In Americaland, this year they are holding a contest to see who will be President after the Monkey-in-Chief is sent to Guantanamo Bay. This is going to be very much like the contest that they were holding LAST year (and the year BEFORE), except that someone might actually win.
The first stage of this game is played in the State of Iowa. No, sorry, the FIRST stage is played in a State of Nervous HYSTERIA and DENIAL aka the national media. We now move on to the SECOND stage, where actual people and/or Iowans get to have their say.
Because of the slightly ODD system they have over there, the candidates from either side spend most of the campaign slugging it out with their OWN SIDE in a sort of LEADERSHIP ELECTION to decide who will be the one to go through to the HEAD-TO-HEAD and play for DOUBLE JEOPARDY.
And the results are in.
For the Democratic (almost as Right Wing as New Labour) Side, the winner by quite a long way was Senator Barak Oklabama (named after the famous musical "Oklahoma-Alabama!") This was BAD NEWS for Senator Hillary-Billary (named after the famous musical "The King and I") who was knocked (just) into third place behind Mr John Edwards, the Vice Presidential Candidate from last time (the campaign named after the famous musical "Apocalypse Now!").
In terms of actual delegates to the National Convention, the difference is in fact TINY: Senator Hillary-Billary scores 14 out of the 2605 needed to become "The Candidate", a mere 2 behind Senator Oklabama! But that is not the point – the significant development is the DENT to her credibility that has been dealt by the big percentage gap between her and her main rival. Coming third won't have helped either. On the other fluffy foot, she IS married to the "Comeback Kid"... ooh, New Hampshire next!
So it is now the "Battle of the MO's": MOmentum versus MOney. The suggestion that money WON'T make a difference is obviously very SILLY – in a month's time there will be Super-Double-Duper Tuesday, the biggest day of Primaries yet, when 20 States with over half the delegates will be deciding – in particular the KEY States of New York and California, with loads of delegates each and on opposite sides of the country. Only money, and loads of it, will give anyone a chance to reach all the potential voters. This is where Hillary-Billary's deep pockets may yet count.
The feeling though remains that the WIND of CHANGE is very much in Senator Oklabama's sails at the moment. Though that can be a MIXED blessing – Mr Oklabama now has to do well, perhaps VERY well in New Hampshire, or risk the story becoming "faltering lead" and Hillary-Billary will be "Comeback Queen" – plus, where do you think she's been SPENDING all that money?
And it's so much more of a TOUCHY-FEELY Lord Blairimort sort of promise of change than anything tremendously TANGIBLE: Senator Oklabama not having adopted any particularly radical positions on anything, supporting the status quo on Roe v Wade, the Death Penalty and Mexican workers (although he did vote FOR a big fence to be built between America and Mexico). And he's wibbly-wobbly on Civil Liberties, with a vote FOR the Patriot Act on his conscience. He's also slightly blotted his EQUALITY copybook recently, by inviting so-called "ex-gay" and anti-gay-daddy preachers to join him on his "Hey Look I'm Black" Gospel Tour.
Of course, a lot of that could also be said of Senator Hillary-Billary, so the real question mark is whether Mr Oklamaba is READY for it; whether that same youth that gives a magic sparkle of the old Kennedy Camelot to his campaign also means he isn't yet experienced enough for the top job. Remember how he managed to threaten nuclear war against Iran, and ponder.
Ms Hillary-Billary definitely IS ready for it; frankly she's run America twice already and everyone knows she can do the job. And, out from under her hubby's shadow, she might actually be MORE radical than her rival... or than her Senatorial form and stated positions might suggest – remember how much further than him she wanted to go on health reform first time around? Incidentally, Universal Heath Care in America may now be an idea whose time has come, with both Democratic front runners including it as a major plank of their platform.
Clinton-Obama remains a possible "dream ticket" outcome in some people's eyes (though I'd still keep an eye out for a Clinton-Richardson combo: Governor Bill Richardson's status as "First Hispanic Candidate" for the Oval Office is often foolishly overlooked because of the big thrill around Mr Oklabama, but could be in fact more important DEMOGRAPHICALLY).
What remains ALMOST as interesting is that despite his second placing, STILL no one is seeing Mr John Edwards as a possible contender. Perhaps it is because of the HUGE weight of expectations that Ms Hillary-Billary and Mr Oklabama have gathered that "another white guy" is really no longer on the menu. Maybe it is just that he didn't come second by a BIG ENOUGH margin to gain LIFT OFF. Interestingly, his speech welcomed the result as a "vote for CHANGE", perhaps flagging up an intention to throw his support behind Mr Oklabama – THAT might be enough to propel the black Senator into the STRATOSPHERE and leave Hillary-Billary behind.
Meanwhile, on the Replutocratic (Dark Lords of the Sith) Side, the electors have chosen a Jesus-bothering, homespun, anti-Washington, folksy nincompoop as their front runner. This is, apparently, because they are crying out for a CHANGE from the Monkey-in-Chief. Riiiiiiiight.
Mr Mucky Humvee, a former governor of Arkansas, is an ordained Southern Baptist minister who believes in CREATIONISM and the DEATH PENALTY and opposes women's RIGHT TO CHOOSE and GAY DADDIES pretty much in general, though he HAS softened his stance on victims of the AIDS disease: he no longer believes that AIDS patients should be isolated in internment camps.
Rev Humvee has a slightly wonky immigration policy, both wanting to secure the American borders and allow illegal migrant workers a path to citizenship. This AMBIGUITY can easily be explained, because he is obviously following in the Monkey-in-Chief's simian footsteps and sucking up to the large HISPANIC community (while simultaneously appealing to religious zealots).
His GODLINESS hasn't stopped RUMOURS emerging that he fired the Arkansas Chief of Police when the latter wouldn't help out with a "problem" that Mr Humvee's son had had – i.e. when the Boy Scouts sacked him for hanging a stray dog!
Still he is not ALL bad, as he DOES support the Space Programme and NASA. Though whether this is as a first step towards blasting all AIDS patients into orbit, or merely as a mission to get closer to Mr God has not been made clear.
Coming a relatively poor second, only picking up 25% of the votes – a rather EXPENSIVE way of coming 9 points behind the winner – has got to be a blow for former governor and practicing Moron, Mr Might B. Roamin', whose political wanderings have taken him out to the conservative right to try and pick up votes. Clearly not far right enough, though, and probably not Christian enough though, either.
The NIMBY for Massachusetts (he opposed a Wind Farm project because of its "visual detriment") he supports more Nuclear Power and drilling for oil in Alaska as part of an energy independence strategy. On social policy, he sought to reintroduce the Death Penalty for Massachusetts (and was defeated) and wants to make abortion illegal, while pushing "Abstinence Education" in schools. His position on Gay Daddies is best described as peripatetic: he once promised to be a stronger advocate for equal rights than Senator Edward Kennedy, but nowadays has RENOUNCED his support for domestic partner benefits or non-discrimination employment legislation.
Naturally, he is PRO-WAR on Terra, and pro-torture, well torture-lite anyway. And he has said he wants to "double Guantanamo".
"I want them in Guantanamo where they don't get the access to lawyers they get when they're on our soil. I don't want them in our prisons. I want them there."
So, basically, anything that does his campaign at the kneecaps OUGHT to be a step in the right direction... except they appear to be favouring the guy who is Mr Roamin' but MORE SO!
In a tight race for third and fourth were President Ray-gun wannabe Fred Flintstone and a surprise comeback from the Monkey-in-Chief's bestest chum Senator McCain's Oven-Chips. Recent polls suggesting that Mr Oven-Chips might even WIN in a tight race with Hillary-Billary or Senator Oklabama might make him the one to watch if Mr Roamin' now falls off the post and assuming the Replutocats come to their sense about Rev Humvee.
Trailing in in fifth place was Mr Ron Paul, the only candidate who, while he may not be bordering on sane, is at least within shouting distance of the customs post. A strong advocate of CIVIL LIBERTIES, he opposed the Patriot Act and use of torture, and also opposes the so-called War on Drugs, favouring legalisation for medical use of pot. On the other fluffy foot, he wants to pull out of the UN and NATO and pursue a strict non-interventionist, even isolationist policy for America – which might be what most of the world actually WANTS America to do, but still labels him as a WHACK-JOB! Still, if he fails to win the Replutocratic Nonimation there are at least two minor parties – the Libertarian Party and the Constitution Party – who are seeking to draft him as their flag bearer, thus giving him two more chances to be HUMILIATED by the voters.
(Mr Rudy Giuliani got a derisory 3.5% but clearly hadn't even bothered to campaign in Iowa, so this may not be indicative of anything much!)
So what Iowa REALLY means is that it is GAME ON for the American elections. For the winners, the media coverage is FREE ADVERTISING for themselves and FREE ATTACK ADS on their rivals all in one. It will shape the nature of the debate and sharpen the focus on who the real choices are between for the States whose Primaries follow on – New Hampshire next week, then South Caroline then, importantly, Florida on the 29th of January before Super Duper Tuesday may – or crucially may not! – settle the matter.
For the REST of the WORLD this is another of those sports where America is the only country to take part in the World Series. We can only watch and hope and sigh and try not to SHRIEK as they make up their minds who'll be meddling in all the rest of our business for the next four years!