Tuesday, January 08, 2008

The Irrelevance of Iowa

There may be a lesson, or two, in John McCain's defeat in the Iowa Repub caucus. The Arizona senator finished fourth, slightly behind a candidate (F. Thompson) who often seeems disinterested in the campaign. Yet, he's the favorite to win the New Hampshire primary today, if only by a small margin, at which point he would be considered the favorite to be the non-evangelical, non -(faux) populist, the mainstream alternative to Mike Huckabee. And the media would put pressure on Mitt Romney to win the Michigan primary, suggesting that failure to do so would spell defeat in his bid for the nomination.

A victory today in New Hampshire would not propel McCain to the nomination, but would do more than keep him in the game, and that despite- or perhaps because- he virtually ignored Iowa.

And Hillary Clinton should have bypassed either Iowa or New Hampshire. If the New York senator had downplayed the significance of the Iowa caucus and concentrated her efforts elsewhere, Barack Obama (presumably) would have won big in Iowa- which he did, anyway, thereby demonstrating Clinton's vulnerability and weaknesses. (And John Edwards, one-on-one with the "Barack Star," might have blocked the big victory.) Coming out of Iowa, with Obama's big margin, Clinton should have harnessed her funds and energy, avoided New Hampshire, and gone elsewhere. This is hindsight- but a powerful organization should have seen this coming. Further, Clinton supporters, including Terry McAuliffe just this morning on MSNBC, have been saying since Iowa that the campaign never considered that state a particulary strong one for their candidate- with some indication that this has been a long-held fear. Avoidance of the caucus in Iowa would have, if nothing else, blunted the emphasis on Barack Obama as a giant-killer in a state with few delegates but a tremendous impact on media exposure and momentum.

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