Newton, Iowa I just got out of a Romney event here in Newton--probably 100-150 people (and 25-30 press) crammed into a local diner. Romney's closing stump speech is pretty solid--and, as Time's Joe Klein put it, very "efficient." He manages to pack several themes into a lean, 15-20 minute affair. Not surprisingly, Romney was strongest talking about how his business career gives him the experience to bring change to Washington ("I've spent my life changing things, I know how change works.").
My colleague John Judis (via e-mail) and commenter ilnoca both make a great point: Given the closeness of the race in Iowa, the difference may well be who supporters of Biden, Richardson, and Dodd migrate to if/when their caucus-groups are declared non-viable. (For those confused by terms like "non-viable," Mike will be posting a piece on caucus mechanics in the next day or two.) John suspects that these people are headed Clinton's way, given that they're probably attracted to experience and Clinton, fair or not, has been labeled the most experienced of the front-runners.
I'll be spending most of today with Romney and Huckabee--and I promise I'll be posting from the road. In the meantime, just a thought about where things stand with them in Iowa. According to the latest poll, which is consistent with the broader trend line, Huckabee is still up 7 points on Romney here. My gut tells me that Romney is still very much alive, though--I think the odds of his winning may even be slightly higher than Huck's at this point. Here's why: Romney has spent the last few weeks absolutely pounding Huckabee on the air, on the stump, in mailings, in e-mails.
Just a quick thought about what Iowa may or may not accomplish for the Dems. First, the three easy scenarios: 1.) Hillary wins by more than a point or two, in which case the race is basically over. 2.) Obama wins convincingly (five points or more), in which case it starts looking pretty good for him and Edwards is done.
“It’s an exciting time to be alive,” Bill Clinton exclaims. No seven words would sound more banal in the hands of a lesser politician. Clinton says them with the wonderment of a toddler who just learned to walk--at least if that toddler could speak in complete paragraphs and had a sponge-like memory for detail. “When I ran for president the average cell phone weighed five pounds,” he muses. “Go figure. You know how many sites there were on the Internet? The whole shebang? Fifty.
Coralville, Iowa I just went to an Obama event near Iowa City--not far from the University of Iowa and legions of young voters rumored to favor the senator from Illinois. (The Obama campaign says there were about 900 people in attendance.) The first thing that struck me was how explicitly Obama rebutted the preparedness argument Bill Clinton made recently on Charlie Rose. Yesterday in Des Moines, Obama alluded to it only elliptically: "The real gamble in this election is playing the same Washington game with the same Washington players and expecting a different result," Obama said.
I just had a chance to read over the "closing argument" speech Obama delivered in Des Moines this morning. With the caveat that I didn't actually hear him deliver it, it read more impressively than I expected based on those talking points I mentioned earlier.
I didn't see a whole lot new in the talking points Mark Halperin says are the gist of Obama's retooled stump speech, but this nugget did stand out a bit: The truth is, you can have the right kind of experience and the wrong kind of experience. Obama’s experience is rooted in the real lives of real people and it will bring real results if we have the courage to change. But those are not Obama’s words.
The Democratic half of that Globe poll I just mentioned shows Obama pulling ahead in New Hampshire--he edges Hillary 30 to 28. (He's up nine points and she's down seven since early November.) Two things jump out at me in the Globe's write-up. First, I suggested in my recent Obama piece that he could hold his own with blue-collar voters. The Globe finds evidence of this, too: One of the major shifts in the Democratic race came in New Hampshire's biggest city, Manchester, which is home to many blue-collar voters.
Speaking of Iowa muddles, Jonathan Martin does a nice job sorting out where things stand on the Republican side heading into the home stretch. Key grafs: Huckabee: The major question now looming over his surge -- is it for real?