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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2615

US Presidential Primary in Iowa: Media Blitz Unprecedented

By Philip Fernando in Los Angeles

U S primary campaign of 2008 to nominate Democratic and Republic candidates to run for the Presidency gets off to a hectic start today (January 3rd). The media blitz is on. Over 2,500 media representatives are covering the first primary in Iowa. In that state so far, every voter has been contact at least six times by one candidate or another. This is the strictly American style “quirky deliberation of national issues” state-by-state. New Hampshire will hold its primary on January 8th followed by the Super Tuesday of February 5th when more than half the states in USA would hold primaries.

The nominees so picked separately by the Democratic and Republican parties will meet later on at their party conventions and name their respective candidates at the election of the President, to be held on November 4th 2008. The oft-repeated axiom politics is all local may still hold true even though two central issues dominate politics today: national security in the context of two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan now in their fifth and seventh years respectively and similar threats looming elsewhere, and the growing social polarization in the United States exacerbated by financial issues, credit crunch, health insurance, immigration, abortion and gay and lesbian rights.

A myriad of issues dominates Thursday night’s Democratic and Republican precinct caucuses in Iowa marking the official beginning of the 2008 presidential campaign, although the race has actually been under way for more than a year. The massive media focus on Iowa and New Hampshire primaries and other early contests after that will set the tone for the campaign season to come. Many believe that although only a small number of Iowans and New Hampshire folks will caste their votes first, political establishments in both parties and their media bosses will be able to manipulate the outcome of the nomination campaign following the first two primaries.

The choice of nominee in each party is the outcome of a complex struggle within the Democratic and Republican parties in which vast sums of money and the gigantic US press corps play the major role, in assessing the sentiments and mood of the American people.

The Democratic and the Republican parties employ different appeals, have different beginnings and represent different slices of public life. They both agree on the following: to sustain the standard of life currently available to the citizens, improve the opportunities for betterment of life in general, and maintain the dominant global presence of the United States.

Both parties are also wedded to the idea of free enterprise tied to a capitalist market structure. They differ as to the degree of governmental control on the life of the people-both believe that big government is bad government. Both parties uphold the “national interest” of America as the primary focus of a good government, while differing on the degree of diplomacy, military force and political persuasion to be used in accomplishing that goal.

America’s diversity is legendary. People from almost every nation on earth have made USA their home making for vast regional, cultural, social and ethnic differences. Citizenship is considered a privilege and is actively nurtured within the borders of America. The electoral structure requires study and understanding. Its constitution has survived over 200 years and withstood the test of scrutiny.

The two party presidential form of government relies on constant compromises or give and take and a strict separation of powers between the executive, legislature and the judiciary. The method of election of a president is unique due to the Electoral College in charge of that responsibility. It comprises delegates from the 50 states selected in accordance with the population in each state following the latest ten-year census. California and New York have close to 50 delegates each while smaller states like New Hampshire and Maine get a fewer number.

Most observers believe that the 2008 campaign to select a nominee from the two parties could well be completed by February 5, more than six months before the nominating conventions and nine months before the general election. Fund raising by the two parties have reached astronomical proportions and the media blitz that accompanies the campaign is now hitting the TV channels with a vengeance. A U S citizen can contribute up to $ 2,300 to any candidate he or she chooses. Each succeeding election has seen the rise in the fund raising capacity of candidates.

Elections have become extremely costly as Ads and slick motivational techniques are used increasingly. For example, Senator Barrack Obama became a major contender for the nomination as a democratic candidate as he successfully matched dollar-to-dollar Hillary Clinton in fundraising. Two other senators, Joseph Biden of Delaware and Christopher Dodd of Connecticut, with far longer records in Washington, could not reach that level of success due to poor fun raising abilities.

On the Republican side, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney got off to a great start as he raised huge amounts of money and also drew on his enormous personal fortune, estimated as high as half a billion dollars. Several Republican hopefuls, such as Senator Sam Brownback and former Virginia governor James Gilmore, dropped out months before the first vote was cast because of difficulty raising money.

Despite his somewhat slow fund raising success, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee has come on strong during the past two months. Former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, former Senator Fred Thompson and Senator John McCain are still very much in the race due to their name recognition and ability to raise money.

Over 80,000 people are expected to attend the Iowa Republican caucuses, while over 150,000 are expected to attend the Democratic caucuses. By the night of January 3, according to one published estimate, the Democratic candidates will have spent more than $25 million, well over $100 for each caucus attendee, with the Republicans just short of that per capita figure.

Obama and Clinton each have more than 500 full-time paid staff canvassing the state, with comparable though smaller numbers for Edwards and Romney. Recent surveys of likely caucus-goers suggest that they have been contacted an average of half a dozen times by one campaign or another.

- Asian Tribune -

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