Iowa Caucuses and Race

It’s been whispered – quietly, infrequently – that one of the main problems with Barack Obama’s campaign is that Americans have had an unfortunate habit of supporting the candidacies of black politicians right up to the point of no return and not beyond. Jesse Jackson, while he might never have been in serious contention for the White House, saw his numbers plummet in Iowa. Elections elsewhere are filled with examples of similar let-downs. In fact here in Monroe County, support for Mayor Johnson in the County Executive race was, IIRC, much higher before the vote than after.

Whether that’s because people change their support based on prejudice at the polls or they support black candidates early simply based on race and change their minds later, support is often found lacking when it counts. In this race, support for Barack Obama has been soft among black voters, too. Many pundits have held forth that this was because black voters are concerned that a similar abandonment will take place again.

But it doesn’t get whiter than Iowa, and Barack Obama has won by as close to a landslide as you’re likely to get in this race. Almost a ten point lead over second placed John Edwards in what ultimately proved to be a three horse race. And in an instant, a huge unspoken doubt about the Obama candidacy has been removed.

It should be noted that Iowa, while it tends to make a big splash, is not always indicative of the ultimate presidential candidacy, particularly on the Democratic side: the last five election cycles have had Iowa’s winner as candidate three times. But in this case, the question is not so much about who will be the next candidate, but if Barack can be a viable candidate for America. That question seems fairly succinctly answered this morning.

That will probably buoy Obama’s numbers nation-wide, if temporarily. He’s pretty close to victory in New Hampshire, too, and with the trouncing Hillary Clinton got in Iowa (because, whatever the spin-meisters will tell you, it was bad, bad, bad for Hillary in Iowa), he’s got a head of steam against what was his chief rival in that state. I’m looking at another Obama win in New Hampshire, in that case. Worst case scenario, possibly second place to Edwards. Taking second to Edwards is probably as good as a win, because Edwards may not have the money or the manpower to run much beyond North Carolina without a win in that state.

And in this race, third in any one state is an extraordinarily bad thing for any candidate.  There are usually four or five contenders going into N.H., but with the race coming down to three candidates, third is dead last.  There really isn’t any room for a “Come Back Kid,” this go-round.