[Viewpoint]A dark horse rides

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[Viewpoint]A dark horse rides

This year’s Korean presidential election race is boring, but the 2008 U.S. presidential election is likely to be very interesting.
While the outcome of the Korean election seems obvious, the presidential contest in the United States is hard to predict. We might see a star rise out of nowhere.
What makes the election more interesting is the neck-and-neck competition among the candidates. The free-for-all fighting among the big-name politicians adds to the amusement.
There should also be a dark horse. The rise of the dark horse makes the race even more compelling, as a relatively unknown candidate suddenly gains in popularity and threatens the leaders of the race. That is exactly what is happening in the U.S. presidential election campaign.
The 2008 U.S. presidential election will begin on a full scale with the caucus in Iowa on Jan. 3. It is the first step of the nominating process for both the Republican and Democratic presidential hopefuls.
It is symbolically the first round of the battle, but is especially important because the Iowa Caucus is considered a bellwether. In many cases in the past, the candidates who won the Iowa Caucus went on to win their party’s nomination and later got elected president.
Four weeks before the Iowa Caucus, the Democratic candidates are playing a very close and unpredictable game. Senator Hillary Clinton, who aspires to be the first female president of the United States, and Senator Barack Obama, who hopes to be the first African-American president, are the front-runners along with former Senator John Edwards, who failed once before to win the nomination in 2004. In an opinion poll conducted in Iowa a few days ago, Senator Obama led with 28 percent, ahead of Senator Clinton, who got 25 percent. Edward is not far behind with 23 percent. In such a close game, no one can be sure of victory.
The Republican race is even more interesting. In a close competition featuring political giants such as former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, former Senator Fred Thompson, former Governor of Massachusetts Mitt Romney and Senator John McCain, Romney has been the unchallenged leader in Iowa. However, in the latest opinion poll in Iowa, an unfamiliar name emerged as the leader. Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee gained 28 percent support, defeating Romney, who got 25 percent. Giuliani only garnered 12 percent support, is in third place. Only a few months ago, Huckabee had a single-digit support rating in the opinion polls. The “Huckabee boom” is noteworthy.
The U.S. presidential campaign is a race of money and a media game. Victory depends on who gets the most donations and who makes the most effective election campaign ads. Political donations, as well as the attention of the media, will surge upon the candidates who win the Iowa caucus and the following New Hampshire primary. With that money and attention, the leading candidates can garner even more support. Their popularity will snowball. Jimmy Carter, who was an unknown candidate as a former governor of Georgia, unexpectedly won the Iowa Caucus in 1976 and ultimately won the presidential election.
The 52-year-old Huckabee is an ordained Southern Baptist minister who opposes abortion, same-sex marriage and gun control. Naturally, he supports creationism. His father was a fireman and his mother was a clerk, and he says, “They’d like to have a president who didn’t buy his way into the White House but earned it, not only by working hard to be elected but also by living the American dream one step at a time.”
His sudden rise in popularity can be attributed to his deep-rooted Christian conservatism and the American sentiment that highly values self-made men. Huckabee is similar to former President Bill Clinton, who also served as governor of Arkansas, is known for his eloquent speech and friendliness with the public. He shares evangelistic Christian convictions and values with President George W. Bush.
In the past presidential elections, American voters have swung between the Democratic Party and the Republican Party like a pendulum. In that sense, the 2008 presidential election is the Democratic Party’s turn. Senator Clinton and Senator Obama have the advantage, for now. However, it is another matter whether Americans are ready to embrace a female president or an African-American president. That’s where the Republican Party is aiming. We might hear the name Mike Huckabee more often.

*The writer is an editorial writer and traveling correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Bae Myung-bok
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