Mark Curtis's blog

"Iowa: The Winners and the Losers"

(Des Moines, Iowa) -- OK, so Mike Huckabee and Barack Obama won the Iowa Caucuses. But who were the real winners and losers?


1) Hope and Optimism: While Huckabee and Obama are at opposite ends of the political spectrum, some of the themes strike a similar chord. Last night in his victory speech, Obama said, "We are choosing hope over fear. We are choosing unity over division." Huckabee said, "It's not about who raises the most money. It's about raising the most hopes and aspirations." People like a positive message!

2) Political spouses. At the Edwards rally, people cheer for Elizabeth more than John. At Clinton events, people want to shake Bill's hand more than Hillary. At Obama events, when Baracak calls Michelle, "the love of my life" he really sounds sincere. Crowrds love it! Being a political spouse is tough its nice to see these folks get some recognition.

3) Celebrity endorsements work....."sometimes" but not always. Oprah helped Obama, and Chuck Norris gave some "chops" to Huckabee's campaign...or was it Mrs. Norris, who stood behind Huckabee, and was the "buzz" of the CNN newsroom where I was working!


1) Big Money. Mitt Romney spent $7.5 million here, but lost to Mike Huckabee, who spent only half a million.

2) Negative Ads: The only real attack ads came from Romney, attacking Huckabee. Romney got trounced. Memo to all candidates. Iowans HATE negative ads. Just ask Howard Dean and Dick Gephrardt from 2004. They led in the polls, then launched a vicious attack on each other and lost badly. As Howard Dean said, "YEEEEEEEEEEEEEAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHH!

3) "Old material!" Hillary Clinton's speeches seem "old and tired," a rehash the stuff we have heard from the Clinton's over 16 years. Now that is NOT a slam on their policies, or them personally. But the speeches really need some new ideas, some energy and some inspiration. They just fell flat!

More to come from Iowa, then on to New Hampshire on Saturday!


So what's a caucus?

So What's a Caucus? It's really TWO answers!

For Republicans, this is really just another primary. GOP voters cast their secret ballot, and whoever get the most the winner. National convention delegates, are divided up proportionally.

For Democrats, its fairly complicated. People will gather in fire stations, libraries, school gyms, etc. They will divide up by candidates they support. If that candidate does not have 15% of the crowd, they are done! For example, if 100 people attend a precinct caucus, candidate Chris Dodd needs 15 people to stay viable. If he doesn't, he's out...and his delegates are free to vote for anyone else.

This is crucial, because it's a way to get additional votes. Sen Barrack Obama is saying, "Please consider me for your second choice, if I am not your first choice!"

And Rep. Dennis Kucinich has told supporters, to back Obama if Kucinich does not have 15%.

So it's almost like "rank choice" voting in San Francisco! Those "second choice" votes, could put someone "over the top" in a tight race, and right now polls show Sens. Clinton, Obama, and former Sen. Edwards, deadlocked in a 3-way race!

Turnout is crucial tonight, voting begins at 7pm in Iowa. Skies are sunny, with a high temperature of 30 degrees today. Brisk, but no rain or snow!

It's estimated that 40% of voters may be "independents" this is wide open in both parties!

Get ready for an Iowa free-for-all!


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