David Brooks Describes the Two Earthquates in Iowa

One of the peculiarities of the campaign recently has been that often I’ve found that David Brooks has been making more sense than Paul Krugman on the op-ed page of The New York Times. I’ve noted many times in the past that Brooks often does make sense as long as he can get past the obligatory pot shots at Democrats which characterize so many of his columns. As he avoided such attacks on Democrats, today’s column does raise many good points. On Obama’s victory he writes:

Obama has achieved something remarkable. At first blush, his speeches are abstract, secular sermons of personal uplift — filled with disquisitions on the nature of hope and the contours of change.

He talks about erasing old categories like red and blue (and implicitly, black and white) and replacing them with new categories, of which the most important are new and old. He seems at first more preoccupied with changing thinking than changing legislation.

Yet over the course of his speeches and over the course of this campaign, he has persuaded many Iowans that there is substance here as well. He built a great organization and produced a tangible victory.

He’s made Hillary Clinton, with her wonkish, pragmatic approach to politics, seem uninspired. He’s made John Edwards, with his angry cries that “corporate greed is killing your children’s future,” seem old-fashioned. Edwards’s political career is probably over.

Obama is changing the tone of American liberalism, and maybe American politics, too.

If Obama can receive such flattery from a columnist who is frequently hostile towards Democrats, imagine the coverage he will receive from the rest of the media. This is one of many reasons why I see Obama as an overwhelming favorite to go all the way. Certainly Iowa is only one contest, and Clinton has considerable resources to continue fighting. Brooks does write, “Iowa won’t settle the race, but the rest of the primary season is going to be colored by the glow of this result.”

The “glow of this result” will make it extremely difficult for Clinton to make a comeback in New Hampshire, where Obama was closing the gap even before the results out of Iowa. Should Obama win in New Hampshire and then South Carolina he will appear even more unbeatable. Edwards might hang around like he did in 2004 even after Kerry’s victory was inevitable, but if his populism couldn’t sell in Iowa he will have a tough job everywhere else. I expect an increasing number of his supporters to move to Obama, further making a Clinton comeback unlikely.

Brooks also writes about how Huckabee’s victory shows that the Republican Party has changed, but does not feel he can win the nomination:

Will Huckabee move on and lead this new conservatism? Highly doubtful. The past few weeks have exposed his serious flaws as a presidential candidate. His foreign policy knowledge is minimal. His lapses into amateurishness simply won’t fly in a national campaign.

So the race will move on to New Hampshire. Mitt Romney is now grievously wounded. Romney represents what’s left of Republicanism 1.0. Huckabee and McCain represent half-formed iterations of Republicanism 2.0. My guess is Republicans will now swing behind McCain in order to stop Mike.

Brooks makes the same predictions I have, but I’m much less confident about the predictions of the Republican outcome compared to the Democratic race. New Hampshire is important in the Democratic race as it might quickly answer the question of whether there is a possibility of a Clinton come back. New Hampshire will help clarify the Republican race but is unlikely to settle it. An impressive showing by Huckabee in a state without a large evangelical base would establish him as a legitimate national contender. A second loss by Mitt Romney will make it unlikely for him to come back. McCain could establish himself as a leader in the race by winning in New Hampshire, but he has too many negatives among many Republicans to win without a fight. Rudy Giuliani needs to hope that nobody is dominating to leave any room for his strategy of waiting for the larger states to vote. Fred Thompson also need to do something quickly or face becoming ignored. New Hampshire is one of the states where Ron Paul could do best, but if he fails as badly there as in Iowa he will quickly fade back into obscurity.

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2 Comments

  1. 1
    The Charters Of Dreams says:

    The race is far from over, but Obama has shown that his upbeat message of change and opportunity resonates with voters. Bad news for Hillary. However — two big questions remain: What will happen when scrutiny moves beyond his positive generalities to his very liberal record? And can he survive the coming attacks from the Clinton machine? She has the money, organization, and determination to fight back. There is no more ruthless politician in America. Obama had better be ready.

    Huckabee is also a winner, but — remember built his win almost entirely on a turnout by evangelical Christians who ignored his big-government positions
    . It’s hard to see how he can compete in anti-tax New Hampshire or socially moderate states like California that vote on Super Tuesday. Remember also Pat Robertson surprised everyone by finishing second in the Iowa Caucuses in 1988. I think this was Huckabee’s last hurrah because I don’t think Giuliani is really failing — rather it may be that Giuliani’s strategy of playing rope-a-dope until Florida and the Super Tuesday primaries, and we may see a surge.

    You may have misgivings about Dr. Paul, some deserved, but a 10 percent of the vote is very good for a previously unknown congressman from Texas with minimal media exposure — and for good reason: his limited government message clearly touched a chord and has inspired a new generation of libertarian activists. It’s hard to see where he goes after New Hampshire, but he (& libertarian activists) can take satisfaction in what he had already accomplished.

  2. 2
    Ron Chusid says:

    “And can he survive the coming attacks from the Clinton machine? ”

    They’ve already been attacking him quite a bit, but not very effectively. I think that many of their attacks actually helped Obama as it reminded people why they dislike so many other politicians.

    Agree about Huckabee’s problems in the GOP. The question is whether the evangelical support in the party is an even greater percentage than it appears. Huckabee is also a smooth politician and I can see him bringing in support from other Republicans. We will have to wait until Super Tuesday to see how Giuliani does, but I suspect that going through the first month of primaries without a win will hurt him badly.

    Paul did just what I predicted after the straw poll. He did well as a message candidate, but never had a chance to win as many of his supporters have claimed. If he can do well in New Hampshire I could see him picking up some votes in Michigan since Clinton is essentially running unopposed in the Democratic primary. I know some Democrats are planning to vote for Paul either as a protest against the war or as a means to mess up the Republican primary.

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