Monday, January 07, 2008

The New Hampshire Primary! Preliminary thoughts and babble

The New Hampshire primary is fast approaching. This, I'm thinking, should be fun to watch. So far the latest polling by CNN has Obama as the favorite for the Dems and McCain as the leader for the GOP.

I admit to being -- if not excited -- curious and increasingly intrigued. I still think this is far too early in the election cycle to become too invested. Right now the 2008 race is wide open, and I mean wiiiiiide open. In fact, the race seems more wide open than ever, since Queen Hillary has been apparently dethroned -- and by the ordinary people of little Iowa. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

New Hampshire comes now right after Iowa, and the recent Iowa caucuses had been interesting. As usual, I had my misgivings about the incredible amount of media hype given to the event. Yes, yes, I understand that there's quite a lot of excitement because it's the first real chance for any voters to speak, and as the kick-off for the season of primaries, it's fun. Still, a win or loss in Iowa -- while an early indicator of a candidate's "health" -- is not the ultimate political prize. Plenty of people have won or done well in Iowa and then proceeded to fall on their faces later on in the race and never become their party's nominee, never mind President. (I still think Iowa has been over-hyped. In fact, I really think that having Iowa as the first primary state for every election cycle might not be the best idea. Perhaps we should change the state every time.)

I have to say, though, Iowa this year was both surprising and exciting in the end -- for three major reasons, really: the poor showing of supposedly "inevitable, unbeatable" Hillary Clinton (and her bitter "sore loser" disaster of a post-defeat speech), the clear victory of newcomer Barack Obama (who looks more confident than ever as he gains momentum, while he can smile and be gracious and magnanimous in victory), and the surprise win of Mike Huckabee (yes, he's all charming and unpretentious, but I'm still convinced this man is wrong for the GOP nomination). I could go on at length about Hillary, but I won't bore you about that (you can go here for more of my babbling). I'll just say that as Round One of a very long contest, Iowa gave us two extremely interesting winners. But they were winners in Iowa. Whether they can keep on winning in other state primaries is another matter. Every state is different. I think Obama can and Huckabee can't. Or maybe I can say: Obama should and Huckabee shouldn't?

What will New Hampshire bring? I'm always cautious during the primaries (they are a free-for-all time of crazy things happening -- but these mass political melees are chaotic and exciting and unpredictable), so I don't really make predictions. I will say, though, that I'm looking for Barack to do well and make pundits start talking about him as the new "inevitable" candidate for the Dems. Obama-mania? Well, he's in a great place to be cool and classy, and I'm not talking about social strata. I still don't understand the appeal of obnoxious pretty boy Edwards. Baffling. I'm looking for Hillary to mount a counter-attack -- or try to (I found the new "Hillary crying" incident silly, suspiciously staged, and over-acted. Besides... "There's no crying in baseball!" -- er, I mean, politics! Besides, that move plays too much into the "woman" question/stereotype, but I digress). Overall I think she's too ambitious and calculating, and she's simply too unappealing to too many people of all political groups. If she implodes after New Hampshire like she did in Iowa, then her campaign -- though not mortally wounded -- will be in serious need of reconstructive surgery.

On the GOP side? George Bailey -- I mean, Huckabee -- may do well, but I'm waiting for McCain and Romney to show up and declare "hello, good voters, I'm worth a look too!" They didn't do too well in Iowa, but here is their first real opportunity to shine if they can. Both have the support of some decent people, and though endorsements don't sway me much, I'm willing to look at these guys with an open mind. Romney, who was set upon by all the other GOP candidates recently in a debate, should do something to distinguish himself (other than look good). Giuliani is still the Man Who Isn't There. I'd been excited when Rudy joined the race, but so far, haven't been too impressed. I mean, really, you can't win if you don't show up.

All in all? The New Hampshire primary should be more interesting than ever because of Iowa's surprises. We will have to wait and see when the dust settles! Here is a slice of good old-fashioned American democracy at work -- and I have to admit, even as I can be cynical about politics sometimes, deep down I'm always delighted to see an election at work in the oldest modern democracy in the world. No matter how famous or wealthy or whatever each candidate may be, every one of them (even Queen Hillary) is out there campaigning hard, trying to convince the voter -- the ordinary American citizen -- to vote for that candidate. It's the practical working-out of an old and precious ideal: that the voter's choice matters. Is the process perfect? No. No process is or can be. But the ideal... Now that's enough to make your heart beat just a little bit faster, isn't it?

1 comment:

Don said...

I pretty much agree with you on all counts, Maddie, although I think John McCain is the most appealing GOPer in the field.

Obabma strikes me as cool. Not well-prepared, but one of the dirty little secrets of US political history is that preparation ain't all it's cracked up to be. Possible the least well-prepared US president (in term of office-holding) was Abraham Lincoln and the best-prepaered was Herbert Hoover. 'Nuff said.

I saw an interesting piece a while ago comparing Hilary to Richard Nixon, who won in 1968 despite historically low popularity levels. Nixon won by seeming more competent than his rivals in a year when the US was even more roiled up than this year. I thought she might be able to do it again, but the tears don't fit that image. Safe pair of hands and all that. If Obama wins New Hampshire decisively it could be all over but the shouting for the Donkeycrats, anyway.