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Political Action: Iowa, New Hampshire enliven primary races

In Iowa they use a system of voting unlike anything we have in presidential elective politics. There is no secret ballot. Everyone votes openly and voters participating leave the caucus at the end of the evening knowing how their friends and neighbors voted. This procedure itself in the past has probably discouraged registered voters from attending caucuses. Another important factor in this type of election is that there are no absentee ballots. In order to participate, citizens have to be physically present.In recent years absentee ballots have become increasingly important as more and more people have chosen to vote this way instead of going to the polls on Election Day. Most of the winners of the Iowa caucuses have not gone on to win the presidency, so the case can be made that the Iowa vote is not an accurate reflection as to how the presidential race is going to turn out. That may be true, but events in Iowa to some extent decide which candidates have lost momentum, including fund-raising ability, and who as a result of a poor showing in Iowa may be ready to drop out of the race.Looking at the candidates, we see that U.S. Democratic Sens. Joe Biden of Delaware and Chris Dodd of Connecticut withdrew from the race immediately after the caucuses. In the contest between change and experience these senior members of the Senate lost out. Both of these men had served in office for a long period of time. In the case of Joe Biden, he has been a Senate member for most of his adult life, but the voters seemed to be looking for fresh faces with new ideas and Biden and Dodd just did not fit the bill.Next we see former Republican U.S. Sen. Fred Thompson from Tennessee getting 13 percent of the Republican caucus vote. When he first announced his candidacy, some political observers considered him a serious front runner, but the Iowa caucus proved otherwise. Having been out of public office for seven years, he did not seem to have a firm grasp of the issues or the energy for an aggressive campaign.Former Democratic New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson must be very disappointed at his poor showing in the caucuses by getting only 2 percent of the vote. Earlier press reports indicated that he expected U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) to win the nomination and that he hoped she would choose him for her vice presidential running mate. As a result of his low vote totals, the possibility of his becoming Clinton's running mate now seems very remote. He pulled out of the race this week.Former Republican Mayor Rudy Giuliani chose not to put forth a major campaign in Iowa but to rely on later primaries, especially Florida. However he may have gotten more than he bargained for by coming in last among six candidates and only getting 3 percent of the vote. In New Hampshire the voters chose not to follow the lead of Iowa and instead gave first place finishes to Clinton and U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) over U.S. Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney in the Democratic and Republican primaries. Regarding the Democratic primary upset, only the day before the polls had shown Obama with a comfortable lead. One poll showed him with as much as a 13-point lead. It would seem that some voters did not vote the way they had earlier told pollsters they would. In the final analysis, the people do want change, but they also want the candidates to give more details about what change they have in mind.Former U.S. Sen. John Edwards, a South Caroline Democrat, came in a poor third in New Hampshire after coming in second in Iowa and his loss probably helped Hillary Clinton. In the Republican primary, McCain had strong support from major New Hampshire newspapers. Since he had won that primary eight years earlier, he is well known in the state. Romney may have run a campaign that was too negative and turned off some voters. However, he did win in Wyoming and with his vast financial resources, he has built a formidable political campaign organization. Giuliani, after losing badly in New Hampshire, must show a strong finish somewhere soon if he is to remain as a viable candidate.In some of the future primaries, if the results are very close, absentee ballots can play a major role in determining the outcome. As a result of the primaries up to this point, the final selection of the two major candidates is far from over as we move forward in the presidential election process.

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