Thursday, January 3, 2008

The Raucous Caucus

Okay, since my blogpartner has done the same, I'll give you some completely uniformed predictions about Iowa. The standard caveats apply. I have no idea what I'm talking about. Nobody else does in Iowa either.

I've been pretty confident about calling this for Edwards, but I'm not so sure all of the sudden. The wind seems to have changed a bit and Obama seems to be closing strong. Or maybe he isn't, and Clinton is closing strong. Or maybe Edwards really IS going to take it. It's a crapshoot, and has been for months now. Edwards is the safest bet here, despite his lower national profile. He's basically lived in Iowa the past four years, made huge inroads with the traditional Dem power bases like the unions. The issue with John Edwards is what happens after Iowa. While he's more popular in New Hampshire then four years ago, he still lacks the money and base that his rivals have built. Clinton started with the most name recognition and is still the national frontrunner, but her Iowa machine has struggled. She counts former Governor Tom Vilsack amongst her most vociferous supporters (Tom is practically begging for the VP slot, lets be honest), and she has impressive supports amongst down strata dems, particularly non-college educated women. Obama is the only one here with any real transformative power. If the Des Moines Registrar is correct, and we see an influx of new voters, they will break for Obama. This is a risky strategy though; Iowa is very traditional and the caucus is difficult to break into. This nearly killed Howard Dean in 2004. Obama seems to be doing it the correct way though, focusing on Iowans, disregarding Dean's legions of outsiders. Obama is also helped by strength with “second-choicers”. Dennis Kucinich has already requested that his followers back Obama if he falls below the necessary 15% (and he will), and there are rumors that Biden and Richardson might do the same. Neither man has any particular love for Obama, but both have a better shot at the VP or Secretary of State jobs in an Obama administration than they do a Clinton Redux.

1-Obama – 27%
2-Edwards – 24%
3-Clinton – 23%
4-Chris Dodd – 16%

This would be a huge win for Obama, a disappointment for Edwards and a manageable-but-difficult loss for Clinton. The issue with Hilary Clinton is her chilly relations with the press. The MSM might be all to happy to pile on Clinton, and call this a much bigger loss than it actually is. I think Dodd is the most likely lower-tier candidate to break through. He's earned much cred with the base for his fight against the Telecom bill.

After soaring into the frontrunner spot, Mike Huckabee has, well, revealed himself to be... a bit of a moron. He's easily the nicest, most friendly Republican around, but damn... I would like a president who has a clue about where Pakistan is. Plus, this goofy “I'm going negative! No I'm not!” hat dance of the past week has damaged his standing with non-evangelical Republicans. There has been a turn away from the Huck the past couple days. Unfortunately for his main rival Mitt Romney, they haven't been turning to him. The Mitt, despite pouring vast amounts of money and time into Iowa, is still stuck in a duel with Huckabee, who's evangelical base won't go anywhere. There has been a surge toward John McCain, despite his spending minimal effort in Iowa. Throw in the expected end of Fred Thompson's campaign, and you have a bit of a mess.

1-Huckabee – 29%
2-Romney – 24%
3-McCain – 18%
4-Ron Paul – 10%

The problem with Mike Huckabee is that he's basically a one-note candidate. He's had difficulty pushing past his evangelical base, and he lacks the money and structure to expand his support. Win Iowa, lose Iowa, this is his peak. And yes, I'm well aware this statement is now guaranteed to bite me in the ass. Romney – the most patently insincere man ever considered by either party – is in trouble with a second in Iowa. The massive amount of resources expended will give the press something to harp on, and not a good something for Mitt. The winner in this scenario is McCain, who scores a solid third without much work involved. Couple this with a surge in New Hampshire and he might become the frontrunner again.

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