King Midas is remembered for his remarkable ability to turn everything he touched into gold. Politicians remind me of King Midas for turning every word into a meaningless campaign slogan. So when I hear them saying "change", my reaction is like, "Sure, next topic, please!"
But perhaps it’s true that Thursday’s Iowa caucuses were all about "change."
Of course, I’m not talking about the superficial choice between "change" and "experience." Likewise, I don’t care much about which candidate will be ready for the job on Day One. (In my humble opinion, the more important question is who will be able to adjust on Day Two.)
The "change" that I see is in the public mood. Consider these numbers. More than 239,000 Democrats and independents turned out to caucus on Thursday. Compare that to only 108,000 Republicans (and to fewer than 125,000 Democrats who caucused in 2004). If Iowa is a snapshot, however imperfect, of the whole country, it’s easy to imagine what will happen in November: voters craving for a "change" will turn out en masse and vote a Democrat into the White House.
This is something the party of the incumbent president definitely ought to think about.
Much has been said about that Mike Huckabee‘s victory in Iowa was due to the support given to him by the so-called evangelical Christians. But it’s also hard to overlook that Huckabee represented a fresh face in the lineup of the Republican presidential hopefuls. It’s also hard to ignore that some of his views represented a challenge to — and a change from — the discredited positions of other G.O.P. candidates. It’s not by accident that Huckabee was the only Republican candidate who publicly criticized the Bush administration for its "arrogant bunker mentality" in foreign affairs.
One cannot predict on how far Huckabee will go post-New Hampshire. What is clear is that neither Giuliani nor McCain, regardless of their positions on specific issues, will be considered "agents of change" by the voters who seem to have set for a real change in the country’s direction. Neither, thus, can win the general election in November.
That leaves us with Mitt Romney. I used to like him exactly for the same reasons that Huckabee has been surging in the polls recently: a fresh face, non-standard resume, executive background — a "change", in a word.
Unfortunately, over the past few months, Romney has tarnished his image of a capable business executive with some flexibility (shall I put it this way?) on social issues. Instead, he has morphed into a "bushier" version of Bush (how else can one interpret, for example, Romney’s idea of doubling the size of the Guantanamo prison?).
Perhaps, it’s not too late for Romney to turn things around. The fact that he still has poor name recognition around the country may do him a favor. If he quietly changes his positions on some crucial issues, such as the war in Iraq and immigration, primary voters in other states may simply not notice his new "flip-flop." He then will be able to claim the ability to bring "change" in Washington.
Otherwise, come November, America will face one more — unpleasant — change: it will become a one-party state.