Thursday, January 03, 2008


(not Charlton related)

The US Presidential race begins in earnest this evening with the Iowa caucus. The intricacies of this arcane system would take a lifetime to understand, but in short the votes of perhaps just 10% of the Iowa electorate (Pop: 2.9million) will go a considerable way to determining the respective party candidates for the Presidential nomination.

The Republican process this evening is a fairly straightforward secret ballot, but the Democratic process is a far more colourful and vocal affair. Voters will attend their local public gathering where they will literally stand in a designated area, in order to demonstrate their support for a particular candidate.

So long as a candidate has exceeded an initial 'viability threshold' (15-25% of initial votes cast), they will qualify for a final run-off during which supporters of the 'inviable' candidates will be encouraged to 'realign' with the 'viable' candidates.

It is this 'realignment' process that is perhaps the most curious, since the supporters of the 'viable' candidates must attempt to persuade (often very voiciferously) their undecided voters how to 'align', perhaps with tempting offers of home-baked cookies. Not surprisingly perhaps, a voting turnout of only 10% or so is expected since few have the time or the inclination to indulge in such political frivolities.

However, the importance of tonight's vote is not in doubt (and nor is New Hampshire's on Jan 8th). A successful (and more importantly perhaps a 'surprisingly' successful) result for a candidate can give him or her considerable momentum, and build belief amongst tempted voters in other states that they can build a campaign with real potential for nomination. Likewise, disappointing results often lead to drop-outs from the race, with even well-funded candidates lacking the stamina for the exhausting months ahead.

The last Democratic Iowa caucus in 2004 was best known for the bizarre 'Howard Dean Scream' during a speech Dean gave as he tried to rally his disappointed supporters (following a surprise 3rd place finish in the state). The media and bloggers ensured that the scream was heard around the globe, and within weeks Dean's previously encouraging early campaign was over.

The results of tonight's vote will be more meaningful for the Democrats than the Republicans, because whilst the leading Democrats in national polls are also the leaders in Iowa (Obama, Clinton, Edwards), key Republican candidates Giuliani and McCain have largely focused their energies elsewhere.

The Democratic polls in Iowa have seen strong momentum in recent weeks for Barack Obama, profiting from rare cracks in Hilary Clinton's uber-professional campaign. Obama has preached his message of 'hope' (or at least 'change'), against Clinton's message of 'experience'. Being married to one of the country's most popular post-War Presidents hasn't harmed her cause either. Meanwhile John Edwards (Kerry's unsuccessful running mate in 2004), has pitched himself as the 'angry' candidate, railing about the Iraq War, inequality and health care.

The Republican race in Iowa at least is a straight two-way contest between Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney. The former is a popular Baptist minister for whom it is near-impossible to find any media article that does not describe him as 'folksy' (he can play the guitar). Romney meanwhile is a slick self-made multi-millionaire who is well-aware that his biggest challenge will be to persuade the electorate that they can vote a Mormon into the White House.

NY Addick predicts: Obama (Democrat), Huckabee (Republican). Turnout: 11.2%


At 6:11 PM, Blogger Wyn Grant said...

And Hilary in the White House in November with Bill as First Gentleman. Will Chelsea leave her hedge fund as First Daughter? A very poised young woman and the future of the dynasty. So Bush, Clinton, Bush, Clinton.

At 11:15 PM, Blogger Chicago Addick said...

For a country of 300 million 2 families running it for 20+ years is a bit sick really isn't it?

Anyway NYA. I was going to write about this but couldn't put it as succinct as you. Ho Hum, only another 9 months to go!

At 3:06 PM, Blogger Chicago Addick said...

Lucky you're not a gambling man NYA :)


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