Barack Obama in Iowa

Posted on January 4, 2008


In the early morning after Iowa, I have a political flashback: The Maryland Democratic primary in 1978. A few weeks before the vote, someone famously called Harry Hughes “A lost ball in tall grass.” The day before the primary, he was still a long-shot. But the word on the street was, “If everyone who thinks Harry Hughes would be the best governor, but can’t possibly win, votes for him, he wins.”

On primary day, Harry Hughes, an obscure former legislator and former secretary of the Maryland Department of Transportation, swamped Acting Gov. Blair Lee III, in a stunning upset. After the Democratic primary, I remember reading, probably in a Washington Post editorial, that there was hardly any need for a general election. “The people have already spoken.” Harry Hughes became the 57th governor of Maryland and served two terms.

Maryland is a long way from Iowa, but that is my instant reaction to the news that Sen. Barack Obama, a former Illinois state legislator and freshman U.S. senator, has a stunning victory in last night’s Iowa Democratic precinct caucuses. This morning, Hillary Clinton suddenly looks like Blair Lee III. As a former Democratic precinct chairman in Montgomery County, I respect the wisdom that rises up from the precincts.

I have to go to work now. This is the most instant of instant analyses. More to come.  — Bernie Hayden