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Love, not marriage?

Justin Webb | 01:15 UK time, Saturday, 5 January 2008

Just before leaving Des Moines I have a meeting with two Clinton fund-raisers who had been knocking on doors here to try to get the supporters out: they claim many Barack Obama supporters have doubts about his long-term staying power -- they are in love for the time being but in no illusions about marriage.

But what is the event that ends the affair? A terrorist attack? A new foreign war? An economic recession that requires Mitt Romney's ability to get rich and stay rich? Balloons do not pop of their own accord.

And on the legitimacy of the Caucus process commented on so amusingly here: the same fundraisers (bruised a bit by it all) suggest darkly that the Carter Institute would not deem to cover an election in a foreign country with such restrictive rules.

Comments   Post your comment

  • 1.
  • At 06:40 AM on 05 Jan 2008,
  • Patrick Lanaghan wrote:

Ok, please help me, I'm just trying to understand. Justin Webb, a member of the UK fourth estate--elected by no one and responsible to only his British employer--is reporting that dark hints from unpaid volunteers, involved in a non-binding caucus in the American midlands, suggest that the US elections are really not very fair. I'm just trying to fathom the clear and objective laws of BBC reporting, not the complex rules of cricket or something.

  • 2.
  • At 07:52 AM on 05 Jan 2008,
  • Jame wrote:

I agree with the Clinton fund raisers. Barack Obama. Is a bit of a fashion statement.
People can campaign for him now and say they did, but by the time general election rolls around they secretly won't be disappointed or surprised that they aren't "checking his box" when general election rolls around.
Today when I was watching Fox News, yes people I will own up to watching Fox News, a analyst pointed out that there really weren't dominate issues to be dealt with in the Iowa Caucus. I was mainly about who people "felt the best about".
I don't think 1 particular thing will destroy Obama's chances. I think that he believes he already won and his active campaigning will suffer because of it. During his post caucus victory speech it honestly sounded like he believed he had already one the race, instead of the first battle.

  • 3.
  • At 12:37 PM on 05 Jan 2008,
  • Michael Yates wrote:

Well they would, wouldn't they? But one interesting thing about the result was the quality & enthusiasm of new voters Obama inspired. Maybe America does feel the need to go to a different place. We don't know yet of course, but we do know where US policy has taken the world in recent years. Hillary looks cold & calculating and she supported the war. And who came second in Iowa?

  • 4.
  • At 03:57 PM on 05 Jan 2008,
  • cyboman1 wrote:

Important to Mr. Obama's staying power will be his performance with African-American voters. I mean the specific issue of whether these voters identify with Mr. Obama and his candidacy.

That cannot be tested until a primary run in an ethnically deverse, urbanized state with a fairly high population density. Iowa and New Hampshire do not qualify here - though there is a political principal at work in starting the presidential selection process in those two states.

The theory is that a candidate who will "fly" there will be marketable in other states. One should never forget that another anti-democratic feature of American presidential politics is the electoral college, which emulates in its makeup the way in which senators and congresspeople are apportioned among the states. A state gets at least one representative - and there, amazingly enought, two senators each for California and also for the least heavily populated of our states.

I live in a multi-cultural neighborhood in an older regional city not far from New York City. My black neighbors have no interest in Obama - in fact, I cannot detect that any of them want any of the politicians put on the menu for us Americans to pick from in 2008.

In relation to Mr. Obama, there is also the presidential rumor mill, which is already churning in relation to his private life, including his religion and the fact that his family is only a generation from being foreign.

And, there are the legitimate exposes of his background - including his connections within the U.S. power elite. "Harpers" magazine has an interesting expose by Ken Silverstein on this subject.

as an american, i am in dismay about the length of the presidential campaign "season."

even more, america must be politically open to more ideas.

i truly wish no one could even begin to "run" until after 1 january of an election year [which is every 4th year, divisible by 4].

...that primaries didn't begin until march. [yes, iowa can still be first with its caucus & new hampshire could still be allowed to have the first primary.]

...that the mainstream media [aka msm] would focus more on the issues, and do it a factual non-partisan way, rather than the polls and strategies of campaigns [although i admit being fascinated by that too].

i wish "third parties" and so-called "unelectable" candidates were given more respect, more time
on the media, listened to more carefully, and taken much more seriously. they have many ideas which could serve us all well.

and i so wish america would institute instant rollover voting [similar to the way the democratic iowa caucus works for 2nd choice candidates] and proportional representation for all our legislative bodies.

  • 6.
  • At 08:10 PM on 05 Jan 2008,
  • george wrote:

As a young American, Obama gives me hope that our system can clean itslef up. That we can move on to better things. Hillary Clinton does not do this. Obama inspires us the way JFK inspired the youth when he took office.

  • 7.
  • At 09:02 PM on 05 Jan 2008,
  • Rob wrote:

…and as they ‘suggest darkly ’, the Carter Center would not endorse this process…Youch, chalk one up for melodramatic sour grapes. For electing a head of state, caucusing probably isn’t such a perfect mechanism [the standards of perfection are a bit tough]. However, for discussing party issues, platforms and picking delegates to the party convention, and people forget that’s what caucusing is all about, it seems a logical approach. There will be a mechanism to choose a head of state in November.
Way to much emphasis has been leveled on what are really just open community meetings, and the beginning of a long process for the two salient political parties in the US, to pick nominees to run for president.
And although the Carter Center may not endorse national caucuses in lieu of elections…I can’t but help believe that there isn’t a glimmer in Jimmy Carter’s eye (outside of what Rosalyn may elicit) when he reminecese that, it was the Iowa caucus system that propelled him from inconspicuous obscurity onto the national and world stage…

  • 8.
  • At 09:51 PM on 05 Jan 2008,
  • shirlin wrote:

Love or marriage? So, all of us will forgo true love to marry for security--as with gold-diggers, arranged marriages and feudal dynastic marriages? Is this the best the Clinton campaign can come up with? Now, we ALL know Hillary stayed married to Bill despite huge public humilation for political ambitions. But most of us would not have, nor would we have voted to send other women's sons and daughters to an unjust war for our political ambitions. You can have that kind of marriage and that kind of president. I hope America will say no.

  • 9.
  • At 11:08 PM on 05 Jan 2008,
  • Karen Rhodes wrote:

I am an American and way too old to be supporting Barack Obama, according to the pundits. But I do, and it's not just a summer romance, thank you very much. He is a thoughtful, intelligent, well-educated man, and I have confidence that he will make a fine President. Unlike George Bush, who was elected on zero foreign policy knowledge and experience, Obama has the ability to understand what's happening in the world. He won't play cowboy and embarrass the nation. He is an inspiring candidate reminiscent of John F. Kennedy, and we sorely need that now. The lies spread about his religion and family tell me Republicans fear him and know he can win. It's the usual dirty tricks gang at work. I could be happy with Hillary but Obama gives me hope again.

  • 10.
  • At 11:22 PM on 05 Jan 2008,
  • Joanne wrote:

I am a college student and I agree that African American and Hispanic voters are the defining voters in this election. I think that,yes, Obama does not really resonate with the vast majority of black people, but the question is what candidate resonates better...Hilary Clinton...Nope...John Edwards...Nope what is he going to do for black people? Obama is the best option and he has some understanding of the struggles of African Americans and other minorities in America. I think that his message really resonates with different kinds of people because let's face it we need unity as a country...Bush polarized the nation...and alienated so many people...Unity is his message and I think it really resonates with my generation because we were raised to believe in in the benefits of diversity and equality and 35-40% of our generation is non-white, so unity is vital.

  • 11.
  • At 09:17 AM on 06 Jan 2008,
  • Nigel wrote:

Come on Justin, let try for a little more objectivity.
It's really not dignified for a BBC reporter to come across as a Hillary shill.

  • 12.
  • At 11:45 AM on 06 Jan 2008,
  • Steve wrote:

Ironically, although Iraq was at the center of many of the debates and campaign speeches in Iowa, Iowans fighting in Iraq (or Afghanistan) could not participated in the caucuses. The event was significant because it occurred early.

  • 13.
  • At 05:39 PM on 06 Jan 2008,
  • Edward wrote:

I have only two words regarding the Obama phenomenon - "Jimmy Carter."

During the 1975 election cycle, Carter was the media darling, the man who would clean up politics and make us believe in good government again.

Unfortunately, at best he was an ineffectual leader but in general he was incompetent, tied to hazy simplistic principles, and unable to understand a world that didn't embrace his Sunday school world view.

One hopes US voters don't make that mistake again.

  • 14.
  • At 06:30 PM on 06 Jan 2008,
  • John Farmer wrote:

"Two Clinton fund-raisers claim Obama supporters have doubts about his long-term staying power, they are in love, but have no illusions about marriage"

Sounds like scraping the barrel to me Justin, in a thinly disguised pro-Clintin hope.

Presumably you think she is stoppable by the Republicans (which you so clearly support) whereas Obama's platform of 'change' will flatten any Republican candidate from the old guard.

I look forward to seeing how you report Obama's advances.

  • 15.
  • At 06:54 PM on 06 Jan 2008,
  • Justin wrote:

Barack Obama is already a legend and will be a great Leader of the Free World.

I can't wait for President Obama to come to London. And when he does, I'm going up there to cheer him on.

  • 16.
  • At 08:57 PM on 06 Jan 2008,
  • GUY FOX wrote:


  • 17.
  • At 09:09 PM on 06 Jan 2008,
  • Howard C. wrote:

Justin --
Though I understand your doubts, and from your classically BBC/British love for Hillary/Bill, I think you have missed some critical subtleties.
1. The night Hillary wins the Democratic nomination will be the first night of the next Republican presidency. That is a certain fact that no one on your side of the pond seems to understand. U.S. voters in the middle, not the right or the left, will decide the next election. They went in droves to the Democratic caucuses to vote for Barack Obama. And all of this signals a huge change in this country.
2. Hillary's time in Congress has seriously eroded her reputation. She supported Bush in the war, then she didn't, then she sort of did again. It really soured me forever to a woman I once admired. Many Americans -- including many, many liberals -- cannot forgive Hillary Clinton for her two-faced, ethics-shredding manner of politics.
3. How can a nation of 300 million people, the most powerful democracy in history, allow the travesty of selecting a Bush, then a Clinton, then another Bush, and then another Clinton for a grand total of 30 years for two families??? Are there no other worthy people on this continent to run this country?
3. Obama is an inspiring and tremendously smart man, who has shown his political skill, as well as building one of the best political advisory teams ever seen Incl. the best foreign policy advisors from the Clinton administration. That is a big element in being a great president. Hillary is a politician. She is not a president. This country desperately wants to win back its belief in the future.
4. Obama attracts and inspires many liberals, moderate liberals, moderates, as well as liberal and moderate Republicans. He is the one candidate that will isolate the far right, and give us a great choice.
With all due respect, those are the reasons your various statements about the American election seem oddly naive and surprisingly without a clue as to what is happening. I am voting for Obama... and so are, by the way, my American friends who, like me, went to Oxford University.


  • 18.
  • At 09:40 PM on 06 Jan 2008,
  • Christopher Hobe Morrison wrote:

"Just before leaving Des Moines I have a meeting with two Clinton fund-raisers who had been knocking on doors here to try to get the supporters out: they claim many Barack Obama supporters have doubts about his long-term staying power -- they are in love for the time being but in no illusions about marriage."

Well, I can think of people who are married for the time being but have no illusions about love. What I think is true about Obama's supporters is that they may have doubts about his immediate success, but they have no doubt that he is their condidate for the long run. The Democratic Party has had enough of these smug, cynical lawyers who count up their donors and their polls, and base their ideas on who has the power and the money. Hillary Clinton has been doing this since she was in law school. Obama has been deciding what is right and how he can do it and then deciding how to collect money to get it done.

The Clintons ran a pretty good administration. But they could have run a truly great administration. They didn't do it. Now we have somebody, Obama, who will either succeed or fail, but either way he WILL fulfill his potential. Experience is not a good thing when the people with the experience have screwed things up and not even learned from it.

  • 19.
  • At 09:41 PM on 06 Jan 2008,
  • Brett wrote:

"what is the event that ends the ['love']affair"...simple, if his funding dries up, same as any other candidate; don't check the polls, check his bank account. There's no "change" in that basic political predicate. Mr. Hope & Change, besides being laughably vague on what kind of 'change' he represents is more than ready to suck up to powerful lobbies and well heeled donors for the big bucks that inflated his hot air baloon in the first place. He's a smart guy, he knows how to play the game as well as a candidate with great fundraising 'experience' like darling Hillary. Obama really does prove that you can pour old wine into new skins, pardon the pun. In politically correct America, it's 'multicultural' love affair with MONEY!

  • 20.
  • At 10:50 PM on 06 Jan 2008,
  • parker croft wrote:

Hey everybody, let's watch the big machine politricks role. Try that one about Obama being a terrorist again. You know that he was educated on Hawai'i so hge is definitely not like us. Too young, not experienced... The fun is just beginning.

  • 21.
  • At 10:51 PM on 06 Jan 2008,
  • Warren wrote:

@jame #2: I grew up in Iowa and - let me tell you - Iowans are NOT known for their fashion sense. Instead, we tend to favor sturdy fabric that can function in changeable weather.

  • 22.
  • At 11:51 PM on 06 Jan 2008,
  • Johnny M wrote:

Enjoy the posts Justin. Clearly the Iowa caucus alone will not determine the fate of the Democratic nomination. Did those Shrillary advisors endorse the democratic virtues of super delegates? Perhaps Justin could give a primer on that subject.

In any event Obama offers the hope of moving away from the bitter personal vitriol that has marked the Clinton and Bush administrations. Americans should be pleased that turnout in Iowa was almost double that of 2004 with large numbers of new and young voters. Anyone who wishes to know more about any of the candidates has only to review the reams of information, speeches and writings that are easily attainable. Also, there are many more contests to come.

Hillary fairly or not has a very low ceiling of votes available due to extremely high negative ratings. I know several independents and Republicans who will note vote for Hillary but are open or leaning to Obama.

As for me it's Barack to the future.

I also have to question these BBC reports that cover what some Obama and Hilary supporters chatter about. Their opinion should hardly even be a footnote in the equation of who will run the U.S. for the next four/eight years.

Furthermore this hardly touches on POLICY statements from our current candidates that might actually give those in other parts of the world that use the BBC to get news, coverage of the very serious issues we are facing in the United States. Please no more of the fluffy opinions worthy of teen magazines.

Is it relevant what Ron Paul said about the error of our foreign policy and his efforts and support to change this direction?

Is it relevant what he discussed about our troops being in so many other countries? Or the collapsing dollar (perhaps some are delighted that it is falling)?

We have many issues here and they are deep and profound and internationally relevant.

Last night I watched the joint republican and democratic debates on abc. Only a few moments stood out as a sober and logical sentiments came through the tv.

In America we have divorced ourselves from our roots in limited government and states rights. We have even got to the point where we are abandoning individual rights.

We have a candidate that talks openly in our debates about this and he gets whiffs and puffs of smoke from the BBC. This is not consistent with indepth coverage or balanced reporting.

Please Justin, grab the reigns. Love these guys or hate them. But cover them in a full manner, respective of the gravity of the choice we Americans are about to face.

It will not cost the BBC any more bandwidth for you to have a few more paragraphs communicating this crucial perspective.


  • 24.
  • At 02:25 AM on 07 Jan 2008,
  • randy wrote:

my goodness! justin is so bitter! this is a serious case of handbags at dawn. come on justin. we all know that you'd be gutted if obama won. the post-iowa post sounded like paxo after gorgeous george won bethnal green. but there's still hope. barack'n'roll justin! barack n' roll!

Acropolis Review raises some interesting questions about Al Gore's role in the whole process.

  • 26.
  • At 04:03 AM on 07 Jan 2008,
  • mk wrote:

I second Karen Rhodes' comments. As an American who is beyond disgusted with our current administration, I have to believe Obama can offer our country -- and our world -- hope. The partisan bickering that dominated the last 20 years (Bush/Clinton era) in American politics cannot continue. For the sake of our country and our friends around the world, we must elect a leader who can unite us. Would Obama be perfect as president? Of course not. Would he be an improvement over Bush & Co.? Without a shadow of a doubt.

Mine is not a summer romance. I'm supporting Obama for the long haul.

  • 27.
  • At 05:26 AM on 07 Jan 2008,
  • Sara wrote:

I disagree with the people who think that black Americans aren't behind Barack Obama. I am a graduate student at the University of Georgia, in a state with a sizeable African-American population (about 30%). The younger African-Americans in particular get all shiny-eyed when they talk about Obama; he means something to them that goes beyond the politics of the moment.

  • 28.
  • At 10:47 AM on 07 Jan 2008,
  • Edward S wrote:

Some comments from a European watching from afar.

Much has been made of the choice between experience and change. Ultimately, it may play a smaller role than in the recent Australian elections, where there was a young challenger against an older, long-serving incumbent.

As Justin Webb suggests, circumstances may be decisive. Continuing improvement in Iraq could favour the Republicans, and John McCain in particular. A deterioration in Iraq could favour the Democrats, and Barack Obama in particular. A serious deterioration in the economy could favour the Democrats, and Hillary Clinton in particular. An international crisis might not favour either party, but could favour John McCain among Republicans and Bill Richardson among Democrats. And so on.

Hillary Clinton’s problem is that for a long time she was the frontrunner, and therefore ran a campaign oriented not to the primaries but to the final face-off with a Republican candidate. Too centrist, downplaying her role as a woman, emphasising her experience; i.e., her husband’s record. It happens in sports too. In the recent rugby world cup, Australia and New Zealand were focussed on their expected semi-final encounter, only to be tripped up by England and France in the quarters.

Hillary Clinton should now emphasise her position as the first woman candidate with a chance of reaching the White House, and emphasise progressive issues of particular concern to women: health care, child care, pensions, etc. She should step outside the shadow of her husband, showing that her reign would be Hillary Clinton I and not Bill Clinton II. Even if she loses in New Hampshire, she can still turn around her campaign.

Don’t discount Bill Richardson. Without too much effort and money, he could pick up enough delegates to play a role at the Democratic Convention. He offers experience in bringing about change. As the Democratic contest becomes ever more acrimonious, his cool image could become more attractive.

It makes NO difference. Barak and Hillary are BOTH going to put Israel before America's interests and continue the war without end, probably via Iran and Syria. They are both CFR members and take their orders from the international elite secret societies who have bought and paid for all the candidates in this election, except for the only honest and decent man in the race, Ron Paul. The Democrats were elected in 2006 to end the war and it was expanded with a lunatic surge. The only reason violence in Iraq is reducing is becuase the extremists have largely completed their ethnic cleansing and Baghdad is a series of boxed off ghettos. There is no peace in Iraq.

Ron Paul is the only leading candidate that does what he says and doesn't spout sound-bite lies and propaganda.

America is transforming from the people upward. This election already is showing the increased consciousness of John and Jane Doe. Warren writes above "I grew up in Iowa and - let me tell you - Iowans are NOT known for their fashion sense. Instead, we tend to favor sturdy fabric that can function in changeable weather."
Substance. Qualtiy.What FEELS True.
That's how we're going to and are changing America.

  • 31.
  • At 04:40 AM on 08 Jan 2008,
  • irony wrote:

Anyone see the irony in all this? Yeah, Justin may have been taking Clinton's side, or Obama's side. Sure, maybe he is a hard right republican voting for the most conservative candidate he can find. Who cares? Maybe, truly, he just knows how to control a crowd. Maybe, he understands that if you get enough people thinking they might get angry, or ardent, or passionate about a subject. Maybe hes making you angry so you will take a stand. Sounds like it worked for most of you... lets just see who makes it to the polls. And, seriously think about it. Love or marriage? Your answer to that pretty clearly states your side in the argument and who you want to lead this country of ours.
Oh yeah. I didnt go to Oxford University. I'm not Black. And my parents are not divorced. I am a woman and as a matter of fact... if we are gonna get technical: I am Native American Indo-European Twenty-something female pursuing a college degree while living with a physical disability. I could pull a couple minorities... But, hey... Why?

  • 32.
  • At 01:39 PM on 08 Jan 2008,
  • sandra peterson wrote:

America is cleaning house, no one with ties to Washington will survive the election, and no tragedy will change that. We have had it, and would rather blame stupidity and ignorance, than elect some with "experience". I will vote baraak, the only thing that would change that is a democrat with combat experience- who might get us out of the mess America has made quicker.

  • 33.
  • At 11:01 PM on 08 Jan 2008,
  • Meredith Poor wrote:

American voters may not be getting what they want, but they're sure getting what they deserve. They're complaining about free trade and illegal immigration, both of which raised the standard of living of the country overall, so now that we're clamping down, we're going into recession. To 'fix' that, we're going to get even more restrictive about trade and immigration. The UK PPP (Purchsing Power Parity) is now greater than America's since, when, the 19th Century? I cannot understand why that would be....

At least the vote likely will be more legit than gore's moment with bush if it reaches that point with Obama or Clinton. Personally i think the ecomony is relatively fine after post savings and loans distaster called the subprime mortgage con on america. Good news if there are buyers of homes at the equivalent of boxing day prices and less.

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