Friday, 4 January 2008

The bigger they are...

In American politics, money talks. If that's true then silence is golden. In the Iowa caucus yesterday Barack Obama triumphed over the Clintonian machine. Even more intruiging however, so did John Edwards, the man outspent 6:1 and the only major candidate to have signed up for federally limited funding. His powerful and moving speech in Iowa last night spoke of a man determined to break the cosy consensus between Washington and corporate America. Cynics will point out that we've heard it all before. Further, signing up for federal funding was a political masterstroke for a candidate who was never going to attract the big money, principles aside. All true, but as Iowans reject the woman who voted for the war and is the biggest recipient of health insurance company kickbacks, we perhaps see a taster of the two biggest issues of this election.

On the Republican side, the Southern Baptist preacher Mike Huckabee, outspent 15:1 by the Romney team, smashed his opponent by a colossal 10 points. In deeply religious territory, where 60% of Republican caucus goers describe themselves as born-again christians, it seems Romney's Mormon heresy was a step too far. The socially libertarian Guilliani didn't even bother, pouring all his energy into Florida.

This is not the end, or even the begininning of the end. But it is perhaps the end of the beginning. Huckabee will struggle in those states where Republicans keep Ayn Rand rather than the Gospels on their bedside table, where Guilliani need only present his legacy as major of New York. Senator Clinton has lost that aura of inevitability, but her husband lost both Iowa and New Hampshire and still won the nomination. She remains ahead in the national polls. Obama has scored a massive victory that will doubtless boost his chances, but success also has its downsides. The guns of the GOP reserved for Hilary may now turn on him. And what of Edwards? He seems to have learnt the lesson of the fiery Howard Dean, whose passion got the better of him. If he can walk the line between the giants of Hilary and Obama, he might just slip through the middle, and ride his "tidal wave of change" all the way to the White House.

There is a certain irony, that the most progressive and revolutionary of the democratic front runners is a white man.

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