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January 03, 2008

My Political Focus Started 20 Years Ago

Though but a skinny weakling of a 5th grader in 1988, I remember the political horse race just about as clearly as I do that of the historic Oakland A's team who made headlines the same year. With tonight's results from the Iowa caucuses rolling in, I'm reminded of how I obsessed over the numbers back then as many are with those from today - and the 1988 race set the benchmark in my mind for how all presidential campaigns are measured.

To this day, I can tell you Alexander Haig dropped out of the Republican presidential race after getting 1% of the vote in the state. I can tell you how, on the Democratic side, Joseph Biden was forced to withdraw his candidacy following charges of plagiarism. (Trust me, not even Wikipedia has such obscure knowledge!)

As the 1988 campaign evolved, I pored over the results in the morning's newspaper, and stayed up late watching the news networks project the winners of each state, or in the case of Super Tuesday, several states at once. I openly mocked Michael Dukakis at my elementary school, and attended a rally in Redding, California for the eventual Republican nominee, George Bush Sr. While my political leanings have changed dramatically, and my focus on politics has been knocked down a few pegs, behind technology and sports, despite my Political Science degree, I still love the kickoff of primary season - and am rooting for some favorites, while finding disappointment in how well others are or aren't doing.

Tonight, it looks like Mike Huckabee and Barack Obama are to be the projected winners for their prospective parties. And while that's good news for both campaigns, Iowa is hardly representative of the much-larger states whose turn will soon come to post delegates themselves. After all, in 1988, Bob Dole captured the state, and falsely looked like he was to gain momentum against the sitting vice president. It would be eight years before he captured the party's nomination, and he never made it to the White House.

In effect, despite going first, Iowa is the exception. The outlier. I don't believe Hillary Clinton will battle for 3rd in New Hampshire, and I don't believe Huckabee's folksy approach will work well very often, outside of Middle America. And while I wouldn't personally vote for Mitt Romney, I hope he eventually does better than he did tonight. But as one pundit said on the radio this evening, tonight was the first pitch in the first inning of what will be a long game. You better believe I'll be watching. Without a sitting president or vice president in the contest, it's going to be an extremely interesting few months.