Saturday, January 5, 2008

Post-Iowa Rejoicing - Count Me Out

I'd almost recovered from jet lag following our India trip when the Iowa primaries results came in. It is good news for Republicans on both fronts. Their Republican winner Mike Huckabee is not only personable and likable, but also a truer Conservative who more consistently reflects their core values than Mitt Romney. They should also welcome the Democratic outcome as their most formidable opponent Hillary Clinton suffered a blow by coming in third place. Obama would be easier to beat as a Democratic nominee since people like me will either switch support to the Republican candidate, or simply sit it out at home.

Partly for reasons touched on in my October 18th post I voted with Republicans in some significant races in the last two elections. I supported Joe Lieberman in November '06 in the senate general elections (as did 70% of Republicans) after he was rejected as a Democratic nominee (my June 6th post has some painful details). In the process Democrats lost a senate seat since Lieberman is now an Independent. Then last November it was Republican Thomas Boughton who was re-elected Mayor of our Danbury city which otherwise leans Democrat. Boughton secured two-thirds of the votes both because of his good performance record and because his Democratic opponent was so weak. Now it'll likely be a three-peat for me (not voting Democrat) if Obama gets the Democratic nomination.

So why don't I like Obama? It's not about the issues, since he and Hillary are pretty close on those. It's about his personality, which ironically is supposed to be his strong suit among most Americans. To me he hasn't come across as anything more than a great talker. Hillary isn't perfect by any means but she's shown a lot more depth and understanding on the issues, especially while answering questions. I also see strong character and determination in her that should make her effective. And okay I'll admit it - it's also because she's the wife of Bill Clinton whom I like a lot.

Obama won Iowa mainly on the strength of his overwhelming support amongst the youngest voters. That's not surprising - they're the most naive and hence likely to be taken in by him. Okay, I'm half-kidding. I know enough older people even in my closest circle of family and friends who are normally sane and rational folks, who happen to like Obama.

It's interesting how the results in one little state like Iowa have so much influence on others, starting with New Hampshire. That's why these initial primaries carry inordinate weight. The U.S. became a superpower largely because of the independent and entrepreneurial thinking of its people. Are the current generations losing these traits of their forebears? Right now the polls show that Obama's support since the Iowa primaries has surged and that he is tied or slightly ahead of Hillary in New Hampshire. My own decisions are hardly based on what other people think - why can't more Americans be like me? Half-kidding again.

But seriously, I'll close with some other observations:

  • Why do candidates try to project themselves as sure winners? Hillary proclaimed in a recent TV interview "I WILL win" and I remember Kerry trumpeting the same confidence in 2004 even when the polls showed him to be trailing. I disagree with the pundits and think that this is a bad tactic. This over-confidence tends to turn people off, and is almost a matter of reverse psychology, if you will. I'd advise more humility for Hillary. Remember, Huckabee surged in the polls and took Iowa with his lower key approach.
  • I also disagree with the pundits who say Hillary would need to sharpen her attacks on Obama after the Iowa debacle, as he's surging in New Hampshire. Such negative campaigning tarnishes the image of the attacker, and Hillary with her likability issues is particularly vulnerable to such perceptions. I think she should effectively counterattack if criticised for sure, but otherwise continue taking the high road and win support through her clarity of vision, honest and in-depth answers to questions, and all this mixed with a little self-deprecating humor.
  • I suspect there could be plenty of manipulation to sabotage the opposite party in the current system of voting by independents and wonder why no one else has brought this point out. Say that I am a Iowan (or New Hampshire) Republican at heart and am registered as an independent since this is the most advantageous. Then if I know that Hillary is the Democrats' most formidable candidate I'll simply go and vote for Obama (or Edwards) in the Democratic polls just to undermine Hillary. I suspect some (may be a lot) of this has happened in Iowa and may be repeated in New Hampshire. The solution is to only allow party card holders to vote in their respective primaries (as is the case in our CT state) and to have a cooling off period for those who want to switch parties.
  • Why do we have this system where the order of the primaries in the states remains fixed? This makes the pocket states of Iowa and New Hampshire unduly important on a permanent basis, and is unfair to other states. While Iowa and NH naturally like the status quo, why don't the other states use their clout in the national convention to push for a more equitable roster system where other states get their chance to be first in subsequent elections? It's not relevant in the current election cycle but the states and the two Parties should considering this longer term.

Iowa disappointed from my perspective. And I don't have that much faith in New Hampshire. Let's see how the primaries turn out there in two days.

10 comments:

kenrod said...

While I think some manipulation goes on by the opposing parties by registering as independents, the margin of victory by Obama was notable. However, it following primaries, people are going to find out his middle name is Hussein, and some reluctance is going to set in. He definitely has the big mo right now though. But it does point out the power of Oprah Winfrey, who was his big supporter. And it does point out the weakness of Bill Clinton and the Clinton fatigue factor.

But in my opinion, it's going to be Mccain vs. Obama in the end. What the amazing thing is that money mattered so little. Hillary, who spent millions lost. Huckabee, who had less than a million, won. But like the fact that nobody wants to vote for a Hussein, no one wants a prez with a name like Huckabee. Oh sure he will get 25% just because he's evangelical, but will that carry him over the top? What's your pick in November?

Sandip Madan said...

It may well be McCain vs Obama in which case I'd pick McCain. But though I don't like Obama I don't want his middle name to be an issue that drags him down. His support base of starry-eyed youngsters and left-leaners are also the ones least likely to hold such bias.

But I wouldn't count out Hillary yet even if she loses Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. The larger states may have voters with better judgement who put her back on top by super-Tuesday in early February.

kenrod said...

You can never count Hillary out because of her experience and bank account. But because the big states have all moved their primaries up, momentum seems to support momentum. I think she's the best qualified to be prez despite my disagreement with her philosophy.

If Obama becomes the WH occupant, he will be weak. He hasn't built a network amongst the senate or anyone else. McCain will be strong because of his long tenure at the senate, but will be a rerun of Bush. It's tax cuts for the rich, strong military adventures and less govt interferences.

So far, we have not had a strong politician since JFK. Maybe Reagan. But that's good because the system is strong, and we don't need a dictator like Lenin or Mao to pull us along. To me, it will barely matter who gets in. Yes, each will have a few pet projects like abortion or taxes, but the basic direction of society seems to move along.

Sandip Madan said...

I think it still matters a lot as to who is elected President though I agree that all the great US institutions and systems have limited the damage caused by a bad President.

Fortunately, I think the two NH primary winners on the Dem and Repub side will both make good Presidents.

kenrod said...

While I am not saying that it matters not who sits in the WH, there are certain events and choices that our society has made that will determine how the Prez acts. Let's take the most contentious issue of our day... Iraq. Why did we go there militarily?

Most idealist would argue it was to spread democracy. May be the WMD. Rid the world of Hilters...etc.

The pragmatists, like Greenspan, would argue it was for the oil.

I argue it was to establish a military forward base in the Middle East. We need a forward base there just like we have one in Japan. You don't think we have the US Navy in Tokyo for the goodness of our hearts? We have them there so we don't have to fight on American soil. Likewise we badly need one in the Mideast.

It was the same reason we fought so hard to get Hawaii as the 50th state. We doled out tons of cash, rigged the vote count etc, and not because we love the grass skirts of the hula dancers. We needed to fight the enemy way out in the Pacific.

Now would it make a difference if Gore, Kerry or Bush was the Prez? Yes, maybe one would have attacked Yemen or Oman instead of Iraq for that base. But the fact remains we need a Mideast base.

Sandip Madan said...

Interesting view, Kenrod. Going into Iraq "just" to establish a base isn't worth it, in my view, especially when we have a presence in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. If it's a base we want, why not Sudan?

A wiser President wouldn't have rushed into Iraq or other parts of the Middle East. But you're right that there can be strong (and undeclared) geopolitical reasons overlaid into decisions to go to war.

kenrod said...

Saudi Arabia is out as a base. It's too tied to a religious center. Kuwait is too small. So is Israel. A different prez may have chosen a different spot, but the fact remains is strategically we need a big base in the Mideast to move tens of thousands of troops in an instant. In many ways, Iraq has been a success for the neocons because we will be there for decades to come. We will have a lot of military gear there. Like Korea or Japan, which have been our bases, we can quickly launch an attack into Russia or China etc very rapidly. Of course, we will put a face of democracy on it but the industrial-military complex are choices we made since the 17th century.

And unless you're a Gandhi who wanted to reverse those trends, we're just puppets. The only choices we have are whether we want pizza or chicken for dinner. The rest of it seems to have been pre programmed.

The only people that seem to make a difference in our lives are the physicists. 60 years ago we talked about quantum mechanics. That led to the computer. These machines make more of a difference than any politician today. Today physicists are talking about time travel, gamma rays, solar tech. Two decades from now much will become reality. Exciting times, Sandip.

Sandip Madan said...

I'm no Gandhi, but are Russia and China still the enemy? At least science provides positive excitement as you say, Kenrod.

Delia said...

This is great info to know.

Sandip Madan said...

Just (dated) views, but thanks. :-)