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

Recruitment Genius: Business Manager

£32000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Business Manager is required ...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£45000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Panel & Cabinet Wireman

£20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Panel Wireman required for small electro...

Recruitment Genius: Electronics Test Engineer

£25000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An SME based in East Cheshire, ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Newspaper stands have been criticised by the Child Eyes campaign  

There were more reader complaints this year – but, then again, there were more readers

Will Gore
 

People drink to shut out pain and stress. Arresting them won’t help

Deborah Coughlin
Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog
War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

Finally, a diet that works

Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

Say it with... lyrics

The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches
Professor Danielle George: On a mission to bring back the art of 'thinkering'

The joys of 'thinkering'

Professor Danielle George on why we have to nurture tomorrow's scientists today
Monique Roffey: The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections

Monique Roffey interview

The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections
Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Their outrageousness and originality makes the world a bit more interesting, says Ellen E Jones
DJ Taylor: Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

It has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Olivia Jacobs & Ben Caplan: 'Ben thought the play was called 'Christian Love'. It was 'Christie in Love' - about a necrophiliac serial killer'

How we met

Olivia Jacobs and Ben Caplan
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's breakfasts will revitalise you in time for the New Year

Bill Granger's healthy breakfasts

Our chef's healthy recipes are perfect if you've overindulged during the festive season
Transfer guide: From Arsenal to West Ham - what does your club need in the January transfer window?

Who does your club need in the transfer window?

Most Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month