Thursday, January 3, 2008

First Person Accounts--Who is going to Win Iowa?

Enough with caveats, qualifiers, and 'if/then' hedges. Here is my Iowan's prediction for the winner in the Democratic Iowa Caucus tomorrow: Barack Obama.

Five Reasons I believe that Obama will claim a surprisingly strong win in Iowa:

1. Wishful Thinking
I like all the top six democratic candidates, but I really dig Obama. This affection skews my judgement and makes me prone to rosy predictions. I've been whistling a lot. I truly believe that Obama appeals to a better part of our nature, a belief that we can solve problems on the national level the same way we typically do in our communities, businesses, and families: by coming together and focusing on solutions. Because he has run a mostly positive campaign, it will make it easy for his supporters to coax others into the Obama group--his supporters are psyched up and he has largely avoided offending the other camps.

2. Hillary Fatigue
I've actually warmed up to Hillary during the campaign. No, that's not quite it: I've come to an acceptance that she might win the nomination and be a decent enough candidate to win. But I still have my original disdain for the idea that a country with 300 million people must turn to the same two families to lead the nation for four straight presidencies. Granted, it's worked out really well with George W., but what are the chances it will again?

A Clinton restoration, even in the most positive light, will be more about the past than about the future. I'm more than sure that I'm not the only one that wants to avoid eight more years of heightened Boomer Angst and the Clinton Derangement Syndrome that Hillary conjures among the insane and the not-usually-insane alike.

Although the polls haven't entirely borne me out on this, I think that there is a majority, "Anti-Hillary" vote out there. I just don't think that she is going to do well on second choice votes.

Also, she has only recently reached out to smaller communities. Until her HillaCopter tour in December, she was over-relying on media and larger town appearances. Hillary is the only major candidate to have skipped my town of 5,000. She has barely touched Western Iowa. If her support is too concentrated in the larger communities, she is sunk. Like the congress and the electoral college, the allotment of delegates is skewed in favor of the rural areas. There may be many small communities in which she isn't even viable.

[After the jump: John and Jackie Norris, Dennis Kucinich, and more]

3. John and Jackie Norris
Jackie Norris is Obama's Iowa political director. She used to teach Political Science in my former community. I know her, but not well enough to just call her up. She was with Al Gore's campaign in 2000. She is married to John Norris a fraternity brother of mine who graduated just before I started my freshman year. In '82 he paid us in beer to put together "Harkin for Congress" signs. John lost a bid for congress in '02, then directed John Kerry's Iowa caucus campaign in '04. He was the one who convinced Kerry to pull workers out of other states to focus on Iowa. John also orchestrated Tom Vilsack's stunningly surprising win for Governor in '98. Now with pre-schoolers at home and comfortably ensconced in a well-paying job as chairman of the Iowa Utilities Board, he is only a 'consultant' to the Obama campaign. But you're getting where I'm going with this.

Before this campaign even started I said in an email to well-known liberal blogger, "Whoever gets John Norris is going to win." Obama has never dominated this campaign. But Norris has a history of engineering surprise victories. I don't know how much influence he and Jackie have in campaign decisions, but if there is going to be a surprise in this caucus race, I'm positive that it will come from Obama.

4. Dennis Kucinch
In 2004 Kucinch directed his supporters to move to the Edwards' camp if they were not viable in their own caucus. Edwards seemed to come out of nowhere to claim second place. This year, Kucinch has done the same for Obama's campaign. There was scuttlebutt yesterday that Biden and Richardson may do the same (though I doubt Richardson will. [update: looks like I could be wrong about Richardson]).

5. Momentum
Even though some polls have suggested a slight surge for Clinton and Edwards, neither has shown the kind of sustained upswing that Obama has over the last month. The Des Moines Register's Iowa Poll released this week which showed Obama with a big lead has caught a lot of criticism for including a large number of Independents and Republicans in their poll results. Gordon Fischer, former Iowa Democratic party chair, defends the distinguished poll and it's director saying, "But no pollster, absolutely no pollster, knows Iowa, the Iowa Caucus, and Iowa Caucus goers better than Ann Selzer. She is simply the best pollster from/for Iowa. Period. There is (or at least should be) wide agreement on this." That said, the Iowa Poll screwed up on the last caucus--if I remember right, they caught the beginning of the movement toward Kerry and Edwards, but the order of the candidates hadn't changed much when their last poll came out.

But back to the wishes and gut feelings in which I excel. I saw people show up at Obama's local events who have no business at a Democratic function. Along with youth, Independents and wayward Republicans are the key wild cards in this election. It's unknown how they are going to turn out, but it is well-known whom they support. Obama has an appeal to these groups that Hillary--with her history--will never have. Edwards, with his relentless, though gratifying, attacks, er critiques, of big business has no traction with traditional republicans. Both Hillary and Edwards are strong with older party regulars who are likely to show up. But Obama has the only shot at a surprise turnout of new voters. Also, there is a history in open statewide elections of Iowans going for the younger, fresher face.

So I'm pretty confident that it is going to turn out well for Obama.

It can happen.

Just purse your lips and whistle that's the thing.