What a night! So many things happened. The word historic may not be too strong for Senator Barack Obama’s victory. Not only is Ms. Clinton no longer inevitable, Obama is the first black candidate to win the Iowa caucus-and it wasn’t a squeaker. Mike Huckabee’s win was huge, proving that one of the men he’ll face in New Hampshire, John McCain, didn’t need to enact McCain-Feingold, his controversial campaign finance reform after all-Huckabee beat a man who has bottomless coffers on a shoe string. (Byron York explains how Huckabee did this.)
It was clear when subdued Hillary strategist Mark Penn appeared on Fox hours before the caucusing began that he knew something he wasn’t saying: that Hillary wasn’t going to win Iowa. Just for the record, female voters in Democratic caucuses flocked to Obama, though older ones skewed to Hillary. I think this puts paid to Penn’s contention that women will vote Clinton because she is a woman. Message: Don’t assume gender politics will take Ms. Clinton to the White House.
“We wanted exciting, we got exciting,” writes Peggy Noonan. She writes that Obamtook “took mama to school” and credits Huckabee with the “best guileless pose in modern politics.” Huckabee’s victory is in part the revenge of the religious right that the GOP has often taken for granted:
“They have been bruised and offended by the rigid, almost militant secularism and multiculturalism of the public schools; they reject those schools’ squalor, in all senses of the word. They believe in God and family and America. They are populist: They don’t admire billionaire CEOs, they admire husbands with two jobs who hold the family together for the sake of the kids; they don’t need to see the triumph of supply-side thinking, they want to see that suffering woman down the street get the help she needs.
“They believe that Mr. Huckabee, the minister who speaks their language, shares, down to the bone, their anxieties, concerns and beliefs. They fear that the other Republican candidates are caught up in a million smaller issues–taxing, spending, the global economy, Sunnis and Shia–and missing the central issue: again, our culture. They are populists who vote Republican, and as I have read their letters, I have felt nothing but respect.”
“The biggest surprise of the campaign so far is the success of candidates with minimal credentials and little if any experience in national governance,” writes Michael Barone. Barone suggests that voters have sixteen year itch and offers this key to understanding why there is so much gloom amid our reasonably good economic situation: “Polling suggests that voters’ assessments of the economy are rooted more in partisan loyalties than in observation of economic conditions. Republicans complained about the robust economy when Mr. Clinton was president. Democrats have complained about the robust economy most of the time George W. Bush has been in office.”