Now The Gloves Come Off

So Huckabee and Obama won the Iowa caucuses, by surprisingly big margins in both cases. I watched Obama's victor speech last night. While I disagree with him on pretty much everything politically, I have to admit he's good. Rhetorically, Obama will easily outshine any of the Republicans if he gets the nomination.

Meanwhile the pundits have already settled on a party-line for Huckabee: he won big in Iowa because of the large evangelical Christian population, and won't be able to duplicate it in bigger states. A lot of people are pointing out that Pat Robertson won the Iowa caucuses in 1988. True enough, but Huckabee seems to be connecting with people outside the Christian right, too. His populist rhetoric may be very well-timed with the economy weakening.

Also, I think there is a substantial amount of resentment among social conservatives who feel the GOP has taken advantage of them and given little in return. Darth Beckman said it best:

The Republican Party treats religious conservatives like the high school quarterback treats the homely girl - he's happy to make out with her behind the bleachers, but he doesn't want to be seen in public with her. Huckabee was dead on when he said the party expects us to show up and vote, but is horrified at the prospect of actually responding to our desires. I've always known the party leadership felt this way, but now every religious voter knows it.

The thing both Obama and Huckabee have in common is that they represent a firm rejection of their respective party establishments. Democrats are tired of Clinton. Republicans are tired of Bush. Neither wants more of the same, and large numbers of people see Obama and Huckabee as a break from the past. Whether this is actually true or not isn't the point. The point is that people have that impression and are acting accordingly.

The establishment candidates aren't going to give up easily. Now is where the real fun begins. I predict you will see dirt flying in the next few days. It will be well-disguised but you can bet the Clinton and Romney campaigns will bring out the sharpest knives they can find. It may well backfire on them, but with the stakes this high they will do what it takes.

I'm not counting out Rudy Giuliani just yet, either. His campaign appears to be on life support at this point, but if the others damage each other badly enough Rudy could still be the last man standing.

And so it begins.

No comments: