Thursday, January 03, 2008


It was over right after it started, and so all hope of live-blogging sort of went out the window.

To go down the winners and losers:


1. Barack Obama. Of course.

In one of my twenty favorite movies ever, Miller's Crossing, Gabriel Byrne, playing a kind of Irish consiglerie to Albert Finney's combination of Boss Tweed and a Hibernian Al Capone, says this to his boss:

The only reason you run this town is that people think you run it. If they stop thinkin' it, you stop runnin' it.

This quote, in a nutshell, has been the coal in Hillary Clinton's engine for going on two years: her inevitability. She was going to win because everyone assumed she would win; any doubts, any other candidates, were buried under leads that stretched into the 20s and 30s.

Edwards, with that haircut and craptacular mansion, was a living joke. Biden had the taint of being humiliated by Bush over Roberts and Alito. Obama . . . well, when the Obama boomlet was one of the few bright spots for the Dems in 2004, I remember thinking that maybe the Dems should let Obama find the Men's room in the Russell Building before anointing him the savior of the party.

Well, three years later, it appears Obama has found the loo, and a whole lot more.

2. Mike Huckabee. Now comes the hard part. The difference between Huckabee and Obama is that Huck wins with all the demographics going his way (rural Evangelicals), and Obama wins with all his demos against him (2% black population, no dense urban population, plus Iowa is right-to-work albeit the most unionized of such a state). But, in the words of the old football coach Darryl Rogers, W's are W's and L's are L's. Huck has probably bought himself enough time (and potentially enough money) to last the month, or at least until the campaign turns south and the evangelical vote comes back into play. South Carolina, anyone?

3. John McCain Did just well enough to bolster himself in New Hampshire. But he's gotta win in New Hampshire.

4. The Democrats. Visibly more vocal, more enthused, more present than the GOP. A trend? Maybe.


1. John Edwards. Worse night than Romney's only because money is a concern, and because Romney may yet recover in New Hampshire. Edwards has essentially been living in Iowa for a year; this was the political equivalent of all-in, and Obama caught two runners. In a way that several candidates who did not as well as he:

2. Mitt Romney. Better night than Edwards' only because of the above. In five days, he could be toast.

3. Hillary Clinton.

We saw the month between Thanksgiving and Christmas, which began with Hillary grasping for an answer regarding driver's licenses for illegan aliens and ended with her apparatchik, William Shaheen, blowing himself straight out of a job (and hurting his boss in the process) by attempting a misdirection straight out of the Clinton playbook.

What is fascinating about Hillary's present bad patch (Bill appeared on Charlie Rose a few weeks ago to claim of course Hillary never expected to win in Iowa), is that the same Clinton strategems that worked so well for her husband are being replayed as a kind of crappy, straight-to-DVD sequel in which nothing works as before. Consider these strategems:

1. Demonize whenever you can. Last time, the Clintons' all-out assault on Newt Gingrich worked so well that a Newsweek cover dubbed him "The Gingrich Who Stole Christmas"--a full three weeks before Gingrich even took office. The Monica Lewinsky scandal brought about not one resignation but two: two Republicans Speakers that is, Gingrich and Robert Livingstone, after the first was successfully portrayed as a predatory obsessive leader of Hillary's Vast Right Wing Conspiracy and the second as a hypocrite for having cheated on his wife.

This time? Obama supporter (and former Clinton friend) David Geffen called Hillary a liar--truthfully, and almost as an aside. It would have been forgotten as the mouthings of one more Hollywood blowhard had the Clintons not turned it into a four-day story by their insistence that Obama 1) denounce Geffen and 2) return the money Geffen helped raise. Clinton apparatchik Howard Wolfson referred to Geffen--absurdly and repeatedly--as Obama's "finance chairman," a total of five times on Chris Matthews alone until Matthews finally called him on it. Obama's camp wisely ignored Wolfson's demands for this and that, and most people (not one in a thousand of whom could pick David Geffen out of a police line-up) were left with the memory of Hillary being tagged a liar.

2. Send someone else to slime someone and arm him with a plausible reason. If Hillary ends up losing the nomination (and right now, I think she stands at about 45 percent), two moments may stand out: her mishandling of the driver's license question and her New Hampshire campaign chair Bill Shaheen's ten-thumbed attempt to dredge up Obama's drug use and--again absurdly, unless they have the goods--raise the spectre of Obama's drug-dealing.

The reasoning for Sheehan's smear--if we don't do it, the evil GOP will, after the nomination--is both familiar and self-revealing. Used to work, doesn't now.


1. Thompson and Rudy. Nothing changes. Thompson is as faded as he was a month ago; Rudy still pins all on Florida. Neither is going to win, so nothing changes.

2. The other Dems. Combined vote count in Iowa: 2 percent. Nuff said.

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