The New Hampshire primary will be, hands down, the most important event in modern history. Assuming the fact that an inconclusive, grandstanding beauty contest will determine who leads this nation for the next four years.
This, of course is looking from that looking-glass known as Iowa, a complete hash of a race where up was down, right was left, and black was, ahem, white. K, maybe that last one doesn’t fit so well, all things considered. I’ll be frank and admit that I kind of forgot about the Iowa caucuses the day they were held, despite being reminded on what appeared to be two thousand occasions for the weeks beforehand, and managed to catch the reports of who won the contest on both sides, a minor miracle in and of itself what with only about 2% of the precincts reporting.
The complicated and insane primary situation we insist on perpetuating to determine our head of state is such that the national parties—organizations not known to hold particularly rational ideas concerning pretty much anything—tried to force the states to not draw out the campaign for what seems like sixteen years by penalizing their delegate count for holding their contests early, a rather creative solution that had the effect of still having a campaign that lasts about sixteen years long.
Iowa had its share of surprises. Okay, not really. The race between Barack Obama, John Edwards, and Hillary Clinton was uncharacteristically tight; most people assumed a walk for Hillary. Unless you were from Chicago, in which it was only natural that Obama was going to win handily. Or if you were from the south, when it was unimaginable that John Edwards would lose. Or if you were from the planet Kryypzleon and thought it inconceivable that Dennis Kuchinich wouldn’t crack double digits.
The real surprise was Mike Huckabee. Huckabee, previously known primarily for his massive weight loss and his ties to elder statesman and policy wonk Chuck Norris, pitched a blend of moral values, tax reform, and Soviet-style populism that must have really sparked the imagination of many an Iowan farmer well-coached in regressive revenue schemes and the particulars of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. Either that, or he promised to dump a truckload of taxpayer money into ethanol subsidies, though to be fair I have to assume that if you were any candidate campaigning in Iowa that was already promised.
Next up is New Hampshire, where it is do-or-die time for many candidates. Romney is running in his own backyard, so a substandard showing could derail his campaign. New Hampshire’s large libertarian community may come out in force for Ron Paul, but that group may be diluted by the institutionally insane community in New Hampshire, where Paul may have to split his votes with Thompson. And while Guiliani has largely ignored the state to concentrate on larger bounties, fully aware of the momentum that is fueling the likes of Huckabee, he might like to see some voters turn out that remember both 9/11 and what, exactly, should be done to Jamaican scofflaws when they run afoul of the law, or walk outside. And 9/11.
It’s also notable that there was a caucus between Iowa and New Hampshire—Wyoming held theirs a few days ago. Granted, it didn’t get a lot of publicity, and the fact that Romney won was almost but not quite a forgone conclusion given the state’s proximity to Not South Carolina, where if you have the tenacity to be a Mormon you had best have at least charted “Go Away Little Girl.” And since it held its caucus early, it was stripped of half of its massive delegate count, minimizing its already reduced influence. One assumes that they were trying to convert their tiny, lily-white, single-industry state into a new New Hampshire; this will succeed, of course, when Halliburton opens its new facility in Concord.
Also in Wyoming, the Democrats were going to hold their caucus, but he had a doctor’s appointment that day.
The unexpected results of Iowa have made a particularly bland campaign for the Democrats quite an emotional affair. Hillary was close to tears about the setbacks in her campaign. Crying in presidential campaigns is generally considered a tactical error; Ed Muskie pretty much self-imploded way back in 1972 when he appeared on the steps of the Manchester Union-Leader and wept like a scared little girl because someone said he didn’t like French Canadians. It turns out this someone was Nixon, in the form of an anonymous letter sent from the Dirty Tricks Department, which I think in and of itself would make anyone cry.
But, of course, society states that women are allowed to cry, just a little. Right? Maybe not. When Pat Schroeder, a rather shrill feminist congresswoman from the unlikely state of Colorado, dropped out of the 1988 race, she bawled like a scared little girl, crumpling into an emotional heap of hormones and wasted dreams after announcing her withdrawal. Most of America stepped back and said, whoa. How can a woman lead America against Russia when she can barely handle losing to Mike Dukakis?
And, of course, many believe that Hillary, long suspected of being an emotionless husk of a woman, is simply making a rank calculation when she turns on the waterworks. A possibility, of course, but I’m not going to ask. You go right ahead. I like my voice at this octave.