MANCHESTER, N.H. -- It is the historic mission of the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary to give us the establishment candidate in each party, and then the insurgent candidate. The two pairs then battle it out in South Carolina to give us the probable nominees for November.
Year 2008 looks no different, with this exception. The insurgents, Barack Obama and Mike Huckabee, swept the first contests and now have the momentum. And both establishments are reeling. Twenty-four hours before New Hampshire, the GOP establishment has not even settled upon a champion.
If Mitt Romney wins the Granite State, he will be the alternative to Huckabee. But if he does not -- and he has fallen behind -- he must beat John McCain in Michigan on Jan. 15, stay in the race whatever it costs, hope to keep the anti-Huckabee vote split and hope that McCain runs out of fuel first.
Yet even as the candidates rally the party faithful, the issues they are raising and the early returns are telling us that the center of gravity in American politics has shifted seismically in four years.
On immigration, the center is now behind tough enforcement of the law and stronger border security.
The Republicans have all moved to the Tom Tancredo position. Hillary Clinton saw her campaign almost derailed by her temporary support of Gov. Eliot Spitzer's plan to issue driver's licenses to illegal aliens. McCain's pro-amnesty stand almost ended his candidacy.
On Iraq, the center of gravity seems to be: Let us end the U.S. involvement and bring the boys home.
Not only did all of the Democratic candidates promise an early, or immediate, withdrawal of U.S. troops, Ron Paul won more than twice as many votes in Iowa as Rudy Giuliani. Paul has used his campaign to surface the antiwar sentiment inside the Republican coalition. Add his votes to the antiwar Democratic votes in Iowa, and Americans are saying: time to come home. The Bomb Iran Caucus has fallen silent.
On trade, the Democratic Party has turned anti-NAFTA, one of Bill Clinton's signal achievements, while Mike Huckabee, runaway GOP winner in Iowa, seizes every opportunity to identify with the middle-class victims of the radical change wrought by globalization. Economic populism is on the rise, and globalism is under fire in both parties.
Columnists left and right, from Paul Krugman to Tony Blankley, are calling for a reappraisal of the economic consequences of throwing open America's markets to the world, while Chinese and Japanese manipulate their currencies for mercantilist advantage and Europeans impose value-added taxes on U.S. imports and rebate those same taxes on their exports to the United States.