Last night the US Presidential election season kicked off with the Iowa Caucuses. The results were pretty stunning – clear victories for both Obama (D) and Huckabee (R). Scratch that – the results were very interesting, and might have been considered stunning if the Iowa Caucuses were a more genuinely significant political event.
Iowa is an oddball event – there’s no other way to put it – particularly on the Democratic side of things. Although public meetings like the caucuses are definitely a part of the democratic tradition, that isn’t the same as saying that the results obtained in Iowa are necessarily indicative of outcomes that will come in more “normal” exercises in democracy – like, for instance, actual elections. Plus – in the grand scheme of things, Iowa accounts for very few delegates to the convention in August.
That said, I think Iowa was important for Obama to demonstrate that he could translate interest into real public support. This demonstrates a couple of important things which will be very important for him going forward:
- There is now some evidence that Obama leads an organization that can deliver results. Say all you want about advertising (positive and negative), fundraising, high profile endorsements, and all the rest of it – what wins elections is having an organization capable of getting people to act, not just to talk about acting.
- There is now tangible evidence, no matter how slight, that white Americans will publicly support an African-American candidate. What does this change? No one knows for sure.
- Fundraising hasn’t been a huge problem for Obama, but if there were anything holding people back, I think many of those barriers have now been removed.
The main event in all of this comes on February 5, when we’ll see if Obama’s organization has scaled to a multi-state effort, and if/how he can weather the onslaught that Clinton is likely to bring to his door. But more than anyone else on the Democratic race, Obama could be the beneficiary of even the smallest proof point. He has that after last night – and next we’ll all learn what that means.