Friday, January 4, 2008

Caucuses and Beyond

Shalom All,

What does it all mean?

Certainly, there was excitement and energy at the caucuses not found in the past. About double the number of people participated this year compared to the previous record participation in 2004. The totals were in line with what I suggested earlier. McCain and Thompson battled for third and fourth with the winner between the two unknown. Obama was the clear victor for the Dems. Huckabee the clear winner for the Republicans.

What does all of this mean for Israel?

First off, Obama had substantial Jewish support here, including among some of the AIPAC crowd and some among the religious Zionists as well. Obama, while certainly noting that "no one is suffering more than the Palestinians" earlier on in the campaign, has made clear that a good bit of that suffering has been caused and continues to be caused by the Palestinians themselves. Over the course of the campaign it became clear that Obama was pro-Israel without question. Clinton is a known commodity and is pro-Israel also. I don't believe that Israel has anything to fear from either of them. Edwards is also "pro-Israel," but really is not as interested in foreign issues not related to union jobs. I do not expect that he would dramatically alter US policy toward Israel, but would expect that of the three, he would be the least likely to involve the US in issues in the Middle East beyond Israel's borders.

Obama leaves Iowa a legitimate contender. Clinton is still the national frontrunner. Edwards may not have the money to compete in the more expensive states. On the Democratic side, its going to rapidly turn into a two horse race in my view.

As for the Republicans, Huckabee won big in Iowa because of the large Evangelican Christian turnout. Guliani's showing was dismal. Romney spent a great deal for second place. Thompson likely hoped for better and Paul demonstrated that he speaks for a chunk of the Republican party disillusioned by the rampant spending policies of the recent Republican administrations.

McCain has been growing in popularity in Iowa and didn't really even campaign here. I would expect that he will do well in the primaries as he goes forward. Guliani didn't try here either. The fact that he did poorly in the caucuses is mostly a reflection of a lack of effort here along with a very Evangelical voter base in the Republican party, a group to which Guliani doesn't click. He'll do better going forward as well.

Romney is a fiscal conservative, who is pro-Israel and pro-strong defense, no real concern for Israel there. Huckabee is an Evangelical of the CUFI variety and spoke at Pastor John Hagee's church recently. A recent article in the Jerusalem Post is fairly descriptive of Huckabee's views on Israel . He is likely the most strongly pro-Israel candidate in the election for either party. That said, opposing Israeli territorial retreats for the creation of a Palestinian state and talking about creating a Palestinian state in "Egypt or Saudi Arabia" as the article quotes him as saying might not help the Israeli-Palestinian peace process along much. Certainly with regard to Huckabee's views on social issues such as reproductive choice and many religious issues, there are substantial differences with the bulk of the Jewish community.

Just a few thoughts,


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