2007 Iowa Caucuses Loom

Aquarian Weekly 12/5/07 REALITY CHECK

30 DAYS TO PAY DIRT Iowa Caucuses Loom For GOP & Dems

Barack ObamaThere’s been over a year of white noise and revelry and backbiting and futile positioning rhetoric between 16 candidates with nary an incumbent nor true frontrunner sitting pretty. Long and pointless months of innocuous sound bites and crowded debate stages, asinine media manipulation and representative-laced excuse mongering has given way to the true campaign season, separating the haughty posturing and delicate strategies from the nitty gritty.

The wide-open 2008 race for the White House has entered the realm of Go Time, a buzz phrase for all campaign officials who’ve toiled with little sleep or personal monetary gain for mounting weeks and months in order to see tangible results. Go Time for the huddled and hunkered in a presidential race is pudding proof, when rubber finally hits road, and over the next crucial month Republican and Democratic hopefuls will put petal to metal and turn all these insufferable polls and goofy prognostications into the ultimate campaign trail pay-off, VOTES.

Here at The Desk, where we have driven a rusty spike through the hollow heart of two such endeavors in 2000 and 2004 – arguably the most hotly contested, protested and detested presidential election seasons ever – we have lain low, preaching patience and the need for a sober, stand-back level of perspective. That time is past. Thirty days is a blip in this procedure. A bad month has crushed the nuts of big-time politicians; shoo-in muscle geeks, who looked right but went left and fell into Carroll’s Rabbit Hole never to return.

The month before an opening primary or caucus will maim a weak candidate and catapult a strong one. What happens over the next thirty days, especially in the case of certain prominent candidates, may well determine the ultimate fate of the next president of the United States.

On January 3, the earliest starting gun in the history of this nation’s presidential campaign season, a season which has been ramping up the moment the Democrats stormed mathematical control of the legislative branch 13 months prior, an Iowa Caucasus for both parties will set in motion several scenarios which could cut the field, put to rest the wounded, and fire the panic jets beneath heretofore unstoppable marches.

Recall recent history when John Kerry’s 2004 run entered the final month before Go Time a floundering mess, overshadowed in every circle by a manic Howard Dean, only to emerge 45 days later as an “electable” juggernaut, or back in 2000, when a struggling George W. Bush was pushed to the brink by a hard-charging John McCain before baring the kind of fangs that put him in the big chair and eventually launched the War Era.

Let’s begin with where the Republican candidates stand.

After last week’s raucous YOUTUBE debate, which resembled the audience whoops and participant rancor of the most idiotic Jerry Springer freak show, the shift in the Iowa poll numbers is stark. The state’s shaky frontrunner, Mitt Romney’s shallowly disingenuous stammering and the pit-bull snarls of national poll leader, Rudy Giuliani gave way to a somewhat coherent Ron Paul and a stellar performance from Mike Huckabee. According to a Dec. 2 Des Moines Register poll, Romney, who has spent $7 million in his Iowa effort, has dipped from 29 to 24 percent, while Huckabee, spender of a poultry 300 grand in the state, has spiked from 12 to a leading 29 percent. Giuliani, whose people never expected anything from the caucus, wallows with the other also-rans at 13 percent.

Thirty days is a blip in this procedure. A bad month has crushed the nuts of big-time politicians; shoo-in muscle geeks, who looked right but went left and fell into Carroll’s Rabbit Hole never to return.

As stated here ad nauseam and proven out repeatedly, polls mean less than nothing. They are fun as a meager checkpoint and to analyze against trends, but usually end up stiffing, particularly in mercurial voting sites like Iowa and New Hampshire. However, one major issue has transpired on the Republican side: Romney, a flip-flopping master in the plastic-coated bull dung composition of a Bill Clinton or Ronald Regan, has teetered on the brink with Evangelical Christians. His vacillating positions on abortion, gay rights, and other key social issues have allowed Huckabee to vault ahead, but the former Arkansas governor and Baptist pastor has little to no party support to challenge in a national election and has even less money to win it.

Republican insiders believe Huckabee’s momentum will only serve to strengthen the Giuliani strategy of waiting out early losses, which are almost certainly assured in Iowa, NH, and possibly South Carolina, creating a confusing log-jam and leaving him the rest of the big states to grab on Super Tuesday, February 5. Nearly half the delegates stand to be taken on the biggest such primary day in history.

The Wait Game for Uncle Rudy also means allowing time for a Democratic candidate to come into focus. If it’s Hillary Clinton, then he is almost a guaranteed choice to head her at the pass, regardless of the former New York City mayor’s uber-liberal stance on gay rights, abortion, immigration, and even gun control.

Hillary? Not so fast.

With one month to go before the Democrats vote in Iowa, the 12-month honeymoon for Madam Shoo-In has come to a screeching halt. The Barack Obama campaign has woken up. By managing to deftly remain on the high road, they’ve also brazenly taken the bruises leveled on Senator Rodham by John Edwards and turned them into a legitimate comeback.

The same Dec. 2 Des Moines Register poll has Obama up from 22 to 28 percent and Senator Rodham slipping from 29 to 25 percent, only two percentage points behind a steady Edwards at 23.

Again, taking these numbers with huge grains of sodium, perception is everything. Up until about two weeks ago Obama looked nearly dead. Only massive Hollywood cash support and a groundswell of anti-Clinton rumblings from inside the party kept him from the kind of flash-in-the-pan footnote status the wooden Fred Thompson has settled into. Suddenly, with Clinton’s husband mucking up the works making up stories about not supporting the Iraq war before he didn’t support it or some such nonsense and a likely surge coming from the Oprah Winfrey factor when she enters the fray later this week, Obama’s electricity in Iowa could change everything.

Clinton has been not only running a national campaign and more or less ignoring the Democratic field for six months, the Republicans have already anointed her the opponent. She cannot afford to drop Iowa and limp into New Hampshire, which is notorious for following up an Iowa victory (check Kerry over Dean in ’04) or going nutso like a Pat Buchanan or Paul Tsongas win. Then South Carolina’s strong African American voter base may take early victories as a sign Obama could actually win this baby and avalanche what was once a Sure Thing.

But Sure Things come and go quickly in the primary season. A little bump like actually voting has a way of turning bold candidates into road kill and making newspaper jackasses look as stupid as they sound. Most importantly, winners have a way of standing come summer.

Thirty days.

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