The Battle for Iowa

The Obama Party


Barack Obama took to the stage of the Hy-vee Hall in Des Moines just after 10 p.m. to celebrate an Iowa caucus victory that he termed a “defining moment of history.”

Obama, accompanied by his wife Michelle and the couple’s two young daughters, was met with a roar of acclaim as he took the stage to the strains of U2’s “City of Blinding Lights.”

Obama received around 37 per cent support in the caucuses, while at the moment his two main rivals, Senator Hillary Clinton and former senator John Edwards are locked in a dogfight for second place. With only a handful of precincts left to report, Edwards and Clinton are both running at about 30 per cent support, with the former First Lady fractionally behind.MORE …

Up Next: Clinton Attacks Obama


In presidential politics, national front-runners of Hillary Clinton ‘s stature are allowed one loss like the one she suffered tonight in Iowa.

Walter Mondale and George W. Bush, for instance, bounced back from humbling New Hampshire defeats, and George H.W. Bush rallied after finishing third in Iowa in 1988. But none of those big-name front-runners tempted fate by falling short in two straight major contests. That dramatically raises the stakes for Clinton in New Hampshire, where a loss will put her in uncharted territory, as overwhelming front-runners go. MORE …

A Tender Moment at Clinton H.Q.


A girl in a wool hat was leaning against a wall, crying and talking into the telephone.

Here’s the part I overheard: “I’m just telling you why I hate Obama.” MORE …

Clinton Volunteer Thinks Obama Cheated


A Clinton campaign volunteer I just talked to at the Hotel Fort Des Moines thinks Barack Obama won by cheating.

“Bill Clinton came in third his first round, so it’s nothing,” said Linda Dugan, a retired Des Moines resident. “She’s still in the ball game, and she’s ahead in the nation. And she’ll stay that way, as long as Obama doesn’t continue to cheat.”MORE …

Hillary Says She’s (Still) Ready to Lead


Hillary Clinton almost seemed optimistic.

After her stinging nine-point defeat at the hands of Barack Obama in the Iowa caucuses, Clinton told a ballroom full of dejected but cheering supporters at her campaign headquarters in the Hotel Fort Des Moines, “We’re going to take this enthusiasm and go right to New Hampshire.”

Standing on a stage in front of Bill Clinton, her mother, her daughter and her most high-profile supporters, Hillary said the incredibly high turnout sent a clear signal to the country that “we are going to have change and that change will be a Democratic president in 2009.”MORE …

Edwards, Post-Iowa


John Edwards didn’t win Iowa but he’s sticking in the race. He is a long-shot to win the nomination, but here is the scenario he’s probably eyeing:

First, he will hang back in New Hampshire over the next week, campaigning but keeping expectations low, and settling for a showing well off the front-runners’ pace.MORE …

How to Spin a (Likely) Third-Place Finish


From Clinton campaign manager Patti Solis Doyle: “Congratulations to Senator Obama and his campaign on their victory tonight. It’s been a hard fought race here in Iowa for the last year and all eyes now turn to New Hampshire.” MORE …

Suozzi: Let’s See How Obama Deals With the Scrutiny Now


I just caught Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi here at the Clinton headquarters at the Hotel Fort Des Moines and asked him for his reaction to the seven-point margin she’s trailing Barack Obama by at the moment.

Here’s what he said: “I don’t think it’s that surprising. After months of intense scrutiny, she is still the best candidate out there.”MORE …

How to Spin a Sixth-Place Finish


Rudy Giuliani’s campaign manager Michael DuHaime released this statement, after a sixth place finish: MORE …

Why Huckabee’s Win Is Great for McCain (and Terrible for Romney)


On the Republican side there are two big winners and one big loser on caucus night.

Mike Huckabee, who entered the day as the slight favorite, is on pace to post a much more expansive victory than expected, solidly ahead of Mitt Romney, who until six weeks ago had been the runaway leader in Iowa.

Huckabee’s triumph, which comes in the face of a massive blitz of attack ads by Romney, severely wounds the former Massachusetts governor, whose nomination strategy has always hinged on using breakout victories in the early states to build momentum and corral the Republican masses. Now, he must win New Hampshire to maintain his viability, but suddenly he faces an uphill battle there.MORE …

Obama’s Youngsters Overwhelm Hillary’s Seniors at Windsor Falls Caucus


At the Walnut Creek Community Church in the Des Moines suburb of Windsor Heights, the largely white-haired Hillary caucus goers sat in the front rows to the left of the nave and the Obama supporters, much younger and wielding digital cameras, sat in the front rows on the right. Behind them were reserved sections marked by posters on the wall for Richardson and Edwards, and then handwritten signs for Dodd, Kucinich and Biden and Edwards.

Angie King officially convened the meeting.

“I am absolutely thrilled with this turnout,” she said, before calling the caucus system the “absolute optimum of participatory politics.”MORE …

Ron Paul Is Glad That Giuliani Is Tanking


I bumped into Ron Paul in the lobby of the Des Moines Marriott earlier today and asked him if he was surprised about the rapid decline in fortunes of the Rudy Giuliani campaign.

“I’m surprised he even got any attention at all in the beginning,” Paul said. MORE …

Iowa by Taxi: Undemocratic Caucuses, Out-of-State Groupies


On my way to the Barack Obama event last night, my cab driver, Roger Ward, spoke to an issue addressed in yesterday’s New York Times: There is something undemocratic in depriving people of their caucus vote because they have to work.

Ward said it was unfair, but nevertheless said he’d be out there. “I’ve got to take an hour off work,” said Ward, 51. “You think, ‘what’s one guy?’ But they say Kennedy won by a one percent margin per precinct. Adlai Stevenson could have won. So you never know.”

My cab back from the event was shared with two self-described political junkies. MORE …

Obama Camp Giddy, Hillaryland Reserved


Hillary Clinton began one of her last appeals to Iowa voters by lifting Barack Obama’s signature line.

“We are fired up and we are ready to go,” she said in the Starlight Building of Davenport’s Mississippi Valley Fairgrounds. Later in her speech, she talked about “hopeful, hopeful programs for the future.”

Whether the imitation was a direct expression of faltering confidence or merely a fatigue-induced slip-up, even some of her genuine admirers in the crowd couldn’t help but notice that things felt a little flat. MORE …

Now Hillary Is Fired Up and Ready to Go


Just now in Davenport, Hillary Clinton told the crowd “We are fired up and we are ready to go.”

Which should sound familiar. MORE …

Weiner, in Iowa, Defends Hillary Against Bloomberg


While Hillary Clinton delivered her closing argument to voters in Cedar Rapids, I asked Representative Anthony Weiner, who is out here campaigning for her, what he thought about Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s criticisms of the presidential candidates today.

“If he thinks there is a vacuum for good ideas, I don’t think he has looked at the candidates carefully, including his own senator,” said Weiner, who is all but certainly running to succeed Bloomberg as mayor. When I asked him if he thought Bloomberg would run for president, he suggested the mayor would be shirking his current responsibilities if he did so: “Hillary will be our nominee and then we’ll see. If the mayor wants to run, that’s fine, some of us are focused on the candidate we support, and the future of the city.” MORE …

Clinton’s Moderate Tone on Iraq Troop Withdrawal


While John Edwards is staking out a more anti-war stance in these last days before the Iowa caucuses, Hillary Clinton has, if anything, gone back to striking a more cautionary tone on withdrawing troops.

She still says that her goal is “bringing our troops home as quickly and responsibly as I possibly can,” but she is not as emphatic about it as she was, for example, in May, when she delivered the line, “If President Bush doesn’t end the war in Iraq before he leaves office, when I’m president, I will.”

In the last couple of weeks, she has been using in speeches some version of what she said today at a church in Indianola, Iowa. MORE …

Hillary Delivers!


Hillary just made a one minute and 28-second visit to the press bus in which she dropped off some coffee and bagels (“I didn’t want you to feel deprived”) and apologized that our substitute traveling secretary is brusque-mannered spokesman Phil Singer. MORE …

Clinton Campaign’s “Components of Persuasion”


This sign was hanging in a Hillary Clinton field office in Des Moines when the candidate stopped by this morning: MORE …

Clinton’s Iowa Director Talks Shop


Iowa state director Teresa Vilmain says that the Clinton campaign has been talking to other campaigns to line up support if those other candidacies fail. MORE …

When Hillary, and Hillary Reporters, Get Tired


Hillary Clinton repeats herself. She’s a politician on the stump and that’s what politicians on the stump do.

But after 13 hours on the road, and after giving the same hour-long speech in five different cities across the state, even a candidate as disciplined as Hillary Clinton can get tired. MORE …

Clinton In Iowa Hits Frozen Poll, Spins To Finish


Hillary campaign icy as Obama e-mail breaks calm; Mark Penn put on case. MORE …

Clinton Campaign Swag


If Hillary Clinton’s events are any indication, the former first lady’s supporters love free stuff.

Typically, before her campaign appearances, an extremely enthusiastic aide throws Hillary t-shirts into the frenzied, arm-flailing crowd, like a political Mr. Met.MORE …

Campaigning 101: Maximizing Crowd Resources


Hillary Clinton has been talking in packed cafeterias and gyms around Iowa this week.

But her campaign, like that of every other candidate, is practiced in the art of reducing a room’s size to make the crowd look bigger.MORE …

Edwards Campaign Hits Hillary for ‘Special Interest’ Money


Here’s Edwards campaign communications director Chris Kofinis responding to Hillary Clinton’s comments yesterday that “it’s easy to talk”:MORE …

Chelsea Doesn’t Stump, Does Canvass


Chelsea Clinton appeared on stage with her mother on a half dozen stages in a half dozen towns in Iowa yesterday without saying a word. (She tells reporters, as a matter of policy, that she doesn’t speak to the press.)

She does, however, talk to voters on the rope line.MORE …

Clinton’s Nod to Edwards: ‘It’s Easy to Talk’


Hillary Clinton is after John Edwards, too.

Today, she is taking a sharper line that seems calculated to undercut Edwards’ signature of fighting the special interests. MORE …

Inside the Bubble: A Good/Bad Day for Hillary


Hillary Clinton was on her game all day Sunday, hitting all the right notes, drawing huge ovations from voters, getting people to commit their support on caucus cards.

And yet, thanks to two of her surrogates, it ended up being a rough press day.

After Clinton finished her last event in Cedar Falls, the BlackBerries of reporters buzzed with an e-mail from the Obama campaign alerting them to the remarks of Gov. Ted Strickland of Ohio, who disparaged Iowa in a Columbia Dispatch story leading the Drudge Report. MORE …

Obama, Needing to Sink Edwards, Does His Best


Whatever the polls are telling the Barack Obama campaign in the final days before the Iowa caucuses, it does not seem to be putting them at ease.

Yes, Mr. Obama is still doing his best to sound the positive, inspiring campaign notes that conventional wisdom tells us Iowans want. (“There is a moment in the life of every generation when that spirit—that hope—has to break through,” he told a hushed audience in Mt. Pleasant on Saturday evening. “This is our moment. This is our time.”) MORE …

The Battle for Iowa