Despite the persistent intensity and the episodic acrimony of the presidential nominating contests, we can generally agree that this has not been a campaign about issues. The policy differences between the candidates, particularly on the Democratic side where things have gotten nastiest, are negligible to the point of being nonexistent.
The presidential campaign of 2008 may represent some kind of the high-water mark of this post-ironic age in which we live. Look at where we have found ourselves: After seven roller-coaster years of George W. Bush, the country is forced to roll the dice on a completely new game: a woman, a black man, a Mormon, or someone so old that it'd almost be like he stepped off of Mt. Rushmore into the job rather than the other way around. You’d think we’d be in the mood to dial back to a safer choice.
One of the inviolable rules about Nevada politics is that a candidate may never, ever succumb to the puerile temptation to say, "What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas." Maybe the only thing worse would be to support the burial of nuclear waste under Yucca Mountain or to refer to the state's largest industry as "gambling" instead of "gaming."
After the many months of prognoses and analyses, after the handicapping and speculations and the polls within the margin of error, Iowa, with its actual voters and actual voting, seems to have focused the attention of the presidential campaigns. And, we now know, the crucial issue facing this war-weary, economically skittish country is change.
The need for change has become the mantra of the political season. On both sides of the nominating process the amount of change promised may be enough to completely remake the entire future of humankind.
The conventional wisdom going into this campaign season was that Democratic voters were, overall, much more enthusiastic about their presidential choices than Republicans were about theirs. In general, most Democrats felt they could live with any of the top three candidates seeking the nomination. There were the conspicuous Hillary-haters, but not enough of them to keep her from looking like the prohibitive favorite most of the time.