Iowa gave you today’s candidates

Much has been made of Barack Obama's victory in the January 3, 2008 Iowa Caucuses.  The Reader's Digest Condensed Version:  Obama's victory dealt Hillary Clinton a loss that killed the idea she was the "inevitable" nominee.  In an interview with Radio Iowa this summer, Obama described Caucus Night as "lift-off" for his campaign.

While Clinton was focusing on experience, Obama (and former North Carolina Senator John Edwards) focused on the idea of building a movement. On the afternoon of the Iowa Democratic Party's 2007 Jefferson-Jackson Day Dinner, Obama outlined that "movement" idea for a crowd of his supporters.

"…It's with your power, it's with your voices that we're going to be able to make a difference," Obama todl the crowd that day in Hy-Vee Hall in Des Moines. "…One voice can change a room and if it can change a room, it can change a city and if it can change a city, it can change a state and if it can change a state, it can change a nation.  If it can change a nation, it can change a world.  Your voice can change the world…Let's go change the world."

On to the Republican side. Iowa Republicans tossed aside two party heavyweights in favor of former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee's populist message.  Huckabee, like Obama, was a "movement" candidate.  Huckabee's victory dealt a blow to the well-financed Mitt Romney who had hoped an opening victory in the Iowa Caucuses would propel him through the contests to come. The Iowa results also confirmed that former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani was not acceptable to a significant chunk of rank-and-file Republicans. 

"My message is not 'Establishment Republican.' That's one of the reasons it's resonating with so many people because people don't want another Establishment candidate," Huckabee told me in an interview in August, 2007.  "That's a losing formula for us (in 2008).  They're looking for somebody that's got not only fresh energy and ideas but that's willing to be different in saying what people know is the truth.  You know, we've got to point out the elephant in a room full of elephants and frankly that hasn't been done often and so it's time that the Republican Party face up to our need to communicate directly with the American people the things that matter to them."

I asked him a follow-up question: "What is the elephant in the room?"

Huckabee's answer — remember, this was in August, 2007 — seems even more applicable today.  "The fact that the Republican Party has been seen as a wholly-owned subsidiary of Wall Street, insensitive to ordinary folks and more tied to the Wall Street or the K Street Washington, D.C. lobbyist Republicans and not to the Main Street Republicans," Huckabee said.  "….Their issues and their interests are very different than the folks who can write a big check and be done with it.  These are people who are fighting for their jobs. They're fighting for the kids' college education. They're fighting for dollars to put into their health care.   They need somebody who's going to honestly address some issues that are going to touch them everyday."   

John McCain's fourth place finish in Iowa's Caucuses (nearly a tie for third with Fred Thompson) kept McCain alive, able to fight another day.  A relaxed McCain made a quick trip to Iowa in late December, before returning for non-stop campaign in New Hampshire, where his campaign ship righted itself and wound up securing the GOP presidential nomination. "My friends, I stood fifth from the bottom of my class at the Naval Academy.  If my old company officer – Captain Hunt, United States Marine Corps – were here today, he'd say, 'In America, anything is possible,'"McCain joked with the crowd gathered at a suburban Des Moines Elks Lodge.  "It's so invigorating and you know, it's an honor that people would take time out on a cold day to spend time with me….I will never forget it and I will always tell you that, win or lose, we will be able to look on this campaign and say, 'We ran an honorable campaign' and that's what I want my legacy to be."

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About O.Kay Henderson

O. Kay Henderson is the news director of Radio Iowa.


  1. Oops… I think you mean “condensed” version? Rather than “condemned”? 🙂 Thought you’d want to know… feel free to delete this comment…