Kerry And Edwards Storm Iowa
In a dramatic and surprising finish, John Kerry stormed to a convincing win in the Iowa caucuses tonight, garnering a rather astounding 38% of the delegates. As surprising as Kerry’s result was, even more so was the strong second-place finish of John Edwards, who racked up 32% of the vote himself. Howard Dean, for reasons totally beyond me, fell to 18%, and Dick Gephardt only came in at 11%, and dropped out of the race tonight.
Kerry: The Zogby polls had the late surge for Kerry, and turned out to be right. Kerry gave a great speech tonight, and obviously the combo of John Norris and Michael Whouley did a great under-the-radar job of having a better effort than the media or Kerry’s competitors gave them credit for. The CNN entry poll said that Kerry was number one with seniors and union members, and those who felt he had the best chance against Bush. Also, according to Zogby tonight on CNBC, his early tracking poll for New Hampshire tomorrow shows that Kerry’s Iowa victory has catapulted him over Clark to neck and neck with Dean. The downsides for Kerry are several: first, he won’t have the money right away to compete with Dean and Clark long-term. And second, Kerry will not do well in most southern states, and instead should concentrate on bigger industrial states while Clark and Edwards make Dean burn his money in the south. And how in the hell did Kerry pull twice as much as Dean?
Edwards: The surprise is that Edwards, with little of the organization that Dean and Gephardt did, blew past both of them. The strong second place showing will lead Edwards to a strong position in the states after New Hampshire.
Dean: Again, what happened to the organization, or was organization overrated when it comes to late momentum? How did Kerry do twice as well as Dean? There will be no gloating by me towards those of you who are Dean supporters, who told me over and over again that the organization would do the trick. Something happened over the last week in Iowa that wiped out Dean’s air of invincibility due to his money and support. That is gone now. We are back to square one where Dean is measured against all other candidates as a possible competitor to Bush. What Dean still has is the huge money edge and the organization in many states. What remains to be seen is what effect tonight will have on those supporters. And what the hell was with that speech tonight? Dean didn’t do himself any favors with anyone who was tuning in to see him tonight for the first time, only to see him yell as if he was at a college rally. It was scary, and the media noticed.
Gephardt: No need to shoot the wounded here. The union help didn’t materialize and Gephardt’s time has passed. He gave a classy exit speech as he left the national scene tonight. The big question: where will his union support go?
Clark: Actually, a big loser tonight because he was anticipating a Dean victory so that his first contest would be set up for him as a two-way race with Dean in New Hampshire. With Kerry grabbing the temporary momentum away from Dean, he has also grabbed it away from Clark, and if Zogby is right, Kerry has shot past him to challenge Dean in the Granite State.
Lieberman: Kerry’s ascendancy coming after Clark had already pushed Holy Joe off the stage in New Hampshire was bad. It is even worse that Edwards’ rise has killed off any chance that anyone in the south will pay any attention to Lieberman when they could run with Edwards instead.
The future: Kerry can challenge Dean toe-to-toe over the next week to see if momentum can overcome money and organization. It already did tonight. Even though Dean still has the money edge, we face the real possibility that after next week, we will have a four-way race with Kerry, Dean, Edwards, and Clark. Because Dean has committed to a national campaign, Kerry needs to make a strategic decision as to whether to stay out of southern states and let Clark and Edwards bleed Dean, and focus himself on the larger states. But Kerry needs to win New Hampshire and to capitalize on these victories with immediate fundraising so that he can focus on those larger states. By ceding the southern states however to the Dean/Clark/Edwards wrestling match, he would have to bank on Edwards not gaining so much momentum that he pushes Kerry down the pole.
In closing, a great night for Kerry, and I congratulate his supporters for this major surprise. I also congratulate John Edwards for his energy and his dogged determination to stick with it, when his poll numbers were at three percent. As for Dean, Joe Trippi has some explaining to do, and the speech tonight will be replayed several times in the coming days. If your fervent base doesn't do the trick for you in a caucus state, then the dynamic changes and the sooner the Dean campaigns pivots to a Plan B, the better.