How to Get Ahead in Iowa without Really Trying

The Iowa CaucusesFor someone who has been more or less rooting for Howard Dean since last summer, the sudden tightening of polling data in the Iowa caucuses this weekend is somewhat worrisome. In fact, when I first heard that a Zogby poll put Senator John Kerry in the lead, I scoffed at the absurdity of the idea and loudly called into question the dependency of Zogby in general. I was talking out of my ass of course, basing my reaction more on my investment in the idea that this race has had an air of predestination for months than on any attention paid to the very recent events in Iowa. To paraphrase a friend’s characterization of my inability to focus on the primaries of late: “It’s a tough week to have a job and be a political junkie.”

Zogby Iowa Poll

The Race Becomes a Race

This kind of drama is exactly the kind of politics that I get so excited for and wrapped up in every four years, and I always feel a pang of regret for not somehow being directly involved in it. It’s great theater and great democracy; though it makes for an uncomfortable weekend for the Dean campaign, it’s a healthy vetting process. Whatever doesn’t kill a candidate makes him stronger, and if he can weather Monday’s caucuses then he’ll have really proven that he⁏s made of tough stuff.

As much as I dislike the fact that the other contenders — Kerry, Edwards and Gephardt — all had a hand in rubber-stamping the war that they’ve since campaigned against, a part of me is thankful that they’ve turned out to have some real competitiveness in them, that they’re not entirely shallow creatures. And though I think that Dean will still ultimately prevail — and I wouldn’t be surprised if some of this week’s polling data will be revealed as pretty faulty — I’m happy that, at last, this race has become a race.