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.