Can Obama repeat Iowa?
As others have already noted, in almost every presidential campaign there’s a candidate who says he or she is going to win on the basis of new voters (especially young ones), and that prediction almost never comes true. Barack Obama actually made it come true in Iowa, and that makes it a lot harder for Hillary Clinton to mock his "electibility" argument. An obvious parallel in Massachusetts is Gov. Deval Patrick, who was deemed too liberal and too unexperienced to win a general election — until he greatly increased turnout in the Democratic primary and proved that he could indeed attract new voters, meaning he wouldn’t have to simply fight with the Republican nominee over a small band of perpetual "swing" voters in November. (One can argue that Obama is to Patrick what 2004 netroots favorite Howard Dean is to 2002 Bay State gubernatorial candidate Robert Reich. Dean and Reich talked about building a new progressive coalition. Obama — in Iowa, anyway — and Patrick went ahead and did it.)Obama’s Iowa victory makes it harder for Clinton to find his Achilles’ heel. He seems to wear well with voters over time, he’s been able to fend off Clinton’s tentative attacks (so far) without appearing negative, and his campaign appears to be tightly run. Iowa also proved (as Patrick did in Massachusetts in 2006) that polls no longer overstate the strength of black candidates. Clinton may be able to convince New Hampshire voters to assert their
In the end, Obama’s biggest weakness may turn out to be the same one he was thought to have before Iowa. He may not be able to turn out new voters, younger voters, and perhaps minority voters in later primary states that don’t have a history of playing a crucial role in the nomination process. It was impressive that he assembled a winning coalition in Iowa after nearly a year of campaigning there, but he simply may not have the time to do the same thing in California, Ohio, and Texas. His victory in Iowa was anticipated by a rise in the polls there, even if not everyone believed in them, but so far he has not caught up to Clinton in any state larger than South Carolina (other than his native Illinois). We’ll see if that changes over the next week or two.