CNN's Thursday night Democratic debate from Las Vegas revealed some policy positions from Bill Richardson and Barack Obama that may not have been previously known to the average democratic voter. Presuming other candidates like Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, or Chris Dodd are able to exploit this information on the campaign trail or in media advertisements, the likelihood of Obama or Richardson performing well in the Hawkeye State's January caucuses has decreased significantly.
Richardson had the worst go of it. About halfway through the debate the New Mexico Governor professed, without pondering a beat, why human rights are more important than the security of the United States. The question had been asked in the context of whether the United States should continue to back the Pakistani government for the war on terror despite the human rights abuses and anti-democratic processes that occur in that nation under General Pervez Musharraf's rule. Senator Dodd most clearly distinguished himself from Richardson's statement, stating that if we allow democracy to take hold in nations like Pakistan, what we'll get is much worse than what we have now, due to the hold radical Muslims have on that country.
When asked about whether driver's licenses should be given to illegal immigrants Richardson and Obama (as well as Dennis Kucinich) all said 'yes.' Richardson boasted about how he has already done so as Governor. CNN moderator Wolf Blitzer had to pry an answer out of Obama—who skirted and waffled on the issue even more than Hillary Clinton in the MSNBC debate a few weeks ago. Obama eventually relented and said 'yes.'
It would be a mistake for Richardson or Obama to think that simply because they are in the nomination stage that Democrats do not care about security or illegal immigration—especially in Iowa. A Rasmussen poll this week of likely Democratic caucus voters in Iowa found that 65 percent do not believe undocumented workers should be allowed to receive driver's licenses. Only 21 percent of Democrats supported the position of Obama, Richardson, and Kucinich.
Moreover, a CBS News / New York Times poll this week also found 59 percent of Democrats in Iowa to view illegal immigration to be a "very" or "somewhat" serious threat to the state of Iowa. Only 36 percent of likely Democratic New Hampshire voters viewed illegal immigration as a threat to that state.
Hillary Clinton may have been late to coming to her current position on illegal immigrants, but her anti-license position is now clearly in the mainstream of Democratic (and Republican) preferences in the Hawkeye State.