Friday, January 4, 2008

How Obama Did It

* CBS:

Well over half of those attending the Democratic presidential caucuses - 57 percent - were attending their first caucus ever, and their choice for the nomination was Obama, with 41 percent support. Hillary Clinton received only 29 percent of first-time votes, and John Edwards trailed with 18 percent. (Among those who attended a caucus previously, Edwards - an Iowa caucus veteran from 2004 - won with 30 percent of the vote.)

It was among young caucus-goers, however, where Obama truly carried the evening. Attendees under 30 voted 57 percent for Obama, compared to only 14 percent for Edwards and 11 percent for Clinton. Among Gen X-ers - 30 to 44 year-olds - Obama received 42 percent to Edwards' 21 percent and Clinton's 23 percent.

* John Dickerson:

When it came down to the wire, the Democratic race wasn't about issues but about political style and governing philosophy. John Edwards ran on his ability to fight, and Hillary Clinton ran on her experience. Obama ran as a conciliator who would transcend Washington's endemic partisanship by building new coalitions. "There's always somebody to tell why the system can't change," he said in his speeches. "If you are not willing to accept what the cynics say. We will heal this nation we will repair the world. If you believe. Let's go change the world."

All of the candidates were selling brands of change. But Obama was more convincing because he embodies change, a point he started to make more explicitly as he approached the finish line. "I have to talk about hope a lot in my campaign," he said. "Our signs don't say Obama. They say hope. I have to talk about hope because that's why I'm here today. I wasn't born into privilege. I was born to a teenage mom. Father left when I was 2. Raised by my grandparents. The odds say I shouldn't be standing here today. They gave me love, an education, and they gave me hope."

* TNR:

How'd he do it? You often hear that there are two approaches to winning a caucus: Organization and momentum. The Obama campaign benefited from both. On Tuesday I shadowed an Obama precinct captain named Monica Green as she canvassed in Ankeny, a Republican-leaning suburb just north of Des Moines. Green was herself a former Republican-in fact, she was still registered with the GOP until a few minutes before caucus time. This gave her instant credibility with her neighbors. At one point we showed up at the home of a fellow Republican named Rhonda, who was also supporting Obama. "Don't I know you from church?" Monica said when Rhonda answered the door. (She did.)

As we were leaving, Monica asked Rhonda to show up at the caucus site around 5:30-a full hour-and-a-half before the proceedings would start--so they'd have time to get their bearings. It was the kind of request you say yes to even when you have no intention of following through. But when I showed up at 5:40, Rhonda had long since settled in, along with her husband and her 17-year-old son. It's hard to believe that some out-of-stater would have enjoyed the same powers of moral suasion.

* Mother Jones:

I knew there was something afoot for Barack Obama about half an hour into the caucus I attended at Merrill Middle School in Des Moines, Iowa. First of all, there was the turnout. Democratic Precinct 72 had roughly 25 attendees in the 2004 caucus, according to precinct chair Louise Alcorn. Today, it had 58. And even though the caucus represented a union-heavy neighborhood, which one might expect to turn out for John Edwards, the first count of the night identified 24 Obama supporters, 16 Edwards supporters, and just 12 Hillary Clinton supporters. The caucus also included one Biden supporter, four Richardson supporters, and one undecided voter, all of whom later spread evenly to the larger groups.

The relatively small precinct only had two delegates to give, so the Clinton, Obama, and Edwards groups all tried convincing each other that they ought to switch camps. Though the Edwards supporters in attendance were well-prepared (they had pies and candy available for converts) and committed (they gave passionate speeches advocating for Edwards), the Obama supporters satsteadfast and quiet. After some heated moments, including a long discussion of whether Elizabeth Edwards' cancer necessarily meant she would die while her husband was in office, the final count showed that Obama had actually grown in strength. Obama 25, Edwards 22, and Clinton 11—Obama and Edwards each took home one of the precinct's two delegates.

* L.A. Times:

What the Hill happened to her?

Hillary Clinton had everything on her side, it seemed. Name recognition. A nationwide network of political contacts from a generation of party work. Dozens of endorsements, albeit from aging singers, pols and athletes. A vaunted political operation from her husband's numerous successes. Her popular husband himself. A detailed grasp of policy. A steely determination. A sharp, calculating mind. More than $100 million. And, until Thursday night, a sense of inevitability about her Democratic nomination and even coronation as the next president, the first first lady to do that, and a triumphant return to the White House.


Turns out, a lot of those alleged advantages were actually negative baggage. Every presidential election is about change. She tried to persuade a record 239,000 Iowan caucusgoers that she was the change agent, the anti-Bush, who would end the Iraq war but probably, maybe, likely not bring all the troops home right away. Then she tried to talk about our future by talking about her past.

* First Read:

In her first major press conference since a third-place finish in the Iowa caucuses last night, Hillary Clinton said that she takes responsibility for not fully tapping into the power of the youth vote in the Hawkeye state, and reiterated past statements about her difficulties there.

“I did very, very well with people over 45,” she told a slew of reporters at the Gala Diner in Manchester. “I didn’t do as well with people under 30, and I take responsibility for that. So I’m going to, in the next five days, do as much as I can to talk about my record in creating opportunities for young people.”

And when questioned about her spiral from presumptive frontrunner to third-place finisher, Clinton rebuked the notion. “I was never a frontrunner of any significance in Iowa; I knew it was always going to be hard for me,” she said, citing Edwards’ near-constant presence in the state since 2004 and Obama’s proximity in Illinois – excuses that she and her husband used in the weeks leading up to the caucuses.

* David Yepsen:

The fact that Obama, who was just a state senator from Illinois four years ago, and Edwards, who morphed into a fiery us-vs.-them candidate for this presidential run, captured the top two spots is evidence that the Democratic activists in the nation’s heartland want the country to change and move on.

While many Iowa Democrats said they liked Clinton, they also indicated they didn’t think she could win a November election because her unfavorable ratings are so high. Despite a monumental campaign effort in Iowa, she was unable to knock down her top two rivals enough to fashion a victory here.

* Transcript of Hillary's morning presser.

* Transcript of Obama's victory speech.

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