Are Obama's coattails big enough for everyone else to ride on? Because it seems that post-Iowa everyone one is looking for a corner to stand on. Hillary is now "running on thirty-five years of change" — and yesterday she took on her opponents on their own faulty definition of change ("That's not change!" was yesterday's takeaway from the stump). After coming in second in the caucuses, Edwards wasted no time aligning himself with the Obama change machine: "The one thing that's clear from the results in Iowa tonight is the status quo lost and change won." (P.S. That "status quo" would be Clinton.) On the GOP side, Mitt Romney took even less time to cast himself as the Obama of the GOP line-up announcing just hours after the Iowa caucus results that "If you want to see change in Washington it's going to take someone who knows how to change things." (Oh, and McCain slyly agreed: "You are the candidate of change," McCain said, tongue in cheek, at the debate Saturday night.)
At last night's Fox News GOP forum, Chris Wallace took a leap and declared change to be "the watchword of this campaign." Here McCain said, this time without irony: "I know that I have been an agent of change." At one point, Romney said the word "change" about 7 times in 60 seconds. (Rudy says "change" too, but usually in the context of how your WORLD CAN CHANGE IN AN INSTANT when you're attacked by Islamofascist terrorists. Just in case you were starting to get comfortable.)
All this change! Someone grab a piggy bank! Apparently, change is the CSI of this campaign season; everyone wants their own hit version.
Yesterday the New York Times Caucus blog counted how many times the word change appeared in last night's debate (Hillary 23 times, John Edwards 14, Senator Barack Obama 12). During the Fox Forum last night it popped up no less than sixty-five times. In an hour and a half. (Though it probably would have been less if Ron Paul had been there, since he's an originalist.)
Last spring at the GOP debate the key word was "Reagan," as the candidates fell all over themselves to laud their fearless leader (well, it was held at the Reagan Library, but still). In our liveblog then we joked that it would make make a good drinking game a la "Roxanne. Lately we've been tempted to switch Reagan out for Change, though it would have taken a seasoned frat boy to keep up with last night's pace.
That said, as we all know when you say a word too many times it loses its meaning (c'mon, didn't everyone try this as a kid? Frank Luntz probably did). Bill Clinton probably did, too — which is why he's probably smacking his head right now...because that phrase, "agent of change" that everyone's picked up so handily? That was his — shoehorned into the campaign to differentiate Hillary from Obama ("who is the best agent of change, not the best symbol but the best agent?"). Clinton brought that up very carefully to differentiate the talk from the action (and the poetry from the prose) — but instead it just got subsumed into the change meme as everyone picked it up and applied it to themselves (somewhere, we're pretty sure that Huckabee has joked that he's an agent of change — just look at his waistline! — but that would require parsing through too many talk show appearances to count. Does that guy ever stop?). Either way, the voters (and the media) have spoken: "Change" is the holy grail of this campaign. Good thing all the candidates have been about that from the start!