Some quick thoughts on the Iowa caucuses:
1. I think this is interesting, as regards Dean’s basically pathetic showing in Iowa — the suggestion that Dean was sunk because his supporters largely had no freakin’ clue what they were doing in the caucus setting, whereas the Kerry and Edwards supporters apparently did (there are no excuses for Gephardt). This is further amplified in Chris Sullentrop’s Slate piece today, which notes a big segment of Dean’s support comes from 18-to-25 year olds, otherwise known as the demographic most likely to have something else to do on a bitterly cold Iowa night than hang around in a caucus meeting.
If both these have some relation to reality, I do expect that means Dean will do significantly better in the New Hampshire primary, in which voting will be the relatively quick process of actually voting. He’s doubtlessly taken a hit because of the caucuses, but the physical mechanics of the voting process would seem to be on his side. So I wouldn’t count him out yet.
Regardless, I think it’s a nice cold slap in Dean’s face; he could use a little humility, and now I imagine he’s going to get some, which will cause him to face some interesting realities (I think the Iowa bumperstickers that say “Dated Dean, Married Kerry” offer more than mere pity commentary). And from a purely political point of view, I think it’s probably better that there’s no steamrolling front runner; it makes the Bush people’s job that much harder. And of course, this is why we actually bother to have votes in the first place — the tantalizing difference between what we expect, and what is.
2. Edwards’ second place finish is surprising to me, but not massively so, and doesn’t really dissuade me from my earlier idea that what the man is really doing is running for vice-president. The question now is who will get to be his president. People are of course now thinking about the political triangulation of a Kerry-Edwards ticket, which looks pretty nice if you think about it: Northern veteran (of both war and Washington) plus Southern self-made man of the people. Undoubtedly there are downsides to such a pairing as well, but the time for thinking about that is later.
3. Gephardt’s implosion, on the other hand, doesn’t surprise me in the least. I’ve long wondered why anybody thought the man had a chance at it — he’s just so not appealing on so many levels. God forbid he should have ever actually made it to the nomination — Bush would have used his pale eyebrows as a mop.
4. Kerry? Well, whatever. He doesn’t excite me, but if he does go all the way I don’t imagine I wouldn’t vote for him. That’s pretty much where I am with him at the moment.
5. My unofficial predictions for New Hampshire, in order: Dean, Kerry, Clark, Edwards. I’ll note that I see Clark possibly swapping with Kerry or with Edwards, but I don’t see Kerry swapping with Edwards. I think if Kerry wins New Hampshire, Dean’s dead but just doesn’t know it; if Clark wins New Hampshire, I don’t expect we’ll know who the Democratic candidate will be until March. I think if Edwards wins New Hampshire, I may drop from a stroke.
The floor is now open.