Fanning the Flames: The Freedom Project Blog


Post-Holiday Policking

By Shawn Healy
While most of the nation was busy making their lists and checking them twice, residents of Iowa and New Hampshire had only a two-day reprieve from a different kind of holiday shopping: presidential retail politics. The candidates returned in droves this morning for the final eight-day sprint before the Iowa Caucuses, with the New Hampshire Primary following five days later. Given the Freedom Museum's current focus on the presidential election process through our special exhibit Vote4Me! and an extensive calendar of public programs addressing the topic, we thought it only fitting that I travel to ground zero of the campaign in the next two weeks.

Beginning next Wednesday I'll drive to Cedar Rapids, IA, to take in the festivities leading up to caucus night on Thursday. My hope is to attend a Democratic caucus, for the party's viability requirement of 15% for any candidate makes for interesting political drama. I'll also cover the Republican outcome extensively, but the GOP conducts simple straw polls at the beginning of their precinct meeting on caucus night, saving the theatrics for their left-of-center counterparts.

I'll return to Chicago next Friday and head to the Freedom Museum on Saturday for Voter Fest, where we make a final push for voter registration in Illinois one month before our own primary. The event will also feature a curator talk from our Director of Exhibits and Programs, Nathan Richie, about Vote4Me!, along with a brief presentation and Q&A session from your's truly on the state of the race. Please check our web site in the coming days for more detailed information.

On Monday Jan. 7 it's off to the Granite State. I'll spend three days in Manchester, NH, observing candidates' get-out-the-vote operations and talking to voters before and after the pivotal New Hampshire Primary.

When I return on Jan. 9 the race will by no means be decided, but to borrow an axiom from sports, there will be points on the board. I've sized up the race on many occasions throughout 2007, but given the wide open race on two sides of the aisle, an occasional update is more than necessary. USA Today provided a wonderful primer on the critical dates and developments coinciding with the arrival of the New Year, so I need not recount these here. What was a marathon is now a sprint, and in this spirit I'll provide but a few observations from afar before I head by planes, trains, and automobiles to the Breadbasket and New England.

  1. Hillary Clinton is no longer the inevitable Democratic nominee. If I was a betting man, I'd still have my money on the former First Lady, but Barack Obama is closing strong, and John Edwards remains organizationally solid in Iowa. Short of an Edwards victory in the caucuses, this once more becomes a two-horse race. An Obama victory undermines the Clinton claim that she is the more electable Democrat. If New Hampshire independents vote in the Democratic primary for Obama, Hillary is in trouble, for every Democratic candidate in the past who swept the two early states went on to the nomination.
  2. Mike Huckabee is the Republican frontrunner according to national polling data. He is a strong bet to win Iowa, and although his message may not resonate in New Hampshire, he is a threat to win the South Carolina primary and may be the man to beat at this point in a multi nodal Republican field.
  3. Mitt Romney remains well-positioned to pull off an Iowa comeback and follow it up with a win in New Hampshire. Should the former Massachusetts Governor slip in Iowa, he'll need to fend off the surging John McCain, who has made New Hampshire a second home since his campaign nearly imploded last summer.
  4. Giuliani's late-state strategy is about to be tested. He campaigned sparsely in Iowa and New Hampshire, targeting larger, delegate-rich states lined up later, many of them on Tsunami Tuesday (Feb. 5). A split decision in the early states opens the door for Rudy, but Huckabee, Romney, or even McCain may be on their way to victory by the time the race arrives in the Sunshine State on Jan. 29.
  5. Don't count out an Iowa surprise in the Democratic field. Joe Biden boasts a loyal base of supporters dating back to his 1988 presidential run and has a slate of endorsements from party faithful across the state. Chris Dodd even moved his family to Des Moines. Kerry and Edwards finished 1 and 2 in Iowa in 2004, both of them closing strong. Might these two senior senators have similar tricks up their sleeves?
  6. The mighty dollar still matters, perhaps this year more than most. Romney and Rudy, and Hillary and Barack are well-positioned for the multi-state race that follows the early contests. Underfunded candidates with a shot like Edwards, Huckabee, and McCain must win early to earn free media and fresh campaign cash to move forward. The aforementioned Funded Four are in it to win it through at least Feb. 5.
  7. What impact will newspaper endorsements have in the early contests? McCain has run the table (Des Moines Register, Manchester Union Leader, Boston Herald, Boston Globe) on the Republican side, and the Concord (NH) Monitor went so far as to instruct Republicans and independents to vote for anyone but Romney. Hillary Clinton won the Des Moines Register's nod, but Barack Obama scored the Boston Globe's. In most places these testimonials have taken on the relevance of the phonograph, but not in small-town America where retail politicking remains a contact sport.
I'll return on Friday with a final analysis of the race in Iowa before greeting you in the Hawkeye State on Jan 4.


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Managing Director

McCormick Freedom Project

Shawn is responsible for overseeing and managing the operations associated with the McCormick Freedom Project. Additionally, he serves as the in house content expert and voice of museum through public speaking and original scholarship. Before joining the Freedom Project, he taught American Government, Economics, American History, and Chicago History at Community High School in West Chicago, IL and Sheboygan North High School in Wisconsin.

Shawn is a doctoral candidate within the Political Science Department at the University of Illinois at Chicago where he received his MA in Political Science. He is a 2001 James Madison Fellow from the State of Wisconsin and holds a bachelor's degree in Political Science, History, and Secondary Education from the University of Wisconsin at Madison.

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About Fanning the Flames and the McCormick Freedom Project

Fanning the Flames is a blog of the McCormick Freedom Project, which was started in 2006 by museum managing director Shawn Healy. The blog highlights the news of the day, in hopes of engaging readers in dialogue about freedom issues. Any views or opinions expressed on this blog represent those of the writers alone and do not represent an official opinion of the McCormick Freedom Project.

Founded in 2005, the McCormick Freedom Project is part of the McCormick Foundation. The Freedom Project’s mission is to enable informed and engaged participation in our democracy by demonstrating the relevance of the First Amendment and the role it plays in the ongoing struggle to define and defend freedom. The museum offers programs and resources for teachers, students, and the general public.

First Amendment journalism initiative

The Freedom Project recently launched a new reporting initiative with professional journalists Tim McNulty and Jamie Loo. The goal is to expand and promote the benefits of lifelong civic engagement among citizens of all ages, through original reporting, commentary and news aggregation on First Amendment and freedom issues. Please visit the McCormick Freedom Project's news Web site, The Post-Exchange at

Dave Anderson
Vice President of Civic Programs
McCormick Foundation

Tim McNulty
Senior Journalist
McCormick Freedom Project

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