Post-Iowa thoughts

It was almost a year ago that I wrote, to some scoffing and skepticism:

So can a man of mixed race (the son of a Kenyan-born father and a Kansas-born mother) with only two years in the Senate, whose middle name is Hussein and whose last name rhymes with Osama, be elected President of the United States?

Believe it or not, I think the answer is: maybe.

After Barack Obama’s impressive victory in the Iowa caucuses last night, I think “maybe” has become “a very good possibility.”

Some other (and not necessarily original) observations about the results from Iowa.

–If Obama beats Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire next Tuesday (which looks a lot more likely now than it did before last night), it’s hard to see how she can recover to win the nomination. If she had a couple of weeks to campaign she might pull it off, but four days probably isn’t enough.

–Obama’s win in overwhelmingly-white Iowa says something good about the fading of racial bigotry (especially among the young) in this country.

–My man Joe Biden couldn’t pull off a miracle, but at least his voice will still be heard — as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and possibly as secretary of state in an Obama administration.

–Although John Edwards edged out Clinton for second place in Iowa, he staked his entire campaign on winning there and I doubt his candidacy has anywhere to go from here. I sympathize strongly with his message of standing up for ordinary people against corporate power and greed, and I’m pleased that Obama and Clinton borrowed from it, but I think his campaign lacked a necessary balance of optimism and cheerfulness.

–On the Republican side, the dynamics are much different and less encouraging (for Republicans, that is). Mike Huckabee, the Baptist preacher and former governor of Arkansas, won in Iowa largely thanks to a heavy turnout of evangelical Christian voters. But I wouldn’t ignore another factor, as The Wall Street Journal reported.

Mr. Huckabee’s triumph over former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, the early choice of many in the Republican establishment, represents a challenge to his historically pro-business party. Mr. Huckabee offered a message of economic populism that targeted Wall Street and CEOs for profiting at the expense of the middle class.

I would imagine that the country-club wing of the GOP is in something of a panic today– although I suspect they’ll manage to beat Huckabee in the end, either with Romney or (despite his rather poor finish in Iowa) John McCain. McCain clearly would be the Republicans’ strongest candidate in November.

–Clearly the momentum and enthusiasm at this point are on the Democratic side. Some statistical evidence: more than 239,000 took part in the Democratic caucuses, surpassing by more than 100,000 the previous record of four years ago. Less than half the number of Republicans came out. About 20 percent of the participants in the Democratic caucuses identified themselves as independents, and they went heavily for Obama.

–The “Ron Paul Revolution” did not get off to a great start. He came in fifth on the Republican side, with 10 percent of the vote. Can anyone convince me now that Paul’s support amounts to much more than a relative handful of libertarian internet dweebs and fringe fanatics of one kind or another?

–Hillary had the good sense not to scream. You learn from the mistakes of others.

Update: A nice tribute to Biden from George Packer of The New Yorker.