That was then, this is now.
Less than 24 hours after the stunning victories of Democratic Senator Barack Obama and Republican Mike Huckabee, the former governor of Arkansas, in the Iowa caucuses, the Presidential campaigns and the accompanying national media shifted attention from cold Iowa to the colder tiny Granite state of New Hampshire.
And where there are politicians, especially New York Senator Hillary Clinton and former North Carolina Senator John Edwards, the other leaders in the Democratic Party contest, there are LGBT folks trying to influence them and their voters.
But while both states have recently passed pro-LGBT legislation (in fact, same sex couples in New Hampshire celebrated their new civil union law as soon as the clock struck the new year) LGBT issues are not in the forefront of these very independent voters’ minds.
“New Hampshire is a tiny libertarian state,” Wendy Curry, president, BiNet USA, told GayWired.com.
“There are something like three queer bars in the entire state! We have no gay ghetto.
“Instead, LGBT individuals are integrated into local communities. I meet more lesbians at our food coop than at a gay bar.
“There doesn’t appear to be one LGBT voice regarding THE candidate.
“There’s some interest around Obama, Clinton, Edwards, and [Ohio Representative Dennis] Kucinich. My guess is things are leaning towards Hillary.
“Civil unions continue to be a non-story, beyond the individuals directly effected.
“There was little to no local protests when it was passed, no protests when it went into effect, and no noise when individuals announced they won’t rest until they get full marriage,” Curry says, noting that television coverage comes from neighbouring Massachusetts.
“Our largest border is with Vermont.
“The battle for same-gender marriage was fought and won before it was brought up here last year. Scare tactics were long disproved by that time,” with even the conservative TV station explaining how civil unions still does not provide hundreds of basic benefits afforded to heterosexual couples.
“Some of the candidates’ opinions on revoking DOMA [the Defence of Marriage Act] and same sex marriage read as lack of leadership,” Curry says.
“This, more than any other queer issue, may be the deciding factor. People are tired of generic, non-messages.”
Oh, and did we mention that New Hampshire has same-day voter registration?
If pundits thought the Iowa caucuses with their “second choice” rule was complicated, try predicting this one tomorrow.
Huckabee’s showing taps into his party’s populist sentiment.
“Tonight we proved that American politics is still in the hands of ordinary folks like you,” Huckabee said.
“We’ve learned that people really are more important then the purse.”
Meanwhile the Republican establishment is none-too-pleased with Huckabee as the face of the GOP, even though the populist Baptist minister won over more than the Iowa evangelical base with his humour, sense of optimism and authenticity.
With 95% of the precincts reporting, Huckabee creamed the smooth Mitt Romney, former governor of Massachusetts who spent millions and tons of time trying to convince the GOP religious grassroots base that his Mormonism was not anti-Christian.
According to CNN, Huckabee beat Romney 34% to 24%, with almost-dropped out Fred Thompson coming in at 13% and the Internet’s (current) favorite Libertarian Ron Paul also coming in at 13%.
But watch out for Arizona Senator John McCain.
Though he polled only 13% in Iowa (those evangelicals still hate him, despite all his attempts to win them over) he’s almost a favorite “maverick” son in the state that loves independence.
Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who holds the hopes of moderate Republicans, including gays, nationwide, didn’t bother with Iowa because of his views on social issues.
He may make an effort in New Hampshire, but he seems to be holding the Florida Primary on January 29th as his firewall before Super Tuesday on February 5th.
“It seems that Iowa Republicans overwhelmingly chose possibilities over pragmatism by choosing the two least electable candidates,” gay Republican political consultant Scott Schmidt, who blogs at BoiFromTroy.com, told GayWired.com.
“The Religious Right finally turned out in record numbers in Iowa, and showed the rest of the party that they really don’t care about Republican values like lower taxes and limiting the role of government.
“Huckabee’s first test as a front-runner will be how well he can organise a campaign overnight,” says Schmidt, a Giuliani supporter.
“He is under-funded and under-staffed to run a two-state campaign, let alone a fifty state campaign, and momentum can only get him so far.
“I doubt Huckabee’s message of theocratic and economic statism will go far in the ‘live free or die’ state.
“They say that the voters of New Hampshire know Mitt Romney from his time as Governor of Massachusetts,” says Schmidt.
“His problem is, that’s a different Mitt Romney than the one who’s running for President.
“If there is any hope for a moderate Republican, it will come on Super Tuesday.
“The Giuliani campaign is betting that more moderate voters in California, New York and Illinois will disregard the early returns in Iowa and New Hampshire and choose the candidate they agree with, rather than the one that the media has made the front-runner.
“If that strategy plays out, Giuliani could regain his front-runner status overnight by building a nearly insurmountable delegate lead.”
After months as the front-runner on the Democratic side, often called the “inevitable” winner for both the Party’s nomination and in the general election, Hillary Clinton is now looking for New Hampshire to make her the “Comeback Kid Part Deux.”
In 1992, after an onslaught of negative attacks and the sudden appearance of Gennifer Flowers, candidate Bill Clinton, the still relatively unknown Governor from Arkansas, finished second in New Hampshire but spun it into a “comeback” victory, and with it momentum to the Presidential nomination and history.
“We always knew Iowa would be our toughest state, which is why we built this campaign to compete in states across the nation through February 5th,” says Luis Vizcaino, Clinton’s openly gay California Communications Director, adding that Clinton still leads in national polls and in the delegate count.
But coming in a distant third behind the new kid and the mean guy might have been a bit much.
With all the state’s 1, 781 precincts reporting, Obama won 38% of the delegates, to Edwards’ 29.8% and Clinton’s 29.5%.
Still, as the Democratic frontrunners said later, it was a glorious night for Democrats with the high volume of new and young voters, who actually picked the winners in both the Democratic and GOP races.
22% of young people between the ages of 17-29 voted, 57% for Obama, who won a Democratic Caucus-goer entrance poll (conducted by Edison/Mitofsky media researchers for the National Election Pool) by 34%, while 11% of youth the same age voted, 40% for Huckabee, who won the GOP survey by 33%.
Surely the highlight of the evening was Obama’s Martin Luther King Jr.-like acceptance speech, delivered in a tone and cadence reminiscent of the fabled civil rights leaders of old, intended for black voters who never thought America, let alone lily-white Iowa, would crown a black man the winner.
“They said this day would never come,” Obama said, sounding like a preacher.
“They said our sights were set too high. They said this country was too divided, too disillusioned to ever come together around a common purpose.
“We are one nation. We are one people. And our time for change has come.”
One day, Obama concluded, America will look back on that night and say: “This is the moment when it all began.”
Clinton was gracious in congratulating her rivals and said the sizable voter turnout was a great victory for the Democratic Party.
“What is most important now is that, as we go on with this contest,” Clinton said, framing her campaign themes for New Hampshire and beyond, “that we keep focused on the two big issues, that we answer correctly the questions that each of us has posed.
“How will we win in November 2008 by nominating a candidate that will be able to go the distance? And who will be the best president on Day One? I am ready for that contest.”
Edwards, who campaigned in Iowa since 2004, was unbowed, noting that he had come in second to two candidates with superior resources.
“The status quo lost and change won. We saw two candidates who thought their money made them inevitable,” Edward said.
But Iowa caucusgoers showed that “if you have a little backbone, a little courage,” that message comes across and “that message to the American people is unstoppable, no matter how much money.”
Edwards supporter David Mixner concurs.
“Clearly, Obama is emerging as the candidate of a new generation of Democratic activists,” author Mixner wrote on his blog DavidMixner.com. But “Edwards’ populist message also resonated. More than any other candidate, the former North Carolina Senator has staked out clear positions and policies on the tough issues of the day.
“He cultivated a devoted following who identify with his message.
“Given that his opponents vastly outspent him, Edwards’ second place finish is a notable success.
“There will be only one nominee in the end, but there are many people who need a voice at the convention. So, let everyone be heard.”
West Hollywood Mayor Pro Tem Jeff Prang also says his candidate, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, is hanging in there after a poor single-digit showing in Iowa.
“We’re clearly not thrilled with the turnout in the Iowa caucuses,” he told GayWired.com.
“But he’s got a strong ground operation in New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada. And as far as I know, he still has resources for an aggressive campaign fight.
“One thing that happened yesterday is that the strong finish by Obama and the poor position of Senator Clinton demonstrates that the conventional wisdom is not being observed and surprises could happen.”
Eric Bauman, the openly gay Special Assistant to California Lieutenant Governor John Garamendi and the chair of the Los Angeles Democratic Party, says he’s personally banking on Hillary Clinton, though he has not yet formally endorsed her.
“I’m leaning for Senator Clinton because we’re personal friends – I’ve known her and her husband since 1991 – and because I think she’s he best prepared to be president on Day One, and I think that’s important,” Bauman told GayWired.com.
“While Senator Obama has become the embodiment of the American Dream, he is predicating his candidacy and his presidency upon ‘the possible.’
“But it is very clear that Senator Clinton is predicating her campaign on her experience in government, in the private sector, and the public sector and she is the candidate most ready to walk into the Oval Office on day one and best able to begin the extraordinary task of restoring some sense of competency and transparency to our government.
“And while I adore Senator Obama’s visionary approach, my greatest concern is one of competency.”
Democratic political consultant Hilary Rosen is also sticking by Clinton, noting that LGBT issues are not what differentiates the candidates.
“What Obama pulled off was amazing and inspiring,” Rosen said.
“I still support Hillary because I think this notion of ‘change v experience’ is a false choice and I remain confident that she is going to be a great President and our best option.
“But as the white mother of a brown son, I was awed and inspired by Obama last night.”
West Hollywood Mayor John Duran, one of only a handful of openly gay elected Latinos and people with HIV/AIDS, recently decided to support Obama after a long decision-making process.
“Hillary appeals to my head. Obama appeals to both my head and my heart. In a troubled time of pessimism, divisiveness, terrorism, economic malaise and environmental disaster, he gives me hope that America will rebound and be great again,” Duran told GayWired.com.
“Barack Obama is a great communicator like Ronald Reagan was 25 years ago. Reagan inspired hope when people felt malaise.
“Fortunately, this time the Great Communicator is on the left and not the right.
“Barack Obama will likely win in both New Hampshire and South Carolina. California will then play a critical role on Super Tuesday.”
Karen Ocamb will be covering politics from an LGBT perspective in the run up to Super Tuesday. She is the news editor for IN Los Angeles Magazine.
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