Monday, January 7, 2008

January 7, 2008

     Tension time, today and tomorrow.  Candidates sweating, campaigns facing death.  Negatives springing up in New Hampshire's fertile soil.  No wonder;  the vote's coming up, and while Iowa removed some long shots--senators Biden and Dodd--New Hampshire may kill off a one-time frontrunner.  Or two.
     But it isn't, as some wise person once said, over 'til it's over."  One poll has Barack Obama ten points ahead of Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire, which sounds like a landslide.  But if you keep reading, you learn that the poll's margin of error is plus or minus five points, so the seeming landslide is in fact a statistical tie.  And while polls are useful, they are snapshots, not predictions.
     Still, it's fun to see that Clinton, as well as Obama, is now the candidate of change.  She's been in the public eye for fifteen years now so that may be a stretch.  But if she gets away with it, more power to her.  And if she doesn't, her campaign may well be over.
     The Republican race is harder to read.  Mike Huckabee's victory in Iowa was based on the votes of evangelical Christians and there are fewer of them in New Hampshire.  But Mitt Romney in recent appearances has sounded evasive and flip-floppy.  John McCain in the big weekend debate called him the "candidate of change" not meaning it as a compliment.  And when Romney told Mike Huckabee not to criticize his position on an issue, Huckabee shot back, "Which one?"
     Actually, if I could have one wish magically granted, it would be for more civility--not in the campaign, which has been quite polite so far, but in the Congress.   I can remember Robert Michel of Illinois, the Republican leader in the House from 1980-1995, talking about how they'd argue an issue hammer and tongs but, at the end of the day, you'd still be friends with the folks you'd been yelling at.
     That changed for many reasons:  leaders like Newt Gingrich preferred partisanship to collegiality;  more and more visits made home to campaign or raise money;  and so on.  Members don't know each other as well as they used to.  Maybe you can't go back, but Congress worked better back then and maybe, just maybe, some of the new people who get elected this year will want to give civility a try.


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