Saturday, January 05, 2008
Fleetwood Mac would roll over in their musical graves if they could hear how the Hillary campaign has gotten into a time warp, obsessing with the 90s while a new political generation demands a focus on tomorrow. Going into Iowa, the Hillary campaign was notable for transcending the gender barrier while Obama struggled to overcome the racial divide. But last night, as the Iowa results came in, it was apparent that the real polarity was over generation and age. The Baby Boomers are being challenged to give up power. Voters under 30 backed Obama by 4:1, signaling the emergence of a new political force in our politics. And the Huckabee victory on the Republican side mirrored the Obama triumph. The evangelical populist reached out to the Reagan Democrats in a way that the GOP has not since the master left the stage. But now, the Republicans have a candidate who defies the country club set, blasts hedge fund tax shelters, criticizes huge CEO salaries and calls for an end to the IRS.
But all the while, Hillary Clinton clings to her rhetoric about experience and her ability to bring about change. She recites the lines that worked in Mark Penn’s polls without understanding the nature of the seismic changes the Obama candidacy represents. In the new politics of Obama and Huckabee, negative campaigning is out. The guttural tone of American politics is passé. Vision is in and tolerance is the watchword. And money doesn’t matter as much as it once did. Obama demonstrated that he could out-raise Hillary without going to the lobbyists hat in hand by massive Internet fund-raising, collecting clean, small contributions online. Meanwhile Huckabee proved that he could win without money, using the echo chamber of the cable news and talk radio stations to get his message out without paying for 30 second snippets on the air.
Suddenly, the Clintons have become old before our eyes. They are, as if by magic, now part of the past, no longer inevitable in the future. It took Obama and Huckabee to put them there, but they have become the couple that can’t stop thinking about yesterday. Hillary is not beaten and Giuliani has not yet begun to fight. January will be the month in which the challengers are selected to do battle with her and Rudy during February. Among the Democrats, the challenger is already chosen. Obama is in. Edwards is out. Banking all on a strong showing in Iowa, Edwards finished the same distant second that he won in 2004. After six years of working Iowa, he could do no better. Now all the anti-Hillary vote will coalesce around Obama and Edwards will be forced out. The Republican picture is more complicated. Romney will probably lose New Hampshire — most likely to McCain — and be eliminated, his checkbook candidacy having bounced. It will be a while until Mitt gets the message, but he will lose a series of contests until he pulls out. Thompson, who has dropped from day one, will be buried in New Hampshire and will also fall by the wayside. But John McCain, Rudy Giuliani and Mike Huckabee will battle for the GOP nomination in Florida and on Super Tuesday. Who will win the two-way Democratic fight or the three-way Republican fight is now anybody’s guess.
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