche, a/k/a 9ui11iani. Paul won't win, place or show anywhere, but he still has a part to play; he's got all this money now, and I wonder if it's transferable to a Libertarian campaign. FWIW, I think Paul would be slightly less likely to run against a Republican ticket headed by Huckabee, but who knows–-Huck does still support the war.
- While I’m obviously no fan of Hillary Clinton, it still was pretty shocking how clearly biased against her the MSNBC coverage-–particularly Chris Matthews and Andrea Mitchell-–were. They detest her, and this is another reason why I think a McCain-Clinton general election race would be very bad news indeed for the Democrats. Then again, watching her speech and then Obama’s speech, it wasn’t hard to understand why the MSNBC crew was as slanted as they were; it was like watching a substitute teacher going up against Evel Knievel.
- Senators Chris Dodd and Joe Biden dropped out tonight. (I was evidently incorrect when writing earlier that former Sen. Mike Gravel did so as well--thanks to the commenter who corrected me.) The more I think about it, the more sense Biden could make as a potential running mate for Obama; he's funny and willing to mix it up as the attack dog, he's got the experience and Beltway know-how, and he could take on a major foreign-policy role. And he ran an exceptionally honorable and substantive campaign, pushing all the Democrats toward greater focus and specificity on foreign policy in particular. Likewise, Dodd showed his integrity and courage throughout the race, and I think did the Dem field a great service by standing up loud and proud for the Constitution in the debates. I'd love to see him challenge Harry Reid for the Majority Leader role in the Senate.
We've got so far to go in this political year... but it couldn't have started any better. Thank you, Iowa.