03 January 2008

Iowa Implications

Democrats (1650/1781 precincts reporting in Iowa)

Senator Barack Obama 37.21%
Senator John Edwards 29.97%
Senator Hillary Clinton 29.57%
Governor Bill Richardson 2.15%
Senator Joe Biden 0.94%
Senator Chris Dodd 0.03%

Democratic NH polling (average of recent results):

Obama 30.8%
Clinton 29.2%
Edwards 26.0%
Biden 5.4%
Richardson 5.2%

Democratic analysis: There is no second tier, everyone outside the three leaders are done. This is a three way race and the "anti-Clinton" is now Obama, not Edwards. Clinton has also lost her aura of inevitability. I suspect that Obama will do a little better (probably winning NH) and Clinton a little worse than the NH polls above indicate, perhaps even dropping into the third spot again. A double Iowa and NH win, however, because the lead is modest, probably isn't enough to make Obama a definitive front runner either, however. A brokered convention isn't out of the realm of possibility, since no one will have enough time to gain a lot of momentum by the time that most of the delegates are spoken for in February. Obama needs a blow out performance in NH to get that kind of momentum and cleanly avoid a brokered convention.

But, in a brokered convention, I think that Obama has the edge. If he is still the front runner by then, I think that Edwards supporters will have a hard time claiming the nomination, if for no other reason than that Democrats have already had more than one Southern white male for President. Identify politics will prevent Clinton supporters from rallying around Edwards to push him over the hump. But, many Edwards supporters are as much anti-Clinton as they are pro-Edwards and don't have nearly so definite opinions about Obama. As a result, an Obama-Edwards or Obama-Clinton ticket seems likely to emerge if there is a brokered convention.

For Edwards and Clinton this calculus is bad news, if I'm right. Obama needs a plurality to have a good chance of winning, and is viable as long as he is close to even with the other two candidates in a brokered convention. In contrast, Edwards and Clinton may each need a majority to pull off the nomination. Despite a tough start, Clinton probably has a better chance at doing that than Edwards.

Due to the Clinton-Not Clinton dynamics of this race, Edwards is at greater risk of bleeding support to Obama than Clinton if Obama develops momentum in Iowa and NH. Edwards in contrast will be hard pressed to generate that momentum. Edwards is polling in a distant third place in Nevada, while Clinton may regain momentum there. Even more importantly, Edwards is also polling a distant third place in South Carolina which should be his home turf. Edwards is also in a distant third place in now irrelevant Michigan and Florida, in which Obama and Edwards will not be campaigning and which will not send delegates to the Democratic national convention.

Republicans (72% reporting in Iowa):

Huckabee 34%
Romney 25%
Thompson 14%
McCain 13%
Paul 10%
Giuliani 4%
Hunter 0%

Republican NH polling (average of recent results):

McCain 31.3%
Romney 28.8%
Giuliani 10.0%
Huckabee 9.5%
Paul 7.0%
Thompson 2.3%

Republican analysis: The Iowa results will probably drop McCain to at least second place in NH, and will probably drop Giuliani to at least fourth place in NH. Huckabee will probably rise to at least third place in NH.

A sixth place showing in Iowa for Giuliani and what is likely to be no better than a fourth place showing in NH for Giuliani is probably enough to doom his candidacy.

Thompson's third place performance in Iowa will not be enough to drag him out of sixth place in NH. Thompson is done.

Paul's fifth place performance in Iowa just conceivably could bring him up as high as fourth place in NH, if Giuliani falls far enough over the next half a week, but a fifth place in Iowa followed by a fourth or fifth place in NH is not good enough to get him the nomination, he is not a viable candidate now if he ever was for the GOP race although he might still come to Denver this August to claim the Libertarian Party crown at its national convention. A Ron Paul third party run might create a spoiler for the Republican nominee, particularly if that nominee is Huckabee, who alienates based on his economic and foreign policy stances, or Romney, who alienates due to animus against Mormons.

I don't think Huckabee will beat Romney in NH, which is Romney's home turf, and a place where Republicans are more economic than religiously oriented than almost anywhere else in the country. Romney will leave NH as a viable candidate, as will Huckabee for whom expectations are low and likely to be exceeded.

The wild card in NH is McCain. His poor Iowa showing hurts him, but he is also a natural place for discouraged Giuliani supporters to flee. He has a realistic shot at a second place finish in NH and an outside shot at a first place finish there. If he can't beat Huckabee in NH, I think that McCain is probably doomed. Fourth place in Iowa, far behind the two front runners, and third place in NH, with the same two people in the top two spots in both states, would probably take McCain out of the running, and certainly would put great pressure for McCain to deliver in South Carolina (where McCain is in fourth place and Huckabee leads) and Nevada (where he is currently in fifth place behind a third place Huckabee who is still surging). On the other hand, second place in NH and fourth place in Iowa still keeps pressure on McCain, but doesn't take him out of the running. McCain also has little to hope for in Michigan and Florida which are also not irrelevant to the Republican race (the national party has simply given those states fewer than their fare share of delegates), and McCain is currently in third place behind Romney and Huckabee in Michigan and in fourth place behind Giuliani, Romney and Huckabee in Florida.

Bottom line for the GOP: While the signals are a bit muddy still, I think that this is now a three way race with Huckabee, Romney and McCain as the only candidates left with a real shot at the nomination, and their strongest general election candidate, McCain, will be hard pressed to gain the momentum he needs to get in January, to cinch the nomination in the remaining contests.

General election impact

The fact that Iowa has almost identical numbers of registered Democrats and Republicans, but had twice as much turnout at their caucuses, is a bad omen for Republicans in the general election, particularly because the Republican race was more interesting this year in Iowa.

Giuliani's wash out is good for Democrats because he could easily be seen as a moderate in the general election.

McCain's poor showing in Iowa is good news for Democrats for the same reason, although McCain's strong polling in NH means that he isn't out of contention yet. If polling means anything this early on, McCain is the biggest threat to Democrats in a general election, although not as strong a threat as he was four years ago. Even worse for Democrats, Edwards does best vis-a-vis McCain in a head to head race, and Edwards seems least likely to win the Democratic party nomination at this point.

Romney is probably less of a threat to Democrats than Huckabee, because many people simply do not trust him and never will despite the fact that they actually agree with him on the issues. Not only is he a Mormon, but he is also a man from the Northeast a region that people in many Republican strongholds distrust.

Huckabee is hard to figure in a general election. He could cement conservative working class support in a way that other Republican candidates can't do nearly so well. But, the guys is dumber than a fifth grader when it comes to foreign policy, is religious and Southern white enough to make liberals fear him and organize against him, and offers little to the economically oriented win of the Republican party to cause them to support him over Clinton or Obama. On the other hands, when did American voters ever want their Presidents to be smart? A dual populist Edwards v. Huckabee race is also hard to gauge. I don't trust head to head polling on Huckabee because most people who aren't political junkies don't know him very well yet.

As a Democrat, I hope that the Republicans pick Romney because I think he's their weakest candidate with a shot at the nomination. He lacks charisma, has established himself as a flip flopper, and brings few exciting issues to the table.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...