Here goes my first post of 2008, a week after stating my resolution to post more often - don't know if this counts as much of an upturn in blogging activity, but never mind!
It seems appropriate to write about the dominant theme in the body politic at the moment, that of the American presidential election. Over the course of the 21st Century many nations will come to prominence as their position on the global stage grows. India, China, and Brazil - it has been well commented upon - fall into this category.
However, in this year of 2008, for better or worse, there remains just one real superpower on the planet, the United States of America. That is why we are captivated by their Presidential election. And we are especially captivated by this contest because it is just so interesting.
I happened to have been in America in the Summer of 2004 when they were building towards the election that year. Everywhere I went was captivated by politics, in a way that doesn't seem to happen here, with people really engaged with the electoral process. That contest was hugely enthralling, as feelings were running so high in the aftermath of Bush's decision to invade Iraq. And of course, Iraq is still a factor this time round, but there are other reasons that this election captures our interest.
For the first time since the 1928 presidential election where neither the sitting President or sitting Vice-President has been actively seeking the nomination of their party for the upcoming contest. This, combined with the emergence of Barack Obama on the Democrat side and Mike Huckabee amongst the Republican front runners makes things interesting. Interesting, because they have shaken the preconceptions that party establishment figures would get the nomination.
Obama's bandwagon is now in top gear as they head into the New Hampshire primary contest, which will be held tomorrow. His victory in the Iowa caucus seems to have proven his electoralibility to some previous doubters and it looks as though many former Hillary Clinton supporters in New Hampshire are now moving his way. Two victories in a row will not have it in the bag for Barack Obama, but will certainly do Clinton's chances in particular real damage. Of course, when primary contests move elsewhere we might see different results. In the traditional South, John Edwards might hold more appeal, given he was the Senator for North Carolina. Clinton might be more successful in Florida, given it is the retirement capital of America and of course Bill was the governor for Arkansas, so the family name might see her through there.
It might be the "big states" that decide the Democratic nomination. Hillary is or course the Senator for New York. If she can't win the primary contest in the very state that she represents then it really would be game over for her I suspect. Obama would you imagine carry Illinois. It might come down to states like California. If Obama can build the same kind of coalition that Robert Kennedy was building in his bid to secure the Democratic nomination forty years ago - and it looks as though he is - then you would imagine he may be able to win there.
Anyway, the machinations of the selection of the Democratic nominee are matched in their interest levels by the Republican Party. Huckabee of course won in Iowa on the back of evangelical support, with most of those supporters wary of the Mormon faith of Mitt Romney, and the supposed social liberalism of Giuliani and McCain. In New Hampshire the voters will be wary of Huckabee's social conservatism and most likely back McCain, although Romney hails from close by and will hope this will curry favour amongst some voters. Giuliani will win in New York and similar type states.
The nomination for the Republicans is wide open. Probably wider than that of the Democrats. Given the specific appeal of the various nominees for the Republican candidacy to different regions and wings of the Republican party it may be that they enter their Convention without a clear nominee. That really would be interesting, as that hasn't happened for a while.
Anyway, maybe this speculation is nonsense and there is a far simpler explanation to it all. My friend Anne McLaughlin commented on her blog following the Iowa result that both Barack Obama and Mike Huckabee won their respective contests due to the fact that they contain the combination "ck" in their names, and that people subconsciously associate this with the word "lucky". (http://indygal.blog.com/ - "It's the "CK"s in the lead" - 4th January 2008)
An interesting observation, and I'm off to change my name by deed poll just in case. And yes, I know that in Scotland you don't actually need to do this to legally change your name before any legal pedants make any comments!