One of my favorite old jokes is the one that explains Iowa as an acronym for "I Owe the World an Apology." After watching the results of Thursday's Hawkeye Cauci come in, that old chestnut had some added resonance. If nothing else, it did upset a few expectations.
I've posted the image of Snidely Whiplash because I'm wondering about a few cherished assumptions. Snidely Whiplash was, for those of us who grew up before the Age of Homer Simpson, the cartoon villain of choice. He was forever threatening lovely Nell, Dudley-Do-Right's theoretical main squeeze, with all manner of ridiculous mayhem. But for all his bluster, he never closed the deal. My lefty friend Lee has suggested that those of us on the starboard side of politics tend to give the Clintons too much credit for their propensity for evil. I have always assumed that, if Barack Obama were ever to become a real threat to the campaign of Hillary, he would be destroyed by the Clinton Machine. While I still think that's possible, I've been rethinking the matter lately and am beginning to wonder if Lee is correct. It might be telling that the dirt the Clintons deployed prior to Iowa was the ridiculous business about schoolwork Obama did when he was in kindergarten.
In thinking about Obama, I have always had two assumptions about him: first, because he comes from the eternally corrupt State of Illinois, he would be tainted in some way that would prove disastrous at some point; and second, because Team Clinton has operatives all over Illinois, these acolytes would deploy said taint in a way that would eventually destroy Obama's candidacy.
We are now into this thing and none of those things have happened. It is possible that the Clintons may still have a trick up their sleeve, but I'm beginning to wonder. One thing that has always been clear is that Obama is a likeable fellow and that Hillary Clinton is not. Some of what is said about Hillary is unfair and yes, sexist. But it's instructive that much of the opposition to Hillary comes from other women. Mark Steyn made a fairly simple but important point the other day: if part of what motivates the Democrats in this election is the chance to do something historic with their votes, it would be a lot more pleasant to vote for Obama. That is what happened in Iowa on Thursday.
Where I think Iowa owes the world an apology is on the other side of the ballot. The more I see of Mike Huckabee, the less I like. My suspicion is that he won't survive the scrutiny that is coming his way, but his campaign has damaged other, more viable candidates, especially Mitt Romney. I have issues with Romney, too, but he is plausible as a candidate and as President. Huckabee, not so much. The other house lefty on this blog, Rich, suggested in a comment that Fred Thompson needs a B-12 shot. This was spot-on: if Romney isn't viable, Thompson would probably be the best potential candidate for the Republicans; the problem is he doesn't appear to care that much whether he wins or not. It is entirely possible that McCain could be the beneficary of all this, which would put a lot of us who hate McCain-Feingold and the other things that McCain has done over the years into a real quandary. But it might be shaping up that way.
Perhaps New Hampshire will clarify that - one thought I had was that, because independents can vote in either primary, it's possible that some of the support McCain is counting on might end up as votes for Obama instead. We'll find out soon enough.