Well, Iowa’s caucus has now come to a close, and it couldn’t have come soon enough. I swear that I was going to have to throw myself out the window if I heard another “breaking” news story about Iowa. It is as if Iowa became the national election, which would be pretty sad, as the hottest topic was not national security, but whether a candidate supported ethanol as a fuel substitute. Now that the returns are in, however, it is time to have a reassessment of where each of the candidates stands.John Kerry: Well you have got to hand it to him, or at least his hair, because he pulled a rabbit out of a hat Monday night. Maybe it was all the hairspray he uses? You know, all the fumes he gave off around the state made people drowsy so they voted for him? I mean, that’s the best I can come up with. In other words, he didn’t win because of his “exciting” style. I think I found a new solution to insomnia last night – just watch Kerry’s victory speech. Dick Gephardt, who was quitting, sounded more alive than he did. Kerry does have a strong position going into New Hampshire, and, short of an awful showing, he’ll manage to knock another candidate out of the race. His only problem, it seems, as a Boston Globe reporter noted, is the fact that he’s running against a ton of things he voted for as a senator. Patriot Act. Tax Cuts. Iraq. If I were a staffer for the Kerry campaign, now would be the time to start getting worried about the ads about that. (Cue ominous music.) “Would you want a President who never can seem to make up his mind?” Oh, well, we’ll see what happens.John Edwards: In many ways his strong showing wasn’t a shock for me. In fact, the shock for me was the fact he was not polling that well. From all reports he’s an effective stump speaker, most likely due to his court experience, and he has really capitalized on a “good guy” image. Granted, next to Dennis Kucinich and Howard Dean, you could probably put a Mr. Potato-Head doll up in the role of “good guy in Iowa” and get away with it. Edwards was probably the strongest candidate in South Carolina, and can use this early strong showing as a momentum builder. I feel he’s the one to watch. Karl Rove, take note. Dick Gephardt: Fred Barns of the Weekly Standard had a piece on him calling him “The Last Populist,” and he really is. Gephardt appeals to the old-school Democratic base and is through-and-through a union man. Though I never would vote for him and think his ideas are wildly off, I sort of have a soft spot in my heart for him. He genuinely believes in his platform and when attacking others he doesn’t come off as being some hate-monger. He seems like a genuinely nice man who at least deserved a bit better showing before bowing out from politics. Howard Dean: So if Kerry’s victory speech is a cure for insomnia, Dean’s “victory” speech is something that would cure you of the hiccups. I was genuinely scared watching this man try and turn into the Incredible Hulk in front of TV cameras. It is funny to watch someone try to put a positive spin on coming in third, but I think he just managed to crystallize the fears many had of his stability and anger control problems. You really don’t want a president who admits in People magazine that he had anxiety attacks as governor of one of the smallest states. With this speech, he definitely did not allay any fears people might have had about his self-control. I think Dean’s campaign started to sputter when he yelled at a constituent during a Q&A session – that was the beginning of the end. As some GOPer’s have jokingly said of Dean, “The Democrats have traded the ‘Man from Hope’ for the ‘Man of Hate.'” His anger and arrogance came back to bite him as even the most liberal activists in the caucuses went for a more moderate candidate. Dean’s press as being the front-runner has also hurt him, as he was expected to sweep away the rest of the candidates. He probably still has a chance to pull something off, but this poor showing definitely hurts him. He needs to have a good showing in New Hampshire, because I really doubt South Carolina voters are going to warm up to him.Wesley Clark: At certain points I felt he wasn’t a candidate for president as much as a model for LL Bean. Does this man do anything else besides try on different sweaters? When exactly did the ex-general look become sweaters? Whatever. Clark is, in my mind, a bit of a flake. He came out of nowhere and once voters get his general’s stars out of their eyes, he’s going to get hit hard. Besides the fact he seems to have given Joe Lieberman a run for his money on flip-flopping on issues, he just doesn’t seem to have much more going for him than being “Dean-lite.” Clark tries to pull the angry voters away from Dean and then comes off as full of himself, even though he has no reason to. Note to Clark – arrogance hurt Dean in Iowa and it’ll probably hurt you, too. Joe Lieberman: While I have some sympathy for Gephardt, I really do not mind Lieberman going down in flames this year. Whatever goodwill he gained in Congress, he lost it by selling out all his positions in 2000. Now he’s come back trying to reclaim his mantle as the “conscience” of the Democratic Party. Sorry Joe, fooled me once, not fooling me twice. Lieberman is the most likely next victim of the primaries. Since he forewent Iowa, he needs to place first or second in New Hampshire. I doubt Lieberman will poll that well. Lieberman also loses out by having Dean falling apart. In 2008, if Dean had been elected and was then defeated, he could claim the mantle of the centrist who was right all along against the hard-left rhetoric. Now, he probably won’t even have that. Dennis Kucinich and Al Sharpton: Dennis, when you become #2 on a Dave Letterman Top Ten list under “Things not to do as a Presidential Candidate,” it’s time to go back to your district. There’s no positive spin you can put on bringing a pie chart graph to prove your point – at a radio debate. As for Sharpton, keep him around so at least you’ll have something to keep you awake during the other Democratic presidential debates. As for me, I’m going to find the audio clip of Dean’s “YARRRH” yell to use as my alarm clock. I don’t think I’ll ever sleep through a class again. Clemm can be reached at rclemm@campustimes.org.

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