Everyone else is doing it…

…. so I guess I’m obligated to post on the Iowa caucuses. This is straight political opinion, so bail out if you don’t want to hear me blather.

At the moment I’m writing it looks like Obama has pulled off a significant first-place tally with Clinton and Edwards more or less tying for second. I cannot say I am unpleased with that, though Edwards is my guy in this fight and I had hoped he’d take first. On the other hand, a lot of people seemed to be counting him out at Thanksgiving, so I guess it’s not a bad showing. I am happy that the presumptive Clinton steamroller got derailed, because while I’d vote for any of these Democrats over any of the Republicans in the field, I am least enthusiastic about Clinton.

Here’s my thinking. I have to apologize because I hate playing the “electability” game and because I think voters are less manipulable than people give them credit for. However… a large fraction of this country hates Clinton — hates her with an instinctive, visceral passion the likes of which have not been common in modern politics. You can claim that the hate is irrational and petty and mean-spirited and vile. You can claim it has no basis in reality or fact. You can claim that it is fanned by a press corps that aligns with it. But you cannot claim that the hatred doesn’t exist.

Right now, the Republicans are in disarray. The typical Republican voter is pretty dispirited — given their field, it’s certainly understandable. Come November, a lot of them might throw up their hands and stay home. Just as it was for the last two elections, the fulcrum of this one is going to be turnout: How many people come out to vote and where. The current Republican candidates offer virtually nothing to motivate their voters, while the winds of change are clearly blowing in the Democrats’ favor. (Toss in the likely recession and that just seals the deal.)

Clinton would likely do well with the usual Democratic voter but she brings no one new to the table — no Democrat is coming out to vote just because she’s on the ticket. (This is arguable, of course — perhaps she’ll mobilize women voters — but I think that they already vote at a higher rate.) Obama will likely draw new voters, people who’ve felt disenfranchised and disengaged. I think that Edwards, in the hotohouse of a general campaign, also could show the ability to energize people on the Democratic half.

But Clinton would energize people on the Republican half. What might draw a despondent dispirited lukewarm Republican to the polls? Nothing would do that better than the opportunity to vote against Hilary Clinton, a second chance to keep “them” out of the White House. These people hate her, in a way unmatched by their antipathy toward Obama or Edwards. Clinton drives up Republican turnout; and that could well be the difference.

How about the Republican caucus? Well, they’re not my team, so I can’t speak with authority. I am ecstatic, truly ecstatic, at the utter drubbing that Guiliani took, though. He’s a fascist thug — an opinion I’ve held for going on two decades now, with no evidence to the contrary that I’ve ever come across — and I could not be happier that this fleck of poisonous rot is being ejected by the immune systems of the American body politic. Before Thanksgiving, when he seemed impressive, I had nightmares that I’d wake up in a world where Rudy Guiliani calls the shots.

I’m surprised Thomspon did as well as he did, and a little disappointed. It has been heartening to me to see that Hollywood star power is not, by itself, a ticket to political office. Also, he’s stumbled through his campaign half-bakedly. This is the most important elected position in the entire world — it’s not asking to much that he act like it mattered to him, at least a little. I don’t think his campaign has many days left, and good riddance, I say.

As for Huckabee and Romney… well, as a good American, I like the underdog and Huckabee holds that charm. He seems very ill-informed, though, and a little bit scary. Romney is all suit and no substance — I doubt a Romney administration would be a disaster for this nation (nothing on the order of the disaster we’re currently suffering, at least). Plus I think he’s eminently beatable in the general election, so that appeals to me.

McCain is the one that occupies my thought. I’d counted him out a few weeks ago and am chagrined to discover how bad I am at prognostication. McCain repels me because he’s got a reputation for straight talk and a reputation for moderation — and I can’t seem to find any solid evidence to back up either of those reputations. My impression of McCain is that, in the last few years, he has pandered and pandered and pandered. He stood tall in 2000, almost took the whole enchilada, and then lost — and I think that broke something inside of him, something that even the VC couldn’t touch. (God bless American politics.) After being his own man for his entire career, he crumpled up inside and became a shell trying to appeal to the worst sorts of people.

However, he carries an impressive reputation, especially out in realland, and the media absolutely love him. So he’d be a pretty hard one for the Dems to beat. His resurgence has me worried a little, I have to admit.

Well, now it’s off to New Hampshire to see if the voters of the Granite State can do any more sorting. It’s looking like there might actually still be some excitement left by the time the race rolls around to my neck of the woods on Feb 5. This has already been quite the exciting ride.

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