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January 3, 2008

Iowa Caucus: The Democrats

Hillary Clinton has run into a serious buzz saw on her way to the coronation. Not only did she not win the state, but she lost to the wrong candidate. Barack Obama now threatens to steal away a nomination that the Clintons thought they had in the bank less than three months ago.

Clinton would have had a tough time winning Iowa in any case. The populist appeal of John Edwards always figured to take some significant support away from Hillary. However, a second-place finish to Edwards would not have had much impact on her campaign, because Edwards has little appeal outside of the populist Midwest. She could easily have survived that kind of loss, without even considering it a bump in the road.

Instead, Barack Obama beat both of them, and that's an ill portent for Hillary's march to the nomination. Obama beat Hillary in a state that has a very small African-American demographic; he won not by playing the race card, but by simply offering a departure from Clintonian politics. That victory will resonate in New Hampshire, where Obama already has her in a dead heat, but also in the following states.

Even worse, Hillary finished in third place, behind Edwards, after working the state hard for the past three weeks. Edwards, meanwhile, didn't improve over his performance in 2004. He wound up actually two points lower, 30% as opposed to 32%. Hillary couldn't take advantage of the decline, and trailing a stagnating Edwards won't give Democratic primary voters any confidence in her ability to beat Obama, let alone a Republican in November.

Hillary has reaped the harvest of two months of self-inflicted wounds, starting with her collapse on drivers licenses for illegal aliens, and through some bizarre attacks on Barack Obama in the aftermath. The question will be whether she can recover from the rapid decline. The answer: she's no Bill Clinton.


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