I caught the first few minutes Hugh Hewitt’s radio show driving home from the airport a little while ago. I won’t say that Hugh sounded suicidal, but he certainly wasn’t happy about yesterday’s Iowa caucus results. Hugh attributed today’s stock market drop to the prospect of an Obama administration.
That strikes me as a little premature. For what it’s worth, I’m not sure the Iowa results changed the landscape much on the Republican side. I’m pretty sure McCain will win New Hampshire, which means that Romney’s “slingshot” strategy will have failed, but I don’t think it follows that Romney’s candidacy is dead. As Paul and Scott have said, Huckabee isn’t going much farther, and Thompson shows little sign of life. Which means that there are still three credible Republican candidates. Of the three, Romney might well emerge from the early primaries in the strongest position.
Notwithstanding the announcement, in some quarters, of the death of Reagan Republicanism, the fact that Romney is the only major candidate who is conservative in all three important areas–national security, economics and the social issues–should give him a substantial base of support in every state. There are reasons why McCain was virtually given up for dead some months ago (and why he has raised very little money), and those factors will reassert themselves once we get past New Hampshire. The great unknown is Giuliani: maybe his decision not to worry about Iowa and New Hampshire will look like a stroke of genius a couple of months from now, or maybe his recent slide in the polls shows that his support was always wider than it was deep.
So we still have three good candidates and a wide-open race, and I see no need to panic, as far as the Republican side is concerned. With this caveat: Democratic turnout nearly doubled Republican turnout in Iowa. Republicans are going to have to wake up from their slumber pretty soon if their candidate is to have a chance in November. Or maybe there just aren’t enough Republicans these days to give the party much of a chance.
If a lot of non-Huck-fan Republicans are feeling glum today, it may be that the Democrats have more fundamental reasons to be concerned about what happened in Iowa. Remember a year or so ago, when lots of Democrats were worried that Hillary was sucking up all the oxygen–a common phrase at the time–and making it difficult for anyone else to get traction? The fear, at the time, was that Hillary isn’t really a very strong candidate and may in the end be unelectable.
That may be what we saw at work yesterday. The main thing Hillary had going for her was her aura of inevitability. If that has now been shattered, and it appears that it has, a great many Democrats are like likely to desert her, relieved at no longer having to support a candidate they don’t much like. The energy now is all with Obama, and, with Edwards having failed to do much in populist Iowa, Obama looks like the only serious alternative. Some–prematurely, once again–are virtually conceding him the nomination.
But the moment is going to come when the Democrats realize that they are on the road to nominating a candidate who was completely unknown just a few years ago, who has zero credibility in foreign affairs, who is widely seen as unqualified for the Presidency, and whose views, where they are not strictly platitudinous, are more liberal than those of any President in history. It is much as though in 2004, the Howard Dean phenomenon had taken off after Iowa, rather than imploding–with the exception, to be fair, that Obama is a much more talented politician than Dean.
So I don’t think there are any grounds for panic on the Republican side. On to New Hampshire, and beyond.
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