Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Pass The Popcorn

The American race for President is set to begin tomorrow night in Iowa, with fascinating battles in both the Democratic and Republican fields. Lurking in the background, next week's pivotal primary in New Hampshire, which also has a "too close to call" flavor.

On the Democratic side, the Iowa polls show a tight three-way race, although the key Des Moines Register poll gives Obama a slight lead. The polls suggests a massive turnout, including 40% independents which are moving heavily for Obama. The Edwards and Clinton campaigns have both released campaign memos challenging the polls assertions, because the turnout levels would be unprecedented for the usual limited particpation in the caucuses.

The Iowa Caucus is all about organization, especially for the Democrats, where there is plenty of bartering and side deals with less viable candidates. That said, Edwards is very well placed to stage a mini-upset because his campaign relies heavily on seasoned caucus goers, whereas someone like Obama is counting on first-time participants who don't have a history of actually showing up. Edwards has pretty much lived in Iowa for the last four years, and it wouldn't surprise me in the least if he pulls this out. The really intriguing part, Edwards is polling much better in New Hampshire now(averaging 18%) compared with his 2004 run, so if he were to get the traditional Iowa bounce he could actually be a player in the first primary.

If Obama wins Iowa, he is in great shape to win New Hampshire. Some polls already have him neck and neck in New Hampshire, a victory in Iowa would easily give him the needed momentum. The same scenario could play out if Clinton wins, so Iowa would appear to be almost make or break for the Democratic field.

On the Republican side, Huckabee may have peaked too early, as his lead over Romney in Iowa has eroded. There is now only one poll that gives Huckabee the lead, outside of the margin of error, and that narrowing tends to confirm the combination of Huckabee mis-steps and Romney's negative ad assault. Romney is outspending Huckabee 10-1 in Iowa, using his personal fortune to try and buy the win, but all the polls show voters aren't particularly inspired by his rhetoric. If I had to guess, Romney might get the edge, because he has a very formidable organization, whereas Huckabee is relying on church groups and such to get out the vote. However, just like the Democrats, way too close to make a solid prediction.

If there is one candidate hoping for a Huckabee win, clearly it is John McCain. Should Huckabee take out Romney in Iowa, I don't see any scenario where Romney manages to win in New Hampshire. McCain is already surging in New Hampshire, with the polls showing McCain tied or ahead. Huckabee has no chance in New Hampshire, Guiliani has basically abandoned the state, in what amounts to one of the biggest political blunders I can remember, so McCain will easily ride to victory should Romney stutter in Iowa.

The other scenario, a Romney win in Iowa makes for a far more interesting race in New Hampshire. Romney may get a bounce out of Iowa, although I wouldn't expect it to be as big as tradition suggests, primarily because every newspaper feeding New Hampshire is decidedly anti-Romney, very much on side with McCain (McCain has received every single endorsement, while Romney has actually received two anti-endorsements). Still, Romney will have a very good chance should he win in Iowa.

The wildcard, where does McCain finish in Iowa? McCain basically left Iowa to focus on New Hampshire, so the expectations are quite low. However, the polls have shown McCain rising in Iowa, with a respectable third a very real possibility. This fact might explain why McCain is back in Iowa today and tomorrow, hoping that even if Romney wins, he can claim some of the spotlight with a decent finish.

The big unknown heading out of Iowa will be the debates scheduled for this weekend in New Hampshire. How the candidates perform in these debates might be the determining factor for both the Republicans and Democrats. Whatever happens, one thing is for sure, the next few days are setting up to be a political junkies wet dream :)

8 comments:

Tomm said...

Interesting comments.

Did you see Fred Thompson's Iowa video? How do you think he might do? How about Ron Paul?

I am surprised that Obama and Edwards are holding it together as well as they have been. That tells me that Clinton could be beaten.

Tomm

Steve V said...

tomm

Who knows about Paul, might be a bit of a spoiler. Thompson has lived in Iowa the last month and could finish third. The funny thing about Thompson, he says things like "I'm interested in being President, but I'm not really interested in campaigning". Very light schedule, Thompson takes days off and just seems uninspired. If Thompson doesn't get third, I expect him to drop out and wouldn't be surprised if he endorsed McCain.

Tomm said...

Steve,

I will follow these results.

From the democratic side, there seems to be significant money being spent on opposing Clinton. Do you think that is just representative of the amount of money available, or do you think that a Democratic core is trying to support "anybody but Hillary"?

Tomm

Mushroom said...

Tomm,

Netroots like the Daily Kos and MoveOn.org make it much easier for the anti-Hillary crowd to mobilize against her. I suspect that the netrooters have helped boost Edwards' campaign in the past few weeks, to the point of running equal with Obama. For me, the firewall in Edwards' campaign will be in Nevada. He has focused everything on Iowa. The trade unionists need to turn Clinton's advantage there into a win for Edwards and hope that he is the last man standing in South Carolina. Otherwise, this is more a replay of 2004 for him.

Tomm said...

I thought it would be Clinton v. Guiliani, but it is looking more and more open on both sides of the American (tweedledee and tweedledom) system.

Clinton is now in a 3 way race. The Republican's appear to be even more fluid.

Maybe we'll have Uncle Fred v. Cousin Barack...

Steve V said...

Giuliani's strategy of waiting until the Florida primary is a big head scratcher. You can't sit on the sidelines, then hope to jump back in, because the media simply forgets about you. The polls already show Guiliani's once big lead in Florida virtually gone and the latest national poll now has McCain in first.

Steve V said...

It looks like the Thompson endorsing McCain angle is gaining steam. If true, this makes a McCain third place finish all the more important for his prospects.

Anonymous said...

Last time John Kerry won in part because of his get out the vote machine, which was considered to be excellent. He had 400 official volunteer drivers to get people to the polls. Guess how many Clinton has this time? 5000! That's not a typo, not 500, 5000. She can drive every single one of her caucus goers to the polls. Every one. Never in history, and I think I can say that with some assurance has a candidate had so many drivers on polling day that they could drive every single voter to the polls. It is awe inspiring. Obama's youth vote will not be able to compete with 5000 drivers bringing every older voter they can find to the polls. I Couldn't even believe it yesterday. It's unbelievable. Truely amazing. No one has ever even come close to this level of organizing to get out the vote, ever, anywhere on the planet. Gobstopping.

Edwards also has a very good GOTV machine but nothing like this. Clinton and Edwards draw from a much more reliable demographic of voters.

Clinton 1st by 8-10%, Edwards second, Obama third by 5% behind Edwards. His vote won't come out.