DES MOINES, Iowa, 4 a.m. – Iowa holds a special place in American political life. It is routinely the first state in which presidential candidates are tested and chosen, and has been since 1972.
Iowans seem to regard their civic responsibility with utmost seriousness. They are aware that the eyes of the world are keenly watching them to see who they choose as their candidates for the White House. Many Americans turn to Iowa for guidance in who should be the 44th President of the United States, but perhaps Iowa does not give resonating advice.
NORMAN, Oklahoma, 10:45 a.m. — I didn’t think I would have a reading assignment while on winter break. Then again, I also hadn’t planned on interviewing Ted Marmor.
I wanted the School of Management and political science professor’s opinion on the presidential candidates’ positions on healthcare. Marmor, after all, has testified before Congress on healthcare reform, served on President Jimmy Carter’s Commission on the National Agenda and published reams of articles and books on the subject. If anyone is an expert, he is. But first I had to acquaint myself.
In ‘The Politics of U.S. Health System Reform,’ Marmor traces the history of the impact of politics on healthcare reform, calling it a story of “long-term aspiration and deep frustration.” The main obstacle to reform Marmor emphasizes is the limit of political feasibility: the harsh resistance of Republicans and the lack of commitment of Democrats.
Having earned my phone interview, Marmor and I spoke early on the Friday morning following the Iowa caucus elections. Are any of the three leading Democratic candidates capable of causing the necessary ideological shift in Washington to substantially reform the U.S. health system?
“All three of them — Obama and Edwards even more than Clinton,” Marmor says. “Obama and Edwards have a more powerful rhetorical voice on behalf of those people in trouble in America. [Hillary] is a more manipulative, less appealing moral leader.”
WEST DES MOINES, Iowa, 3:40 a.m. - A person’s style of dress is a mode of communication. Dress is an outlet by which a person says something about themselves. Dress makes a statement.
Presidential hopeful John Edwards made his statement in the final days of the Iowa campaign. His casual dress was in stark contrast to the formal wear donned by other Democratic frontrunners Hillary Rodham Clinton LAW ’73 and Barack Obama.
Edwards wore a black blazer and white collared shirt to a rally featuring singer-songwriter John Mellencamp in West Des Moines on January 2. He complemented the formality with the laborer’s signature article of clothing: jeans.
Edwards self-identifies himself as a champion for the middle class. He regularly emphasizes his position as an advocate for the working man. He wants to be regarded as “one of the guys,” and he is dressing the part.
NEW HAVEN, Conn., 12:28 a.m. — Connecticut Senator Christopher J. Dodd gave up his long-shot bid for the Democratic nomination for president late Thursday night after a woeful showing hours earlier in the Iowa caucus.
Dodd, who was widely expected to leave the race if he did not finish fourth or better in the caucus, failed to garner one percent of the vote even after moving his young family to Iowa in the fall to enable him to campaign full-time in the state.
“Tonight I am withdrawing from the presidential race but let me assure you, we are not ending this race with our heads hanging but with our heads held high,” Dodd told about 100 supporters late Thursday night at a gathering in Des Moines, Iowa.
“I am not going anywhere,” he added, to loud cheers. “I will be fighting for the United States.”
WASHINGTON, 9:50 p.m. — Illinois Senator Barack Obama and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee will both leave Iowa and head to New Hampshire tomorrow with the wind at their backs but facing vastly different political terrain as the Granite State’s Jan. 8 primary approaches.
Obama, riding a wave of support among first-time and college-age caucus-goers that put him over the top Thursday, will hit the stump well positioned to grab a second victory five days from now. Recent polls in the state have shown the senator in the lead or in a statistical tie with New York Senator Hillary Clinton LAW ’73, whose aura of inevitability may erode further if she fails to come out on top.
By contrast, Huckabee has much ground to make up in New Hampshire, where former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney’s second-place finish tonight leaves him and Arizona Senator John McCain in a horse race. More libertarian and socially liberal than Iowa and less populated by evangelical Christians — who make up Huckabee’s base — New Hampshire may prove difficult for the former Baptist minister.
DES MOINES, Iowa, 9:21 p.m. — For a city the size of Des Moines, the presidential field can feel too crowded sometimes. That was the case Thursday night as Fred Thompson supporters accidentally walked into Ron Paul’s after-party, much to the chagrin of Paul’s following. Thompson, the Texas congressman’s backers said, is on the second floor of the Des Moines Marriott.
Downstairs the hors d’oeuvres were better, the press thicker and the crowd older. After some searching amid jackets and gray hair, I found sister and brother Onnalee and Barnes Kelley, 17 and 21, respectively, standing at a table analyzing the results as they came in on CNN.
“[Thompson] was probably not as intense as the Democratic contenders — like Obama, who was really intense and got into all these schools,” Onnalee says. “[Thompson] had support with Republican young people. He could have had more, though.”
But Barnes, a student at Colgate University, said most of his college friends are backing other candidates, like Delaware Senator Joe Biden or former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani. And that’s not due to a lack of name ID — Barnes said “everybody” at Colgate knows about Thompson through his role on the hit TV show “Law and Order.”
From here, Barnes thinks Thompson’s best chance to recapture the momentum he originally had when mulling a candidacy in the summer of 2007 lies in a strong showing in the South, especially in the South Carolina GOP primary on Jan. 19. He might be right. After all, no candidate has won the Republican nomination without winning the South Carolina primary since 1980. If Thompson truly is still the “Clear Conservative Choice,” he’ll have to prove it in South Carolina.
WEST DES MOINES, Iowa, 7:32 p.m. — The first round of results are in: Before the critical realignment stage of the Democratic caucus in this precinct, here’s an update from West Des Moines, Precinct 111:
Joe Biden: 7
Hillary Clinton: 75
Chris Dodd: 9
John Edwards: 49
Barack Obama: 99
Bill Richardson: 22
They tallied 264 caucus-goers in attendance, so I’m missing 3, but you can see the trend here in West Des Moines. The viability threshold of 15% means a candidate must have 40 votes to remain viable. They’re realigning now.
WEST DES MOINES, Iowa, 7:44 PM — Zachary Hayes and Justin Jodoin are seventeen. So are Drew Sorge and Matt Stilwell. All four students turn eighteen before November’s general election and — according to Iowa election law — are eligible to participate in the caucus. And caucus they have, making their political voices heard for the first time.
Tonight, they stood with Illinois Senator Barack Obama.
WEST DES MOINES, Iowa, 7:27 p.m. — The library at Hillside Elementary School in West Des Moines was packed. Outside the door, bright-eyed women wore bandoliers of Hillary stickers and handed out cookies to caucus-goers.
“Are you supporting Hillary? Supporting Hillary? That corner in the back, that’s where we are.”
The Iowa caucuses began at 7:00 o’clock tonight across the Hawkeye state, ending months of media and inside-the-Beltway speculation about which Democratic and Republican candidates would win the first voting of the year. In West Des Moines, however, Iowans acted as though they had simply gathered to chat about the neighborhood.
IOWA CITY, Iowa, 4:33 p.m. — “It’s hard to believe it’s all going to be over tomorrow,” says 19-year-old Atul Nakhasi from behind a laptop and scattered piles of paper. He’s trying to figure out in the next two hours how to run a caucus in Iowa’s largest student precinct – precinct 5 of Iowa City. “I’m kind of going to miss it.”
NEW HAVEN, Conn., 10:00 a.m. — Senator Barack Obama topped all other candidates by a two-to-one margin in a recent Yale Daily News poll. A commanding victory, right?
Well, sure — but nothing compared to the support he found among young voters in the influential Des Moines Register poll released Monday night.
A whopping 56 percent of likely caucus participants between the ages of 18 and 34 support the Illinois senator, according to the poll, considered the most important gauge of electoral support leading up to tonight’s caucus. That’s three-and-a-half times the support that any other Democratic candidate received from that demographic.
Sixteen percent supported former Senator John Edwards, and 11 percent backed Senator Hillary Clinton LAW ’73.