Leading article: One state down, 10 months to go, and a presidency still to play for

Barack Obama is the candidate who has created the buzz, the one who appeals to the Democrats' image

Share

The Iowa caucuses have provided just as tantalising an opening to the 2008 US presidential campaign as anyone could have hoped for. And while it would be the height of folly to forecast the eventual outcome, even of the nominating process, on the basis of votes cast on one snowy evening in the Midwest, there are amuses bouches aplenty to whet the appetite for what comes next.

By any standards, the Iowa vote constituted a setback for Hillary Clinton and the chances that the United States will elect its first woman president this year. Nudged into third place by John Edwards, though by the slenderest of margins, she suddenly looks less the candidate to beat, than the candidate who has most to do. Iowa may not have been her natural political habitat, but its voters are among those she would have to win over as the Democratic Party's candidate. She can still make up the ground, but the nomination is no longer hers to lose.

The clear victory for Barack Obama, in a state that was not his natural terrain either, was seized upon by some as giving the lie to the view that white voters would never support a black candidate. Gratifying though Mr Obama's victory will be to him and his burgeoning team, however, the white Democrats who constituted the Iowa caucus electorate were never likely to present his main problem. It is white Republicans he has to win over, and while this may seem counterintuitive the many black Americans who do not see him as one of them.

That said, Mr Obama rides to New Hampshire on a wave of very American excitement. He is the candidate who has created the buzz, the one who appeals for the moment to Democrats' optimistic image of themselves. At this stage, lack of substance and experience need not be a handicap. But there is ample time for these deficiencies to catch up with him.

John Edwards's stronger than expected showing suggests a fall-back position for those Democrats who cannot stomach the prospect of Hillary. With his strongest states coming later in the primary timetable, he cannot be written off. After Iowa, the race for the Democratic nomination is more healthily open now than it was.

The Republican contest, for all its entertainment value, clarified little, beyond reinforcing the view that the homespun Mike Huckabee was more to the taste of Iowa Republicans than the suave Mitt Romney from Massachusetts. New Hampshire, where Mr Romney will be almost on home territory, will be a balancing test of the comparative appeal of these two, very different, populist politicians.

John McCain, who almost tied for third place, lives to fight another day in the state that he took by storm eight years ago. In the end, age may be a fiercer opponent for him than the electorate. Rudy Giuliani, in contrast, may have to be satisfied with his heyday as mayor of New York; after he limped in sixth, his days as a presidential hopeful look numbered.

As in all good dramas, a dark horse may be lurking in the wings. Mr Giuliani's successor as New York mayor, Michael Bloomberg, is keeping his name just close enough to the headlines to be noticed. Potentially the most viable independent candidate since Ross Perot in 1992, he may be considering a late intervention whose consequences could be even more unpredictable for the eventual outcome than was Mr Perot's 19 per cent of the vote then.

That, though, is to jump ahead. Democrat and Republican hopefuls are now back on the trail, getting to grips with their changed circumstances. Battle is rejoined next Tuesday in the electorally hardened primary state of New Hampshire.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Year 4 Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Hull: Randstad Education is urgently recruiting...

General Cover Teacher

£120 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Luton: The Job Randstad Education are ...

Year 1 Teacher

£90 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Hull: Randstad Education are recruiting...

Year 5 Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Hull: Randstad Education is currently recruitin...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The bustling Accident & Emergency ward at Milton Keynes Hospital  

The NHS needs the courage to 'adapt and survive'

Nigel Edwards
 

Letter from the Sub-Editor: Canada is seen as a peaceful nation, but violent crime isn’t as rare as you might think

Jeffrey Simpson
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

Liverpool v Real Madrid

Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?