January 09, 2008

after new hampshire

A few random post-New Hampshire thoughts on primary season. First, a hearty [this is good] for Maureen Dowd’s column this morning re. Hillary’s tears and the impact they had on the New Hampshire primary:

There was a poignancy about the moment, seeing Hillary crack with exhaustion from decades of yearning to be the principal rather than the plus-one. But there was a whiff of Nixonian self-pity about her choking up. What was moving her so deeply was her recognition that the country was failing to grasp how much it needs her. In a weirdly narcissistic way, she was crying for us. But it was grimly typical of her that what finally made her break down was the prospect of losing.

Yes, that -- the tears at the prospect of losing – is precisely what bothered me so much about that particular media moment. Sure, it was an opportunity for voters to connect with Senator Clinton emotionally, and it fit perfectly in a sub one minute clip. But for emotional punch I’ll take Obama’s thirteen minute victory speech in Iowa over Clinton’s breakfast tears any day.

And as Steven Johnson blogged this morning, what’s really exciting is that it looks like Super (Duper) Tuesday is actually going to matter. All the hand-wringing about states jockeying for position in the primary schedule – which to these untrained ears was indistinguishable from the rest of the early election season noise – is turning out to have been a really important news story. Back in September the New York Times argued in an editorial that…

An ideal system would start slowly enough that candidates who are not well-known or well-financed can score some early victories or at least show well. At the same time, it would allow larger states to participate early enough in the process that their voters could play a significant role in choosing the nominees.

While it’s hard to argue that Obama was not well-known or well-financed, would the Times had predicted back in September that Huckabee would take Iowa? Or even that Obama would have hurt Clinton so badly? I’m obviously not an expert, but it seems that with this year’s primary season we have almost what the Times called for – save the “slowly” adverb.