More thoughts on the new landscape
Okay, I'm tired today, so I'm just offering some of the best.
Ken Silverstein, of Harper's:
On the Democratic side, Edwards is finished. His only chance, remote even if he’d been successful, was winning Iowa. He didn’t and his campaign is done.
I’m not a big fan of either Obama or Hillary. The former is charismatic and intelligent, and that certainly counts for something. But if you look at his voting record, his campaign donors and his key advisors, he certainly doesn’t have the profile of a politician who intends to be a force for “change.” It was easy for him to make his famous anti-war speech in 2002 from Illinois, but would he have opposed the invasion if he’d been in the U.S. Senate at the time? I seriously doubt it. The only reason I can find to feel positive about Hillary (and it’s not a bad one) is that I have a 13-year-old daughter who is rooting for her.
As for the race, I don’t think Hillary Clinton is dead yet. In fact, the strongest thing in her favor may be that the same collective media wisdom that for so long decreed her the nominee has now decided that Obama is all but a shoo-in. Hillary has too much money and too much support from the Democratic political establishment to crash and burn just because of yesterday’s vote. And while Obama will get his “bump” from winning Iowa, I suspect there are also large numbers of voters in New Hampshire (and elsewhere) who don’t like the idea of Iowa deciding the whole race.
All of that said, if Obama wins New Hampshire Hillary really starts smelling like a loser. If Hillary wins next week, I’d bet that she’s the Democratic nominee.
Tim Dickinson, Rolling Stone:
Obama scored two huge victories tonight. He not only popped Clinton’s aura of inevitability, he also beat Edwards roundly enough to establish himself as the only true anti-Clinton. So not only is Clinton wounded heading into New Hampshire, but the ABC (anyone but Clinton) vote has found its standard bearer — and his name isn’t John Edwards.
Which is all to say that even if Clinton makes a miraculous recovery in the next five days, I think enough of Edwards’ vote is going to migrate to Obama that it’s not going to make a difference. New Hampshire is his to lose.
Walter Shapiro, Salon:
There will be many attempts in the next few days to define Obama's magnetic appeal -- and to explain why Iowa, one of the most monochromatic states in the nation, turned its love light on a candidate whose grandmother lives in a village in Kenya. It may be a case where emotion (the bring-us-together hopes projected onto Obama) trumps clear-eyed rationality (Clinton's here-are-my-programs approach to politics) and populist fervor (Edwards' crusade against "corporate greed").
It is striking how Obama's rhetoric differs from standard political oratory by being a statistic-free zone. In the closing days in Iowa, Obama might talk for 40 minutes in a tiny town like Perry while citing only one or two numbers. In contrast, Clinton on the stump is a human pocket calculator, constantly telling voters how much purchasing power they have lost under Bush (about $1,000) and how many jobs were created under Bill Clinton (lots!). Even Edwards spices his talks with a burst of numbers about the extent of poverty in America.
But for Obama, the only number that matters is his comfortable 8 percent victory margin over Edwards and Clinton. With the (winter) wind at his back heading into New Hampshire, Obama is now the favorite in a contest almost certain to give the Democrats either an African-American or a woman presidential nominee. But Hillary Clinton may soon be reminding voters that one candidate managed to make it to the White House despite losing both the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary -- and that late bloomer was none other than Bill Clinton in 1992.
Joe Conason, Salon:
Weighed down by her advisors and her own habitual style, Clinton was unable to exploit the mistakes committed by Obama. His sly gestures toward the right and the Republicans, his inadequate healthcare proposal and his Social Security gaffes offered her the chance to flank him on the left, where he was strongest and she was weakest, owing to her Iraq war vote. She scored in the debate over healthcare, but retreated when he attacked her plan's mandated coverage (as if his own plan didn't include a mandate to insure children)....
As the Senate's most celebrated Democrat -- before Obama-mania and Oprah Winfrey -- Clinton should have led the struggle to save her party's bedrock program from Republican depredations. But her opposition then sounded dutiful rather than impassioned. Over the past two months in Iowa, she could have stood up as the defender of Social Security -- and proved that she knew not only what she was talking about but who she is, while amplifying real doubts about her opponent. Instead, the moment passed, and the enthusiasm that drained away from her campaign could easily have been enough to place her second rather than a whisper-close third....
Knocked down but not out, she has only two plausible choices going forward. The first is to demand the hard substance and specifics of change that underpin Obama's lofty rhetoric. Both the conservative admiration for Obama and his gauzy red-blue thematic scheme depend heavily on his reluctance to discuss how he plans to achieve a progressive agenda. If he speaks out as a progressive, he will draw fire from the right.
Indeed, such candid exchanges are likely to prove that Clinton is correct in anticipating a tough, nasty, expensive general election campaign rather than a campfire lovefest. Even if she loses the nomination to Obama, she will have done him an important favor by forcing him to hone his defenses. Those who sought to destroy the Clintons for eight years and that then smeared John Kerry in 2004 are not about to surrender the White House to any Democrat, not even a smart, nice and charismatic young guy from Chicago.