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Inside Barack Obama’s Iowa Victory

April 29th, 2008

democrat-donkey-logo.jpgThis article by Dominic Nanni provides a political science style analysis of the election results from the Democratic Party’s 2008 presidential primary. As you can tell by reading the article, this was written during the early stages of the primaries before the vote in New Hampshire had concluded. However, the information about the Iowa results still seems relevant because the current race between Obama and Clinton is still very close. For reference, according to the ABC News election results, Clinton wound up narrowly winning New Hampshire in the popular vote count but the delegate race was actually a tie; each candidate received 12 delegates. John Edwards received four delegates in NH but has since withdrawn from the race.


Well, after staying up all night counting votes, 100% of precincts are reporting and Barack Obama has harvested 37.6% of the caucus vote and thus has won the first contest in Iowa. In what seemed an allusion to Howard Dean in the 2004 Election, Hillary Clinton conceded the contest and congratulated Barack Obama. This victory is huge for Barack Obama and his supporters as they steam ahead towards the next contest — New Hampshire. Tackling Hillary Clinton on fourth down days before the Iowa caucus, Barack Obama’s message succeeded in the areas of change, electability, likability, and inspiration.

Upon entering the 2008 Election, Hillary Clinton sold herself as the “change agent”, as Bill Clinton described her. She vowed that, if elected, she would bring the necessary change to Washington and debunk the corruption that has plagued our capital. The only problem is that she was not seen as a change agent and if you look at history she is not a change agent. The last three presidents have been Bush and Clinton. Having another Clinton would not be change; it would be the status quo. Barack Obama took his message of change and cultivated his substantial victory over Hillary Clinton. “We are one nation. We are one people. And our time for change has come”, he said in his victory speech.

The voters in Iowa agreed with him by large margins. In polls and questionnaires, 51% of voters for Obama thought he could bring about change, comparing to 11% for Hillary Clinton . Barack Obama’s message appealed more to Iowa voters than Hillary Clinton’s in change but the way candidates present their message is important, and those the two areas are likability and electability.

Candidates can bring good messages to the campaign but what is more important is the way they articulate those messages. If candidates do not successfully communicate their ideas in a charismatic way, they will usually not do very well in the election. For example, do you think JFK would have gotten elected if he was not as charismatic as he was? Some people have even compared Barack Obama to JFK; it may be a fair comparison. In December, Hillary Clinton had an unfavorable rating in the mid-50s and Barack Obama had a rating in the mid-30s. Victory has affirmed that Barack Obama did articulate his message better than Hillary Clinton.

Barack Obama is a good orator. If you have ever attended an event of his, I am sure that you can confirm this. The loss for Hillary Clinton was also a sharp challenge to her electability. She entered the race with great chances of winning all over the country and this loss shattered that. Barack Obama put the rumor of an unstoppable Hillary Clinton to rest and part of it was because he successfully articulated his message. If you successfully articulate your message, then you are going to inspire people to come out and vote for you, and that also contributed to Obama’s victory.

Inspiration is mandatory to winning an election. Voters are not going to come out and vote for you if you do not inspire them to do so. In this arena Barack Obama overtook Hillary by amazing measures. One of the factions that many candidates were trying to win over were the first time caucus goers. They were the people who were going to make or break it for some candidates. Barack Obama successfully inspired them to come out but also inspired them to vote for him. According to polls and questionnaires 41% of first time caucus attendees voted for Obama and 29% voted for Clinton.

Getting young voters to come and vote is also important for a candidate. Once again, Barack Obama succeeded in inspiring young voters to come out. In more questionnaires, 57% of Obama’s voters were 18-29 years old, and only 11% of them were 18-29 years old for Hillary Clinton. There has always been a push to get young voters out to vote and Obama got them– the real challenge will be to get them to vote if he wins the nomination. Inspiration can unlock the door for a candidate, and Obama just walked through.

The areas of change, electability, likability, and inspiration brought Obama the victory in Iowa. Going into the caucuses, pollsters were expecting a Hillary Clinton win but finished with a Hillary Clinton loss. This victory was a huge decline for Hillary Clinton and a great booster for Barack Obama. As of this writing, the New Hampshire primaries are only 4 days away. The results there will either overturn or affirm the victory in Iowa yesterday. Will it be Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton, or perhaps John Edwards? If Barack Obama once again succeeds in the areas mentioned then he can win in New Hampshire. The election has begun and we will see.

Works Cited

– The New York Times, “Profile of Caucus Goers”, http://www.nytimes.com/ref/us/politics/
20080103_IOWAPOLL_GRAPHIC.html

– USA Today, “New Clinton campaign out to show her likability,” Jill Lawrence, http://www.usatoday.com/news/politics/
election2008/2007-12-16-clinton-likability_N.htm

– The New York Times, “Profile of Caucus Goers”, http://www.nytimes.com/ref/us/politics/
20080103_IOWAPOLL_GRAPHIC.html



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