As an Edwards supporter you can imagine how much it pains me to write this diary, but after everything that has happened here in Iowa in the past month I feel that I owe it to the community to give an honest firsthand report. For starters, I can't begin to explain how impressed I was by the overwhelming turnout for Obama and the monumental organizational effort it required. For somebody that didn't have any built-in support from previous runs at the presidency or major unions it was nothing short of amazing how much he dominated the other two major campaigns in terms of on-the-ground organization. This was much to my dismay as I thought quite incorrectly that a 2004 presidential run should have lent itself nicely to a strong grassroots effort in 2008. Fortunately the results have shaken me up and into a more objective state so that I can make these observations today.
I've come to the acceptance stage of my grief cycle over Thursday's results and feel like I can look clear-eyed over what happened and what went wrong for Edwards. Obviously this race isn't over by a long shot, but here are some things that I have noticed that probably worked against him in Iowa and that I hope are being improved upon in the lead-up to NH and beyond. What I hope to do is really show how "change," the much-hyped theme of this primary season, is the essence of the Obama campaign beyond a mere rhetorical focus.
I know just from other comments on DKos that I'm not the only one that experienced frustration due to inept organization and/or coordination between the national and local effort in the Edwards camp. After filling out a ton of forms on the website I wasn't contacted once over the phone and only had one email to show for my efforts about a week later. I never got any details about canvassing nor did I even get directions to the phone banking site. Contrast this to the Obama campaign touching base every few days through a LOCAL organizer inviting me to meetings, asking if I would caucus, etc. Then on caucus night the Edwards campaign was the only one without a clear organization while Obama had a group of at least 4 20-somethings that were obviously well-trained by the campaign and had made the 1+ hour trek to a town of 1200 people in northeast Iowa from Illinois. The Obama campaign brought an almost unheard of turnout to Iowa and it's only going to snowball.
While Hillary and Edwards stuck with the tired campaign ad format Obama ran ads that were different and looked modern. Again, "change" is something that is exemplified and not just talked about. This is obviously not something to base a voting decision on but let's be honest about how important image is. Edwards sitting in front of a window showing a winter setting talking about taking power from the corporations is an example of stale thinking, and the setting is the only thing that saved him from the most boring ad of the year which came from the Dodd campaign. Contrast that with an Obama ad consisting of B&W stills showing him at his most presidential paired with a soundtrack that doesn't sound straight out of a Disney movie. Who's for change again?
The Obama campaign has transcended mere issues and now represents a shift in mindset of the American electorate. Whether or not this is politically appropriate is irrelevant; right now people aren't being drawn to specific policy measures or even broad policy objectives but change itself. We don't care what it is as long as it is different. Obama is not a WASP and not tied to the presidency of the 90s and so he exemplifies change in that regard as well. Obama's message itself is change, not change through specific policy measures or change within the current political landscape but pure, unadulterated change. That message resonates with people that haven't been paying attention lately while Hillary and Edwards have probably wrung out all the support they're going to get with their current themes of experience and fighting the man.
These three factors come together to present a clear and focused image of Obama as an agent of change. Any attempt to unseat Obama must address all three of these factors in a way that not only matches his mastery but builds on them to provide a clear choice based on the strengths of the other candidates. For Edwards and Hillary supporters, it's time to move beyond the denial or bargaining stage and realize that the game has changed. The sooner they fall into line with the new course Obama has charted the better chance they have of eventually overtaking him. It's time to concede that the old ways aren't working anymore and start redefining themselves in terms of what has been working for Obama. Otherwise it will all be over by the second week of February.