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January 4, 2008
Pundits React to Obama's Historic Win
Historian Richard Brookhiser puts is succinctly at NRO's The Corner this morning:
But a man who could not have used certain restrooms forty years ago is in the center ring, not as a freak in the manner of Alberto Fujimori or Sonia Gandhi, nor even as a faction fighter in the style of Jesse Jackson, but as a real player. One of our great national sins is being obliterated, as the years pass, by the virtues of our national system. I don't agree with Obama and I don't particularly like him, but I am proud of this moment. Those of us of a certain age may be surprised that an even bigger deal isn't being made out of the fact that an African American just won a huge victory in a state that is 96% white. Other pundits are marveling at the Obama phenomenon with equal surprise:
Barack Obama has won the Iowa caucuses. You’d have to have a heart of stone not to feel moved by this. An African-American man wins a closely fought campaign in a pivotal state. He beats two strong opponents, including the mighty Clinton machine. He does it in a system that favors rural voters. He does it by getting young voters to come out to the caucuses. This is a huge moment. It’s one of those times when a movement that seemed ethereal and idealistic became a reality and took on political substance. Iowa won’t settle the race, but the rest of the primary season is going to be colored by the glow of this result. Whatever their political affiliations, Americans are going to feel good about the Obama victory, which is a story of youth, possibility and unity through diversity — the primordial themes of the American experience. Peggy Noonan:
As for Sen. Obama, his victory is similarly huge. He won the five biggest counties in Iowa, from the center of the state to the South Dakota border. He carried the young in a tidal wave. He outpolled Mrs. Clinton among women. He did it with a classy campaign, an unruffled manner, and an appeal on the stump that said every day, through the lines: Look at who I am and see me, the change that you desire is right here, move on with me and we will bring it forward together.Andrew Sullivan:
Look at their names: Huckabee and Obama. Both came from nowhere - from Arkansas and Hawaii. Both campaigned as human beings, not programmed campaign robots with messages honed in focus groups. Both faced powerful and monied establishments in both parties. And both are running two variants on the same message: change, uniting America again, saying goodbye to the bitterness of the polarized past, representing ordinary voters against the professionals. Neither has been ground down by long experience, but neither is a neophyte. E.J. Dionne:
You have a Republican educated in a Bible college; and a Democrat who is the most credible African-American candidate for the presidency in history. Their respective margins were far larger than most expected. And the hope they have unleashed is palpable.
Change, particularly generational change, was also at the heart of Barack Obama's victory over Hillary Rodham Clinton and John Edwards. Young voters and independents flocked to the Illinois senator. Media entrance polls showed that Obama defeated Clinton by better than 5 to 1 among voters under age 30, and such voters made up almost as large a share of the caucus electorate as voters over 65, a strongly pro-Clinton group. Among independents, Obama beat Clinton by better than 2 to 1. Matthew Yglesias:
I think the manner of Barack Obama's win is pretty impressive. I can't be the only one who was a bit inclined toward a cynical roll of the eyes at the idea of winning on the back of unprecedented turnout, mobilizing new voters, brining in young people, etc. That sounds like the kind of thing that people say they're going to do but never deliver on. But he did deliver. That's impressive. Perhaps the best line written about last night's Obama win is a touch more negative.
CONCLUDING THOUGHTS: Iowa has given its seal of approval to (1) a one-term Senator who stands for "hope" and "change" and (2) a tacky, big spending governor who doesn't know much about foreign policy but did stay at a Holiday Inn Express. The common demoninator here, other than a patent lack of qualifications for the presidency, is likeability. Well done, (small fraction of) Iowa.