Thursday, January 03, 2008

Iowa Fever

Whenever I hear about caucuses, I always think of this passage from Alice in Wonderland:

“What is a Caucus-race?” said Alice; not that she wanted much to know, but the Dodo had paused as if it thought that somebody ought to speak, and no one else seemed inclined to say anything.

“Why,” said the Dodo, “the best way to explain it is to do it.” (And, as you might like to try the thing yourself, some winter day, I will tell you how the Dodo managed it.)

First it marked out a race-course, in a sort of circle, (“the exact shape doesn't matter,” it said,) and then all the party were placed along the course, here and there. There was no “One, two, three, and away,” but they began running when they liked, and left off when they liked, so that it was not easy to know when the race was over. However, when they had been running half an hour or so, and were quite dry again, the Dodo suddenly called out “The race is over!" and they all crowded round it, panting, and asking, “But who has won?”

This question the Dodo could not answer without a great deal of thought, and it sat for a long time with one finger pressed upon its forehead (the position in which you usually see Shakespeare, in the pictures of him), while the rest waited in silence. At last the Dodo said, “Everybody has won, and all must have prizes.”

This description certainly seems especially appropriate to the Iowa caucuses - on the Democrat side, at least. As of this hour, I have no idea what the finishing order is going to be, and I guarantee you none of the pundits, pollsters, journalists, or campaign veterans do, either. There are too many variables up for grabs - too much uncertainty about just who is going to turn out to vote, and even for whom they will end up voting. All I know is if *I* had to caucus tomorrow, I would be flip-flopping up till the last possible moment.

The fact is that, like many of my fellow Democrats, I like just about all of my choices. They each have their strengths and their flaws, but I believe all of them well qualified to lead this country. The key factor for me, at this stage, is electability - and I can't decide who has the advantage there. I can't get away from the feeling, though, that Hillary provokes too much irrational (and quite unjustified) but implacable hatred that would prove a serious handicap in the general election. By contrast, Obama has the likability factor in spades, which to my mind is the single most important quality for getting elected...but you can bet the Republicans, faced with Obama as the opposition candidate, would play the fear factor to the hilt, including dirt-cheap shots at his so-called Muslim heritage, and come down hard on his lack of political and/or governing experience. Edwards is a fighter who knows how to keep his head, and he has a passion that seems genuine, despite the slick-millionaire trial-lawyer facade - but I'm not sure how his populist posture (or posturing, depending on your point of view) will play among independents...and it's not like he's got that much more "experience" than Obama, unless you count running a presidential campaign that ultimately ended in defeat. (Despite my harsh words, I'm actually leaning slightly towards Edwards, though I fear his long-term prospects are dim and, like I said, I'd happily vote for any of the Democrat candidates in the general election.)

Bottom line is it's still anybody's race to win or lose. As for the Republicans, I predict Huckabee will pull out a victory over Romney tomorrow...but he won't be able to sustain his momentum in the states to come. (I fear the same will be true for Obama and even more so for Edwards, even if one of them does win Iowa.) I think for both parties Superduper Tuesday will be decisive.

And now back to our regularly scheduled programming...(I'm not normally a political blogger, esp. not at the height of movie awards season, but I do make an exception for the presidential race.)


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