Tags: obama | huckabee

Obama, Huckabee, Ahead of the Pack

Friday, 04 Jan 2008 08:31 AM

By Lowell Ponte

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“I congratulate Senator Obama and Senator Edwards,” said the former “inevitable” Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York during her concession speech Thursday night at an Iowa podium that bore the sign “Ready For Change.”

“Together,” said Mrs. Clinton with firmly-pursed lips, trying somehow to connect herself to the winners, “we have presented the case for change.”

Her words brought to mind an old slogan of the Term Limits movement: “Politicians are like baby diapers. They should be changed often, and for the same reason.”

“The one thing that’s clear from this result here tonight,” said former one-term North Carolina Sen. John Edwards, who narrowly edged Mrs. Clinton to finish second in the Iowa caucuses, “is that the status quo lost and change won.”

Clinton finished third because 71 percent — nearly three in four — of those participating in Iowa’s Democratic caucuses voted against her, an astonishing repudiation.

It seems that Americans do, indeed, want a change from the prospect of dynastic ping-pong, of being family-ruled alternately by Bush-Clinton-Bush-Clinton.

For Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, whose mother was born and raised nearby in Kansas, his victory in lily-white Iowa speaks loudly to the world about America.

This charismatic young candidate could — inshallah — become the first American president who was raised as a Muslim in Islamic Indonesia.

John Edwards’ second place finish reminds us that Iowa’s caucuses are not what most of us think of as free elections. In Iowa’s Democratic caucuses voters must openly declare their choices in front of a group that can include friends, employers, co-workers, and union bosses.

Thursday’s Iowa caucuses had no secret ballot. They could therefore be likened to the participatory democracy of a New England town hall. Or to former Soviet elections where votes for the Communist Party went into one ballot box and for others into a different box, under the gaze of a name-taking KGB agent.

John Edwards, favored by many union bosses, won the spoken votes of most attending boss-run caucuses.

Edwards accepted public matching funds for his otherwise-cash-strapped campaign, and with those taxpayer dollars came rules restricting what he could accept from special interests. But Edwards did nothing to stop fat-cat union bosses from spending $750,000 in coerced member dues on his behalf for TV ads.

Beginning with the New Hampshire primary, voters thenceforth will have secret ballots and be much harder for union bosses to strong-arm . . . bad news for Edwards.

On the Republican side, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee won handily with more than 34 percent of the vote, nine points more than former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

Arizona Sen. John McCain and former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson finished within a few votes of one another at 13 percent each.

And Texas Rep. Ron Paul, libertarian constitutionalist, finished close behind in double digits with 10 percent.

But prior to the Iowa caucuses, Fox News announced that it is excluding Paul from a Republican debate this weekend. Fox’s reason is that Paul in nationwide polling is at less than 10 percent.

At present, nationwide polls are irrelevant. What matters should be polls in states soon to cast ballots where voters have begun to pay attention to the candidates.

Fox has invited Fred Thompson to its debate, but recent polls in New Hampshire show Paul well ahead of Thompson in voter preference.

Fox has invited former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who won only 3 percent of caucus votes in Iowa, 7 percent less than Paul. (Both GOP winner Mike Huckabee and Giuliani spoke warmly of one another following the caucuses. At present both apparently think of each another as potential running mates. They will, however, go against each other in the Florida primary on Jan. 29.)

In the wake of Paul’s double-digit performance in Iowa, Fox should reconsider its high-handed decision to play favorites, to rig its debate by excluding him.

If Paul is locked out of this debate, then Fox News is going to lose a great deal of credibility in Republican, conservative, and libertarian eyes. His principled voice is winning strong voter support and deserves to be included.

Following the Iowa caucuses two veteran Democratic lawmakers announced that they have kissed their aspirations to be elected president in 2008 goodbye.

Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd, who won zero percent of caucus votes, withdrew his candidacy, as did Delaware Sen. Joseph Biden, who won 1 percent. They were the two most experienced and competent Democrats in the race.

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, Hillary’s stalking horse seen by most pundits as running to be Clinton’s running mate, made no withdrawal announcement. He finished a distant fourth with 2 percent.

Reporters estimate that candidates spent $200 per vote trying to influence Thursday’s Iowa caucuses.

The biggest of these spenders was probably Mitt Romney, who during his years as a successful organizer of venture capitalists reportedly accumulated a personal fortune of somewhere around $500,000,000.

Romney reportedly spent more than $10 million on the Iowa caucuses. Unless billionaire New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg enters the 2008 race, Ross Perot-like, as a third party candidate, Romney will have more readily-spendable cash than any other candidate.

If Gov. Romney wishes to stay in the race, he has the money to keep running in hopes that his popularity will grow or that his rivals will grind one another down, stumble, or self-destruct.

Clinton, too, has the resources to run the marathon through every voting state. She has wealth, vast networks of contributors here and overseas, and carries the Clinton record of repaying contributors with government favors.

She need not win this marathon — just stay within striking distance and prevent any one of her rivals from winning enough delegates to be nominated.

Once the Democratic National Convention begins, Hillary will control the votes of hundreds of its “super delegates,” members of Congress and others who are Clinton allies, owe the Clintons favors, or have reason to fear what dirt Clinton private detectives and spies have that incriminates them.

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