With about 98% of the vote in from the Iowa caucus, I project Barack Obama will be elected the next President of the United States.
Sure, a lot can still happen between now and November, but baring a major change it is difficult to see any other result. Edwards’ populism won’t sell in many states outside of Iowa, and having lost her aura of inevitability, support for Clinton is likely to hemorrhage. Dodd and Biden both withdrew, and Richardson performed too poorly to be a serious candidate. As for the general election, the record turnout of 227,000 in a state that went for George Bush is just one sign of the advantage the Democrats have. Some questioned the model used by The Des Moines Register that estimated 200,000 attendees but this number was greatly surpassed. By comparison, the turnout in 2004 was 125,000.
Not only did Obama win the caucus, he “won” in the post-caucus speeches. Clinton’s speech sounded like a speech of the Democratic Party past. John Edwards’ speech was the Dean scream put to words, showing yet again Edwards would never be elected president. Barack Obama gave the speech which would be expected not only by the leader of the Democratic Party, but by the president of all the people of the United States. The Republicans might be able to beat Hillary Clinton. I believe they would have beaten John Edwards. They will have a hard time beating Barack Obama.
Mike Huckabee also gave a good speech, but it was the speech of a skilled pastor, not a president. While Obama’s victory in Iowa will probably propel him to winning his party’s nomination, the Republican nomination is still in doubt. Huckabee did show he could win beyond the evangelical vote, and considering the flaws in all the Republican candidates he might be able to win the nomination. This is certainly a serious blow to Mitt Romney. The conventional wisdom a few weeks ago was that a victory for Huckabee would open up the race for Giuliani. With John McCain surging in New Hampshire, Giuliani could be forgotten by Super Tuesday. The one difficulty McCain might face in New Hampshire as a result of tonight’s results is that the independents might vote overwhelmingly for Obama, taking away potential votes from McCain.
In looking at Giuliani’s prospects, it is also hard to take anyone seriously who could not even beat Ron Paul. The Ron Paul fantasy has ended. As I’ve noted many times before, Paul’s enthusiastic supporters could help him do better than his 4% standing in the national polls, but not by enough to be meaningful. Making a lot of noise on line, and having a successful rally in The World of Warcraft, is not the same as getting real people to vote for your candidate. I’m sure it won’t be long before the Paul supporters develop a conspiracy theory claiming that Paul really won but had the vote stolen. Back in the real world, Paul has the money to remain in the race as long as he wants, and he might even do a little better in New Hampshire, but he is purely a protest candidate with zero chance of winning.
Obama’s support among independents will make it harder for a third party to harm the Democrats by dividing the vote. Michael Bloomberg is much less likely to run against Obama, as has been suspected since the two met for breakfast in November. Ron Paul might still decide to run as a third party candidate, with some rumors suggesting he might be planning to run as the candidate of the theocratic Constitution Party, which is closer to Paul’s current views than the Libertarian Party. It is hard to see Ralph Nader or the Green Party seriously hurting the Democratic Party led by Obama.