Time to clear out some of the undiscussed clutter that's been accumulating around here over the last month:
- Must everyone treat tonight's Iowa caucuses as an end-all, be-all affair in presidential politics? It's a survey of maybe a couple of hundred thousand people in a state whose population is disproportionately rural and almost entirely white, conducted on a cold early January night at the same time as the Orange Bowl (which is shaping up to be one of the greatest wins in the Jayhawks' history as I write this post). Still, the Iowa results will prompt more than one candidate to drop out by next week. Why, I'm still not sure.
- Must election pundits still act startled by Mike Huckabee's sudden rise in the Republican presidential polls? Huckabee is everything that the GOP's disgruntled social conservative base could have asked for: an affable Southern Baptist preacher with a populist streak and an unbroken track record of supporting their stance on social issues. Whether he'll be able to pull down dollars from the party's fiscal conservative wing largely will decide his electoral fate, but his ascent has been quite predictable ever since Fred Thompson's somnambulant campaign failed to launch.
- Must congressional Democrats keep giving President Bush pretty much everything he wants in the budgets? Probably yes, actually. Bush is a wildly unpopular lame duck, but even lame ducks can be tough to beat when they still can flap a veto pen and maintain ground support from their congressional minority. Republicans' numbers on Capitol Hill have been robust enough to force Democrats to accept Bush's top-line figure on the omnibus budget bill and to block more money for the State Children's Health Insurance Program. As for Iraq war funding, no matter how unpopular the conflict remains, and no matter how much Democrats might bluster and posture and complain, they ultimately won't dare to withhold a single dollar in an election year for fear of getting nailed with the poisonous "unpatriotic" and "soft-on-terror" tags, with which many of their opponents will try to nail them anyway.
- Must the Hollywood writers' strike go on forever? I really haven't missed prime-time television, but the absence of The Daily Show and The Colbert Report has been quite noticeable and, in a sign of the times, a bigger detriment to young voters' efforts to keep track of the presidential campaign than anyone cares to admit. It'd be heartening to see the two sides come to fair terms soon, but with the sides not even talking to each other right now, I'm skeptical.
- Must every single Alabama football game be an edge-of-
your-seat heart-stopper decided in the last minute? With the exception of a glorious, take-no-prisoners rout of Tennessee in October, it appeared that way in 2007. The Independence Bowl was no exception, as the Crimson Tide shot to a 27-0 lead out of the gates, playing like a national title contender in the process, only to end the game looking like a 3-9 team praying for the game to end. Mercifully, the clock ran out before Alabama's lead did, giving the Tide a winning record and a much-needed mental boost going into what should be a very eventful off-season for a team that pretty much has to be better next fall.
- Must Ohio State play, and lose to, a Southern team in the national championship game of every sport? Last year, the Buckeyes were slapped around in the title games in football (by Florida), basketball (Florida again), and soccer (Wake Forest). It's not an auspicious trend for the one and only Ohio State University as it heads into Monday's showdown with LSU for the crystal football.
- Must you accept my belated wishes for a very happy new year? Well, no, but I sure would like it if you do.
I'll have more to say on the fallout from the Iowa caucuses later on Friday. Try to stay warm until then.