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Monday, December 31, 2007

Updated Presidential Odds

Iowa Caucus Analysis, Monday, December 31st
We don't need an MSNBC headline to tell us it's too close too call. We know that. We're going to see dozens of polls between now and Thursday, each varying in percentage points and leaders. They'll all say the Democrats are in a three way dog-fight for first in Iowa and that Romney and Huckabee are going back and forth for the GOP, with McCain and Thompson fighting for third. They'll all say the same thing, just in different orders. So, this week, you're not getting any polls on this blog because they're all pointless. The next poll I'll report on is the Iowa Caucus itself.

For now, just analysis and predictions. Who's in the driver's seat in each party for Thursday's caucus? For the nomination? Let's break it down. Democrats today. Republicans tomorrow.

Democratic Primary ScheduleThursday, January 3 - Iowa caucus
Tuesday, January 8 - New Hampshire primary
Tuesday, January 15 - Michigan primary*
Saturday, January 19 - Nevada caucus
Saturday, January 26 - South Carolina primary
Tuesday, January 29 - Florida primary*
Tuesday, February 5 - "Super Tuesday." 20 states, including California, New York, Illinois, New Jersey, and Massachusetts

*Will not technically count, but the momentum factor is impossible to be gauged as it is an unprecedented situation, and will, for the sake of this blogger's sanity, be ignored.

Democratic Contenders
3. John Edwards (Odds on nomination - 5:1)
Rank among Democratic Top Three to win Iowa: 1
Rank among DTT to win New Hampshire: 3
Rank among DTT to be ahead by Super Tuesday: 3
Rank among DTT to be leading after Super Tuesday: 3
Reasoning: John Edwards has the best chance to win Iowa, for the following reasons:


1. He has the best change to earn the second-choice votes that are so crucial in the Iowa Democratic Caucus.
2. He has the best chance to make a late surge in this final week, similar to 2004.
3. He is most likely to get votes from those who have not been motivated enough to make themselves heard so far in the Obama-Clinton battle, not to mention those who have been turned off by the constant Obama-Clinton bickering.

But Edwards can't just win Iowa. He has to win convincingly in Iowa. He has to win by at LEAST five points in order to turn the victory into momentum. It's looking like the results will be too close for an Iowa win to be any more than a few thousand votes.

If, however, he can win by 5+ percentage points, he'll have the entire weekend to spin the big win, meaning major headlines for the Sunday papers and morning political shows, both free coverage for the campaign, hugely important because of the bank rolls of the Clinton and Obama campaigns. This then leads into Tuesday's New Hampshire primary, where Edwards only has to show a strong third, though if Obama finished third in Iowa, Edwards might take second from him.

A second or strong third in New Hampshire means he can compete in Nevada (labor ties) and South Carolina (geographical ties). Once Democratic voters are convinced this is a legitimate three-way race, you will see a LOT of undecideds run to Edwards. After all, they were probably undecided because they didn't like Clinton or Obama.

But this all must start with a convincing Edwards win on Thursday. A narrow win isn't nearly as helpful, and a second or third place finish eliminates him from viability.

2. Barack Obama (Odds on nomination - 3:1)
Rank among Democratic Big Three to win Iowa: 2
Rank among DBT to win New Hampshire: 2
Rank among DBT to be ahead by Super Tuesday: 1
Rank among DBT to be leading after Super Tuesday: 2
Reasoning: Barack Obama has the second best chance to win Iowa, for the following reasons:

1. He should get more second choice votes than Clinton, as her unfavorability among voters who are not intending to vote for her are high.
2. He has a very passionate voting base ready to support and recruit on Thursday as caucus goers step out of their cars.
3. Never forget that there are Iowans who do their part simply by voting on voting day and nothing else. Those aren't Obama voters. Obama voters are passionate, outspoken, and have made themselves known in all these polls already. He won't get the voting day pop in numbers that Edwards will get.

If Obama were to win Iowa, a few wins should follow, including a New Hampshire victory the following Tuesday, and a South Carolina later in the month. And if Obama wins all of the early primary states, the country will follow on Super Tuesday. In fact, come Super Tuesday, Obama must be leading the delegate count in order to defeat Clinton's massive national lead.

If, however, Obama were to finish third in Iowa, and Clinton were to win it, the reverse would happen, and Clinton would do the early sweeping and Super Tuesday winning. Clearly, Iowa is overwhelmingly important. It seems as if the only way Clinton and Obama are both alive after Iowa is if Edwards does not finish between them.

1. Hillary Clinton (Odds on nomination - 5:2)
Rank among Democratic Big Three to win Iowa: 3
Rank among DBT to win New Hampshire: 1
Rank among DBT to be ahead by Super Tuesday: 2
Rank among DBT to be leading after Super Tuesday: 1
Reasoning: Of the three viable Democratic contenders, Hillary Clinton is least likely to win the Iowa Caucus for the following reasons:

1. There is no reason to think her numbers will get any higher than the recent Iowa polls. Her polling average's standard deviation has been in a gradual declination for months.
2. Obama and especially Edwards are expected to earn all second choice votes from voters who reluctantly but inevitably leave Biden, Richardson, Kucinich, and Dodd on caucus night.
3. No undecideds will decide on Hillary Clinton.

Clinton will have a top two finish in New Hampshire regardless of her Iowa finish. However, if a second place finish in New Hampshire is coming on the heals of finishing below Obama in Iowa, then she has problems, as that's all South Carolina needs to run to Obama, meaning Clinton finished behind Obama in three states, if not Nevada as well, heading into Super Tuesday.

Of course, though realistic, that path is not a sure thing at all. If Clinton finishes ahead of Obama in any primary, she's more than healthy enough for Super Tuesday. Her national lead is still formidable, with double digit leads in all of them, and some over twenty points. Super Tuesday state like California has her with double digit leads, while New York and New Jersey have her up by over 30.

So it seems that as long as she stays in one piece, that is to say, as long as Obama or Edwards don't finish ahead of her in every early primary state, she has a firewall on February 5th to take a lead in the delegate count. If it's still close between her and one of the gentlemen after Super Tuesday, that will be the first time in recent memory that a primary has been significant beyond that event. (Among others, Virginia, Texas, and North Carolina would still be remaining, where Clinton would not be expected to do well against Edwards, but let's not get ahead of ourselves.)


Three days.








Check back tomorrow for the Republican candidates.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Latest Iowa Poll

Iowa Caucus Analysis, Friday, December 28th
(Note: I refuse to talk at length about the assassination of Benazir Bhutto and its effects on the presidential primaries, as many have done in the last 24 hours. I was a huge admirer of hers, and her death is just a little too fresh to talk about American political ramifications. In one sentence, the ramifications on the Democratic primary will be negligible, while McCain and Giuliani could get a small boost for the Republicans. The general election, however, is a different story for a different time. We'll get to the role of Pakistan, India, Islamic terror, nuclear arsenals, and Al Qaeda in a few months. Trust me, I have a lot to say. On with the show.)

The Iowa poll of the day, from New Strategic Vision, taken over the last two days.

Democrats
Obama 30 (no change vs last poll Dec 16-18)
Clinton 29 (+2)
Edwards 28 (+1)
Biden 5 (nc)
Richardson 2 (-1)
Dodd 1 (nc)
Kucinich 1 (nc)
Undecided 4 (-2)

The poll is representative of most Iowa polls these days. Obama, Clinton, and Edwards are bunched up within the margin of error, while all the other candidates are far back. These standings are becoming further solidified with each passing week. In this poll, for example, no numbers have fluctuated beyond a couple percentage points. What has transformed over time, however, is by how much the big three are leading. They continue to separate from the pack. Fourth place has fallen all the way back to 5%, while fifth place is at a miniscule 2!

What this tells us is that the top three will not fluctuate much in the Iowa Caucus, even after the first round of voting. There are not many undecideds to win, nor will there be many second choices to seduce because nearly 90% have decided on one of the top three. Basically, we are flying towards a finish that looks something like:

Obama - 33
Edwards - 32
Clinton - 30

with some diehard Kucinichites and Doddheads holding strong onto their candidate despite their lack of viability.

So the question I am forced to ask is how the national media would cover such a finish. Is a Clinton 3rd place finish like the one above really that much of a loss? She would only be out of first by three percentage points. In a state that has 57 delegates up for grabs, which go into the eventual pool of 3,515, the above scenario would mean Obama gets 19 delegates, Edwards gets 18, and Clinton gets 17. There would only be a two delegate difference between Obama and Clinton, with 3,458 still up for grabs across the country. Yet I think we know how the media would play it up.

"Obama Wins! Hillary Back in 3rd Place!" This then give the momentum to Obama heading into New Hampshire. The responsibility, or lack thereof, of the media after the Iowa Caucus will play a direct role in the electing of our next President. That's a whole blog in itself. Maybe next week.

Republicans
Huckabee 29 (-2 vs. last poll Dec 16-18)
Romney 27 (+2)
Thompson 15 (-1)
McCain 14 (+6)
Giuliani 4 (-2)
Paul 4 (-1)
Undecided 6 (nc)

Has Huckabee peaked too early? A Romney victory is now better than ever for the former Massachusetts governor. If Romney comes back to win the state after being down for most of December, it would be much more meaningful to Republicans than if he had outspent the field and won going away. Before, all Romney could have hoped for was an "as expected." Once expectations were lowered, however, it was possible to beat them, thus earning even more momentum in New Hampshire. A Huckabee second place finish, meanwhile, would be disappointing after being in first by so much, and might end his viability, with New Hampshire and South Carolina probably going to other candidates.

It's also notable that McCain had a 6 point pop, and since he's spending time in Iowa this week, he could be looking at a 3rd place finish, which is a nice moral victory for the McCain campaign. Such a better-than-expected showing could translate into a New Hampshire win, and possibly status as the frontrunner.

That happened pretty fast, didn't it?


Next week is going to be fascinating to follow. I hope to see you all back here for the final push.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Clinton, Obama, Edwards: Who's Most Electable?

Iowa Caucus Analysis, Thursday, December 27th
With one week to go before January 3rd's Iowa Caucus, the contenders for the Democratic nomination are sticking to message. Hillary Clinton is the candidate that can take over on Day One. Barack Obama will bring the country together. John Edwards has experience fighting and defeating interest groups in Washington.

However, if you pay attention, there is one other key ingredient to all of their stump speeches. Each of the three claim that they have the best chance to go up against the Republican nominee in November. So let's examine that. Which of the three has the best chance against Republican candidate X on November 4th, 2008?

Hillary Clinton
Pros - For the bulk of 2007, Clinton has been the only candidate to temper her votes and words on the Iraq War, gearing up for a general election. She has positioned herself as a foreign policy moderate so as not to suffer the same fate as the last few northern Democrats who were not able to rally any support from the South or Midwest. She has appeared aggressive so as not to let the electorate think she is a dovish woman. She has consistently touted her experience in foreign policy, claiming to be the most ready candidate of the top tier.

Cons - Her argument as the most electable candidate can be questioned. As written by this blog on numerous occasions throughout the year, Hillary Clinton unites the right. Democrats will turn out to vote regardless of their nominee next November, however no Democratic candidate turns out the Republican vote like Clinton. Her infamous unfavorable statistics have held strong all year, while her favorables fluctuate in the forties. This was always the concern for Camp Clinton. Too many people have already made up their mind about her, and not enough of those people are on board for her to win a national election.

Barack Obama
Pros - Since bursting onto the national scene at the 2004 Democratic Convention, Obama has predicated his entire candidacy on overcoming partisanship. His messages of change and hope resonate with the Democratic base, but also have the ability to siphon off Republican votes from the GOP nominee. Most importantly, the independents are much more likely to be motivated by an Obama candidacy than a Clinton candidacy.

Cons - First, the superficial truth that is disappointing but existent. In the 2006 elections, every battleground Senate race went to the Democrats except Tennessee, the southern state where a black Democrat was running. Harold Ford Jr. told Tennessee everything they wanted to hear, but the state went Republican. Ford should have had a better chance than all of his Democratic colleagues who won. He was a good looking, bright, articulate candidate who spoke the language of Tennessee, and he was moderate, even conservative on many key issues important to the state. But he got beat by a white non-incumbent who allegedly played the race card in a political advertisement.

The Tennessee Senatorial election might be an omen for the Obama campaign. Look at Virginia in 2006, where Democratic challenger Jim Webb defeated incumbent Senator George Allen by a 1% margin. If Webb were black, however, could you not say with near certainty that Allen would have kept his seat? If Webb were black, wouldn't his 1% margin of victory have been in the other direction and possibly larger?

And how many states, in an election that will probably be as heated and close as the last two, might that play enough of a role that the state ends up in the red column, along with the balance of its electoral votes?

Moving away from aesthetics, an argument can be made that if McCain or Giuliani get nominated, Obama's chances take a hit. He'll have to go toe-to-toe against a candidate whose party owns foreign policy elections, deservedly or not. Edwards and Clinton, each with at least a full Senate term in their belts, probably fair better in such an election. A McCain-Obama showdown in a national security debate could be a blowout, especially after McCain's recent momentum push as the news from Iraq improves.

John Edwards
Pros - The last three Democrats in the White House were Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter, and Lyndon Johnson, from Arkansas, Georgia, and Texas, respectively. All southern states. In fact, only two Democrats from north of the Mason-Dixon line (JFK and FDR) have been President in the last eighty-five years. Yesterday, Edwards made a direct reference to the recent Democratic presidents being southern when he said, "The last two Democratic presidents, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter, both talk like me." And this is to say nothing of the fact that the last 42 people to be President have been white men, unlike the two candidates above Edwards on this list.

Cons - In a general electability argument, there are not many cons for John Edwards. Yes, he voted for the Iraq War, but so did lots of Democrats at a time when the majority of the people wanted action. Edwards has since admitted the vote is a mistake he will have to live with for the rest of this life, and you cannot ask much more of him in that regard, as he has been a vocal critic of the war for the last couple years. The biggest con for Edwards' electability case is that without winning the nomination, he has no shot at the general at all.

Verdict
Clinton is the least electable of the three, there is no doubt about that. Her assertion that she has the best chance to go up against a Republican is erroneous.

Obama can make the case that he is the most electable. The race factor occurs only in states that John Kerry did not carry anyway. Those are states that were red and would stay red with Obama on top of the 2008 Democratic ticket. All Obama has to do is swing a couple of those red states where race is not as much of a factor in order to get 270 electoral votes. The inexperience factor is a wildcard, but never forget that Obama is the only candidate on either side that can say he has never supported the War in Iraq, which would be huge with independents.

Edwards probably has the most convincing electability argument. It can be argued that he is the only candidate on either side that actually puts all fifty states in play, though Rudy Giuliani might have a thing to say about that. Here is the crux of the argument: since it is highly unlikely that a 2004 blue state goes red in 2008, the Democrats' best chance in this election is to nominate a candidate that can subdue Republican voter turnout in the red states. That candidate is John Edwards.


Until tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The Stretch Run in Iowa

Iowa Caucus Analysis, Wednesday, December 26th
(Days until the Iowa Caucus: 8)

Down the stretch they come, and in the lead...

No one.

This highly competitive race has seven viable victors, which means seven potential Presidents of the United States. And much to the dismay of Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani, this race no longer has frontrunners.

Sure, Clinton and Giuliani are still atop most national polls, though Clinton's lead is much more impressive than Giuliani's hairline margin, but those pesky early states, the states that have actually been in direct contact with the candidates, do not favor the national leaders any more than the rest of the contenders. They actually favor them less. Without a true national primary, the national polling numbers are almost irrelevant, aside from coaxing some votes out of voters who want to unite behind whomever is winning. If any of the other candidates can muster momentum in the states leading up to Super Tuesday, the national polling numbers for the current leaders will tumble down to Earth.

So who can muster that momentum? That is the question you must ask yourself if you wish to partake in primary prognostication.

The lock to start strong was supposed to be Republican Mitt Romney, but Mike Huckabee did not get the memo. Romney, who one month ago had big leads in Iowa and New Hampshire, with wins there expecting to translate into a win in South Carolina, was supposed to be the other half of a two-man race against Giuliani, but he is now realistically looking at only winning one of those three early races.

It seems as if Huckabee will take Iowa, with Romney placing second, but it's what comes after January 3rd that gets really interesting. This disappointing second place finish at the Iowa Caucus stunts Romney's popularity in New Hampshire, allowing John McCain, who is already making a run there, to turn back the clock eight years and take the state, with Romney again finishing a disappointing second place. South Carolina currently has Huckabee leading polls, with Romney a close second, but a McCain victory in New Hampshire transforms that into a three man race, with McCain siphoning off votes from the other two.

And what name was never mentioned as a contender in that paragraph? Rudy Giuliani. Do not forget that the Republican base always felt a bit queasy when the idea of nominating Giuliani came up. That, combined with each of the other contenders owning more desirable characteristics (Huckabee's social conservatism, Romney's fiscal experience, McCain's foreign policy experience) that Republicans look for, has led to a steady decline in Giuliani's numbers.

But here's the thing. Giuliani's national lead, while slipping in Florida and nationally, is still a lead. The other three candidates could potentially split support in the early primary states, meaning a chief challenger to Giuliani may not appear by February 5th. Giuliani, who is expected to take heavyweights California, New York, and New Jersey among others, could take half the delegates that day, while Romney, Huckabee, and McCain split the other half into three pieces. Who benefits? Giuliani.

A Romney-Giuliani showdown in the Republican primary would have resulted in a Romney nomination. I am (was) sure of this. Romney, as the only viable, conservative alternative to Giuliani would have garnered momentum after sweeping the early primaries and the party would have rushed to him. I never thought Giuliani would be the nominee.

With three candidates splitting the rest of the pie, however, the GOP is still on pace to nominate Giuliani. Ironically, the rise of a tried and true social conservative (Huckabee) was the best thing to happen to the socially liberal Giuliani in his quest to win the nomination of the conservative party.

You gotta love it.

For the equally competitive Democratic primary, check out last Friday's post.

See you tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christmas Gift: More Iowa Links.

Happy Holidays to the appreciated readers of President Politics of America. My gift to you is a batch of links from the last twelve days of Christmas. (Feel free to re-gift!)


Monday, December 24th
The Iowa Holiday Armistice


Friday, December 21st
Some developed thoughts on the tight three-way Democratic primary.

Thursday, December 20th
A pat on the back and analysis on the Tom Tancredo drop out.

Thursday, December 20th
A look at VP candidates for four potential nominees.

Wednesday, December 19th
A look at VP candidates for three potential nominees.

Tuesday, December 18th
Boiling down every GOP candidate to one sentence.

Monday, December 17th
Analyzing the difficult situation the Republican candidates are in.

Friday, December 14th
An analysis of the most recent polling data available at the time.

Thursday, December 13th
The links for the rest of the month of December.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Temporary Iowa Truce; Endorsements to Come

Iowa Caucus Analysis, Monday, December 24th

Every four years, in Decembers prior to presidential primaries, there are several days of politically predetermined placidity in the middle of maniacal mayhem. For the several days preceding and including Christmas, there is an uneasy and unofficial truce between candidates. This truce, this unspoken agreement, this purposefully temporary armistice, states that the candidates will let people enjoy the holidays, because berating them with more commercials or canvassers is not only inelegant, but probably hurtful to their campaign.

And so we wait. We wait for the eye of the hurricane to pass. Beginning on Thursday the 27th, there is exactly one week of news left to report before the Iowa Caucus. The caucus is on Thursday, January 3rd, where all the polling data and hypothetical scenarios are replaced with voters actually casting votes.

Next week, on Wednesday morning, this blog will be endorsing a Republican for President. On Thursday morning - a Democrat. And then we wait for exit polls, news reports, and hopefully by the end of the night, results from Iowa.

Finally.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Clinton, Obama, Edwards Tied in Iowa

Iowa Caucus Analysis, Friday, December 21st
Is this really happening? Is the most anticipated primary in this country's history about to hit its stretch run with the American public having no idea who is going to be the nominee of either party?

This blog has devoted a lot of ink to the Republican primary of late and for good reason. Huckabee's surge has transformed the Republican primary from a two-man race (Giuliani and Romney) to a legitimate four-man race (Giuliani, Romney, Huckabee, and McCain). Exactly how this has happened will be written about next week.

But I just have to address the Democratic primary today. It's too close. Too good. Too exciting.

So how important is the Iowa Caucus, anyway? Yesterday, CNN released its latest Iowa poll, which revealed that Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and John Edwards are in a statistical tie for the country's opening caucus, which is now under two weeks away. It reaffirms what we already knew. Any of the three can win the Iowa Caucus. Interestingly, it's the closeness itself that places more weight on the Democratic Iowa Caucus than at any time in its history. The three contenders are pouring money into Iowa, and the state is abuzz with the campaigns' ground troops. Iowa should serve as a microcosm of the country. Any of the three can win the Democratic nomination, and any of the three can be the next President of the United States. And to think that the next President might be chosen by Iowa and their funny caucus rules is mind blowing.

Do not forget those Iowa rules, which give reason to believe that the least likely candidate to win the Iowa Caucus is the national poll leader, Senator Clinton. It's that second choice wrinkle of letting voters re-align their allegiance after the first round of voting. It seems that no one who is not planning on voting for Clinton will end voting for her with their second ballot on January third. Obama and Edwards, meanwhile, seem to duopolize that second choice constituency. It is not unreasonable to expect that at the conclusion of the Iowa Caucus, both of those candidates will shoot up into the 30's while Clinton remains in the 20's.

On top of that, you cannot underestimate the day-of undecided voter, either. Think of the voters who have not made up their mind yet and look forward to being convinced on caucus day. They step out of their car and are met by throngs of younger-to-middle-age Obama and Edwards supporters who seem much more passionate about their candidate and their cause than the middle-to-upper-age Democrats who are sticking with Clinton. For better or worse, candidates of change are sexier than candidates of experience. Which of these are more likely to sway an undecided voter?

Are these two factors - the second choice ballot and the undecided voter - not a confluence of events that should have Camp Clinton shaking in their shoes? It is becoming evident that Clinton is not going to win the Iowa Caucus, and of late she has been losing ground in New Hampshire to Obama. This makes an Obama victory in Iowa, which is the most likely scenario, a disaster for Clinton, as his momentum in New Hampshire will only get ratcheted up a notch with an Iowa win.

What's worse is that Clinton cannot possibly afford to pull resources out of Iowa to create a firewall in New Hampshire to slow Obamamania. To fall back into the teens in Iowa against the two men running against her would be embarrassing for a campaign that already seems to be teetering, even though it's really not. The perception, however, is that she is losing control of a primary fight that many thought was wrapped up last summer, even though the polls still have her up double digits nationally.

And of course there's John Edwards, who most acknowledge has a great shot in Iowa, but then don't seem to see the dominoes that fall into place after that. People don't seem to realize that an Edwards victory changes the dynamic of this race. If Edwards get up 1-0-0 against the fundraising machines, the money advantage all but disappears. Free media coverage and extra donors await him on caucus night and the week following. He has labor ties to Nevada and geographical ties to South Carolina, both of which he can concentrate on while Clinton and Obama battle it out in New Hampshire. Moreover, there are large constituencies across the country just waiting to see if he can win Iowa before making a decision the other two. In other words, his support can only go up after Iowa. Way up. Trust me on this: Democrats can get as excited about an Edwards nomination as they can with either of the other two. A good-looking, articulate, inspiring, southern, liberal Democrat who rails against special interests in Washington? That's a winning campaign in the Democratic party.

The problem is, he's on the cusp of viability. The perception is that he's the least likely viable candidate of either party. The potential energy is filled to the brim for a powerhouse campaign, and an Iowa victory converts potential into kinetic.

And then hold on to your seats.

So yeah, Iowa's pretty important.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Tancredo Drops Out

Here is a quote from my blog on the 28th of November:

"Prediction: Tom Tancredo drops out in December, now that his pet issue - immigration - is front and center. He was never in it to win it."

Then, on December 11:

"He didn't get in the race to win, but rather to raise immigration as a prominent issue in the primary. With that objective achieved, despite it probably having nothing to do with his candidacy, it's unclear why he stays in, other than to see the issue through."

Today, as predicted, Tom Tancredo dropped out of the Republican primary. His mission was a success. Immigration is front and center in the Republican discourse, with most candidates trying to boast about how tough they would be on illegal immigrants. Tancredo used his announcement to publicly endorse Mitt Romney which is significant, though not because he picks up Tancredo's 1% of the vote across the country. Rather, it's a useful endorsement because it brings over a couple percent in Iowa, where Romney's is locked in a death battle with Mike Huckabee, and also because of the immigration issue. Any Republican voter that had immigration as their chief issue but was vacillating between the top tier Republican contenders may now be convinced that Romney is the way to go, especially after Tancredo called Huckabee's record on immigration abysmal.

It will be interesting to see how Iowa polls develop over Christmas week.

Check back tomorrow for a recap of the week.

VP Candidates: Part Two

Iowa Caucus Analysis, Thursday, December 20th
Part 1 yesterday. Part 2 today:

Mike Huckabee
3) Newt Gingrich (Former Speaker of the House, Georgia) - Gingrich intended to run for this election, but eventually realized that in order to fundraise and campaign legally, he would have had to step down from his chairman position atop of "American Solutions." If he can find his way around that by the spring, what better way to gradually re-introduce himself to the public than through the Vice-Presidency, making a 2012 or 2016 nomination much more likely?

2) Condoleezza Rice (Secretary of State) - Easily, Huckabee's biggest weakness as a presidential candidate is that he has no foreign policy experience. Enter the rising star of the Bush Administration - the former national security advisor, the current Secretary of State, the highest ranking African-American in this country's history, and a woman to combat the female vote in a potential election against Hillary Clinton. To top it off, she's been the most popular member of Bush's cabinet, which means she brings the Bush supporters and appeals to many Bush detractors.

1) Norm Coleman (Senator, Minnesota) - The Huckabee VP is difficult, as it's much more difficult to balance a ticket that does not want to be balanced. Huckabee will not exchange values for votes. Coleman is a steadfast social conservative, and he's a highly ranked minority member on the Senate Foreign Relations committee, which brings foreign policy experience to the ticket, not to mention a northern geographical balance.

John McCain
3) Jeb Bush - It would be almost poetic, wouldn't it? A McCain-Bush ticket. We could stay the course in Iraq for decades! But seriously folks, take a look at yesterday's post to see what Jeb Bush brings to a ticket.

2) Mitt Romney (Former Governor, Massachusetts) - McCain and Romney could use each other for several reasons. Southwest/Northeast, Senator/Governor, Experience on the national scene/Fresh on the national scene, terrifying glare/robotic stare. Romney is the only realistic contender for the Presidency who would accept the Vice-Presidency at this point. For one, it gives the public a chance to trust him more and see that his Mormonism won't impact his politics. Moreover, once Huckabee took his Iowa lead, Romney was staring at an early exit right in the face, which means the Vice-Presidency already doesn't look too bad.

1) Joe Lieberman (Senator, Connecticut) - Like you didn't see this coming. Lieberman's endorsement this week cements it. Outlined nearly a year ago on my old blog (horrifically written, may I add), this would be a tremendously different ticket than this country is used to, and it would almost certainly bring in a third party. If anything, this might even be a third party ticket if McCain doesn't get nominated!

Barack Obama
3) Mark Warner - See all the reasons stated under Clinton, yesterday.

2) Joe Biden - For all the reasons stated under Edwards. (Note: No Bill Richardson for Obama, as it's unlikely the Democrats will want to run an African-American with a Latino. Too many barriers to break in too important of an election.)

1) Wesley Clark - For all the reasons stated under Edwards. Both Biden and Clark shore up Obama's greatest perceived weakness - inexperience and foreign policy.

Mitt Romney
3) Jeff Sessions (Senator, Alabama) - How's this to balance Romney's perceived weaknesses? Sessions is one of the five most conservative U.S. Senators in the country, he's from the deep south, and is loud and proud of his disdain for illegal immigration.

2) Sam Brownback (Senator, Kansas) - Similar to Sessions, Brownback's conservative record cannot be questioned. He made a run at the White House but could never get national appeal or money. As a Vice-Presidential nominee, it's the perfect platform for Brownback to reach more people, and sets up another stab at the Oval Office in four to eight years.

1) Charlie Crist - See Crist under yesterday's Giuliani post. In short, I think is the most likely Vice-Presidential nominee of the Republican Party.


I'll be back tomorrow to wrap up the week that was in presidential politics.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Top VP Choices for the Contenders

Iowa Caucus Analysis, Wednesday, December 19th
Today, I'll break up the final work week before Christmas with a gimmick column. I've had three readers broach the topic of who the Vice-Presidential nominees might be. It's a great topic. Which potential running-mates would fit best with the seven presidential candidates who have a realistic shot at running in a general election?

Many variables play into the decision making process. Examples include geographical balance, a balance of strengths and weaknesses, trying to fill gaps of experience of the presidential nominee, and also who can mesh well with the candidate on top of the ticket, to name a few.

So here are the top three VP choices for each of the candidates that might actually win and will need someone's hand to hold on the convention stage this summer. We'll do three candidates today, and four tomorrow. (Alphabetical order)

Hillary Clinton
3) Tom Vilsack (Former Governor, Iowa) - Vilsack dropped out of the presidential race to endorse Clinton, leading some to believe a deal was struck in order to ensure a Clinton victory in the Iowa Caucus. He would be helpful in the Midwest, which was swept by President Bush in 2004. However, if Obama or Edwards wins Iowa, which seems likely, the deal's probably off.
2) Bill Richardson (Governor, New Mexico) - With New Mexico and Florida as key swing states, a Latin-American VP brings those two states two the blue column immediately. Richardson will be on every Democrat's short list for many reasons, which we'll get to.
1) Mark Warner (Former Governor, Virginia) - In order to not alienate the entire south, Mark Warner is a very valuable addition to a ticket that is led by a northern Democrat. He was an immensely popular governor of what was considered a red state, bringing executive experience to Clinton's legislative background. The question is: Is he interested in the job? I wrote about this fourteen months ago on my old blog. I think he is.

John Edwards
3) Joe Biden (Senator, Delaware) - Taking a page out of Dick Cheney's playbook, Joe Biden could be a very valuable Vice-President. I can see a President making Biden the point-man on Iraq. No politician is more knowledgeable on the situation and equipped to deal with it, with the possible exceptions of John McCain and John Warner. Biden should accept the offer, as this election is his last whiff of the White House.
2) Wesley Clark (Former Supreme Commander Nato Allied Forces) - Both parties love him, he would be an incredibly capable advisor in military policy, and he is practically attack proof from the Republican propaganda machine. He also has roots in the Midwest, making an Edwards-Clark ticket competitive across the entire country.
1) Bill Richardson - In addition to what was written about him above, Richardson brings a lot of experience that Edwards, the former one-term Senator, does not have. Richardson has been governor, ambassador to the U.N., Energy Secretary (how important is that, these days?), and has served in the House. Perhaps most importantly, Richardson's wealth of experience and skills, but relatively lackluster personality in public, is perfect for a Vice-Presidential nominee who should not steal the spotlight, but should make people at ease about voting for the ticket.

Rudy Giuliani
3) Jeb Bush (Former Governor, Florida) - If Bush wasn't such a radioactive name, we could very well be seeing Jeb on top of most Republican primary polls. He was very popular as governor of a swing state, and conservatives trust the Bush name. This balances evangelical voters who are weary of voting for Giuliani.
2) Rick Perry (Governor, Texas) - How better to ease Republican fears about a New Yorker on top than by putting a Texan on bottom?
1) Charlie Crist (Governor, Florida) - On November 28th's Republican debate, I first floated the idea during a live blog that Crist was interested in the VP slot with any candidate. He makes a ton of sense for the same reasons Jeb Bush does, without fear of the Bush name poisoning the ticket.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

One Sentence on Each GOP Candidate

Iowa Caucus Analysis, Tuesday, December 18th
Quick post today. Here is one sentence on each Republican candidate that should get you up to speed if your temporary residence this month has been next door to a megadrile.

Rudy Giuliani - He's giving up on all of the early states to concentrate on Florida, which would set up Super Tuesday, reminding us of an adage regarding eggs and a solitary basket.

Mike Huckabee - Contrarily to Giuliani, Huckabee is putting nearly all his efforts into the early primaries, counting on the momentum to roll over into Florida and Super Tuesday, reminding us of an old adage about a hare.

Duncan Hunter - Hunter reminds us of a tortoise, the reason for which has nothing to do with an old adage.

John McCain - McCain has temporarily taken the headline wars from Huckabee, earning numerous newspaper significant endorsements as well as one from party-crossing Joe Lieberman, which should excite independents who can vote in the Republican primary.

Ron Paul - He picks up about a point every month, which means if this election is held in 2047... he has a shot.

Mitt Romney - Romney's starting to throw some jabs at Huckabee, but if Romney doesn't make up ground by the end of the week, expect to see some right hooks starting on December 26th, Boxer Day. (Even I was taken aback at my cleverness there.)

Tom Tancredo - Speaking of Romney, if he doesn't win Iowa, he can still win New Hampshire, which keeps him alive to fight until Super Tuesday.

Fred Thompson - Wouldn't making Die Hard 5 be more fun?


I'm in the process of nailing down the top VP options for the contenders (both parties) for tomorrow's blog. See you then.

Monday, December 17, 2007

The Republicans and Their President

Iowa Caucus Analysis, Monday, December 17th

President Bush has, roughly, a 34% job approval rating. Different polls vary a few percentage points (Rasmussen, Gallup, FoxNews have him a bit higher. CNN, LA Times, and Washington Post a bit lower), but his approval rating has been in the low-to-mid 30's for the entire year, so we can stop talking about the margin of error or positive and negative news cycles when it comes to his actual job approval from the American people. Approximately one third of the country has a favorable view of his job performance.

One of the numerous interesting aspects of this presidential campaign is that, for the first time since 1920, there is a two-term president whose vice-president is not running to replace him. Gore ran after Clinton, Bush I after Reagan, and Nixon after Eisenhower. Not since the relatively un-ambitious Thomas Marshall declined to campaign for the Presidency after Woodrow Wilson's two terms has there been such a vacuum heading into a presidential campaign cycle.

One of the last duties of an incumbent two-term President is to endorse his party's nominee. Of course, he has always left this to the party's primary process, waiting for the nominee to be evident, and then endorsing said nominee at the party's convention. Whether President Bush will follow this tradition remains to be seen.

However, another role of a two-term President is either as a sail or an anchor. A popular outgoing President, say a Washington, a Monroe, a Reagan, or a Clinton is a great asset to the Vice-President or to any other nominee of the party. The nominee of the popular President's party, not to mention the other candidates for that party's nomination, can throw their arms around the President, not only in the primary, but in the general election as well. They can succeed under the "party" line of four more similar, successful years.

But what of the candidates vying for that nomination whose President is unpopular? How does one effectively distance themselves from the man who leads the party, but has steered the party platform for eight years?

In the current situation, it is difficult for the Republican candidates not only because the President is unpopular by nearly a 2 to 1 margin across the country, but ironically because the President still has a majority of support in the Republican Party itself. Therefore, if the candidate wants to be President, they cannot too closely support the popular President. However, if the candidate wants to even have a shot at the Oval Office, they must be nominated, and for that to happen, he must support the President who is still popular in the party.

Tough spot.

So, as we read articles like this one from Breitbart.com, which talks about the two different ways that Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney orate their allegiance to President Bush, remember that the Republican candidates are walking a fine line. The Democrats can bash the President to win the nomination and the general. That's easy. However, with all the media scrutiny these days, a Republican candidate will have to eat all pro-Bush comments for lunch this fall.

In sum, there's a reason why Ron Paul can't win the nomination... but there's also a reason John McCain can't win the general.

Friday, December 14, 2007

CNN Poll: Clinton and Giuliani Reeling

Iowa Caucus Analysis, Friday, December 14th
Latest National Poll from CNN/Opinion Research Corporation
Registered Democrats' choice for nominee for 2008
Clinton - 40%
Obama - 30%
Edwards - 14%
Richardson - 4%
Biden - 4%
Dodd - 2%
Kucinich - 2%
Gravel - <1%>

Registered Republicans' choice for nominee for 2008
Giuliani - 24%
Huckabee - 22%
Romney - 16%
McCain - 13%
Thompson - 10%
Paul - 6%
Hunter - 2%
Tancredo - 1%

This is the smallest lead for both Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani since very early in 2007. It is less than three weeks until Iowa, and both the favorites are hemorrhaging their lead like Napoleon vomiting the whole of the poison during his attempted suicide. In fact, one can extend that terrible analogy when one considers that the huge leads built by Clinton and Giuliani was a factor in the eventual collapse of their polling numbers. Not only did the "inevitability" factor work against them, but every other candidate knew that in order to be nominated, the poll leader must be taken down, and every shot taken at them will linger for the duration of the campaign.

The debates this week did nothing to stem the growth of who most call their chief challengers, Barack Obama and Mike Huckabee. (I would still argue that a Giuliani loss probably comes from Romney, not Huckabee. As for the Dems, if Edwards wins Iowa, it's a legitimate three-way race.) Obama's performance yesterday was his best of any debate, and all it took was a little more time given to him that was formally usurped by Gravel and Kucinich. (One can only imagine how well he can do in the potential one-on-one setting against the Republican nominee.) Huckabee, meanwhile, seems to have peaked at the right time, because the Republicans played nice on Wednesday, and since there are no more Iowa debates, it will be difficult for his fellow GOP candidates to reach out to a national audience to do what they did to Giuliani and Mitt Romney.

The point? Frankly, I've never been closer to calling the state of Iowa. This is not my final prediction, but I feel very confident about:

1. Obama
2. Edwards
3. Clinton

and

1. Huckabee
2. Romney
3. Thompson/McCain

See you next week.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Romney, Giulani, and Huckabee... But in What Order?

Iowa Caucus Analysis, December 12th
Yesterday, I ranked the five Republican candidates with no realistic shot to win the nomination. Today, I get to the three that do.


3. Mike HuckabeeWhat he has going for him:
1) Every Iowa and national poll is better than the last for Camp Huckabee. He now has double-digit leads in almost every Iowa poll, and runs second to Giuliani in most nationals.
2) Of all the realistic candidates, he's the only one that isn't fighting historical voting tendencies. Giuliani's a Catholic (only one President has been non-Protestant) with mayor as his highest office (aside from generals, there's been none) who is not holding any office as he's running (none since Eisenhower). Romney's a Mormon (none) who also isn't holding office. McCain is a senator (No sitting Senator has won since 1960). Clinton is a senator and a woman. Obama is a senator and black. Edwards, seemingly the only other candidate who's not fighting historical voting tendencies, was a senator and has been out of office for four years.
3) For the last year, conservative voters seemed to have been waiting for a loyal, consistent conservative (McCain, Romney, and Giuliani didn't fit the bill) who can actually win (Brownback, Hunter, Tancredo could not). If Huckabee is that man, it would not only explain his recent surge, but would also give us good reason to believe that the surge isn't stopping any time soon.
4) Chuck Norris.
What he doesn't have going for him:
1) A poll came out yesterday that revealed that if the election were held today, he would lose to Clinton by 10 points, Obama by 15 points, and Edwards by 25 points. This might scratch the above idea that he's a conservative that could actually win. His fellow Republican contenders will allude to that poll in the coming weeks.
2) He is not nearly as battle tested as the other top Republican candidates. Everything to know about Giuliani, McCain, and Romney we already know. There's a new story about Huckabee's record everyday.
3) His name is Mike Huckabee.
Worst case realistic scenario: Romney blitzkriegs the Iowa airwaves and spends enough money to beat Huckabee in the Iowa Caucus. Romney then takes New Hampshire as well, meaning he bumps Huckabee down in the next few primaries behind both Romney and Giuliani.
Best case realistic scenario: An Iowa win kicks off top two finishes in Wyoming, Nevada, Michigan, New Hampshire, and South Carolina. The problem is, Romney and nationally potent with the big edge for Florida and Super Tuesday.


2. Mitt Romney
What he has going for him:
1) A lot of money and a lot of troops in Iowa.
2) Executive experience, CEO experience, and he looks the part.
3) With strong numbers as governor of a liberal state, Romney has some crossover appeal for a general election.
What he doesn't have going for him:
1) Much more than being a woman, much more than being black, being a Mormon polls horribly and could cost enough votes to lose a close primary and enough votes to lose a close general.
2) The last month or two, everyone has been operating under the assumption that Iowa and New Hampshire were Romney's to win, which would bring him money and momentum to go do battle with Giuliani nationally. Losing Iowa would be nearly a mortal wound for his campaign.
3) Chuck Norris is on Mike Huckabee's side.
Worst case realistic scenario: A second place Iowa finish leads to lots of third and fourth place finishes behind Huckabee, Giuliani, and the candidate du ├ętat.
Best case realistic scenario: Huckabee's surge proves to be too early of a peak, and Romney rights the ship to take Iowa back. This also re-solidifies his New Hampshire lead, and probably gives him a lead in South Carolina. A feasible top two finish in Michigan and Florida means he's right with Giuliani on Super Tuesday.


1. Rudy Giuliani
What he has going for him:
1) He's still the national poll leader, which has never been more important in past primaries as it is now, as most of the country will vote on February 5th.
2) He polls the best in head-to-head polls with Democrats.
3) Mike Huckabee. Mike Huckabee's appearance as a contender has stunted Romney's anticipated surge after Iowa and New Hampshire. With Huckabee and Romney splitting votes before Florida and Super Tuesday, neither would be in a position to make a run at Giuliani.
What he doesn't have going for him:
1) No matter what the polls say, the evangelical pro-lifers who admonish divorce, infidelity, and gay rights still have to go in that voting booth and see if their conscious can pull the lever next to the name of the socially liberal Giuliani.
2) None of his early primary poll numbers are currently heading in the right direction for him. He's about to bottom out in Iowa, and he's not turning heads in Nevada, New Hampshire, Michigan, Wyoming, or South Carolina.
3) Nationally, his poll numbers have been stagnant in the low to mid 20's, or slightly declining with Huckabee's rise and other candidates like Romney, McCain, and Paul picking up a point or two here and there.
Worst case realistic scenario: Sixth place Iowa is a real possibility. Then a meaningless Wyoming convention, and then to New Hampshire, where Romney and McCain are polling above Giuliani, and Huckabee's momentum could be spilled over to bump Giuliani down to fourth. If he can't right the ship by Michigan, and any one of the other major candidates builds up enough momentum by Florida, it could be a dogfight on Super Tuesday.
Best case realistic scenario: A meaningless third place Iowa finish doesn't slow him down as he places top 3 in the first six primaries before winning Florida in time to romp on Super Tuesday.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Handicapping the Republican Field

Iowa Caucus Analysis, December 11th
Last week, I broke down the rankings of the Democratic candidates. (The second and third tier, then the contenders.) Today and tomorrow I'll do the same with the Republicans. Let's get right to it, starting with the candidates with no realistic shot at the nomination.

8. Duncan Hunter (Odds - 500:1)
Random thoughts: He's Ann Coulter's dream candidate, and maybe that's all you have to know. Despite him being the perfect conservative, no one in the party cares about him, except for the 1% of poll takers who are either from his district or part of his extended family.
How he can win it: If all of the candidates above him on this list were to fall down dead, say hello to Republican nominee... Newt Gingrich.
When he'll pack it in: He should have already. He operates outside the bounds of logic. I'm not even sure he knows what's going on. I don't know when he'll pack it in. Maybe the Republican Convention? Maybe after? Maybe 2009?

7. Tom Tancredo (Odds - 99:1)
Random thoughts: He didn't get in the race to win, but rather to raise immigration as a prominent issue in the primary. With that objective achieved, despite it probably having nothing to do with his candidacy, it's unclear why he stays in, other than to see the issue through.
How he can win it: He doesn't want it.
When he'll pack it in: After the nominee is evident and no more discourse is required in the primary. Therefore, probably the second week of February.

6. Fred Thompson (Odds - 25:1)Random thoughts: My original ranking had Thompson in the top five, but the more I think about it, the more I realize that his campaign has been stuck in neutral while facing uphill. He's done nothing to excite the conservatives who were hoping he was their savior. Now, with Mike Huckabee serving as the conservative alternative, Thompson is left without a role.
How he can win it: He needs to split all of his resources between Iowa and South Carolina, and hope for a third-first combo, with seconds and thirds in Nevada, Michigan, and Wyoming in between, and then ride the subsequent momentum into strong showings in Florida and Super Tuesday.
When he'll pack it in: I'm not even sure he makes it to Iowa. The guy's got nothing going for him. He's going in the wrong direction, another candidate has filled the void that he was supposed to, he's old, he doesn't look like he's having fun, and there are four or five Republican campaigns people are paying more attention to.

5. Ron Paul (Odds - 25:1)
Random thoughts: Paul has slowly crawled up everyone's rankings and his odds get better with each passing month. The problem is, he's running out of time. Slow and steady wins few races, but with exactly three weeks to go until Iowa, it won't win this one.
How he can win it: Top three finishes in Iowa, Wyoming, and New Hampshire can be parlayed into a third place finish in Michigan, which is some major delegates for the former unknown. With people finally taking him seriously, he might be able to compete on a national scale.
When he'll pack it in: Unlike Tancredo, his biggest issue, a full withdrawal from Iraq, is getting no attention from his fellow Republican candidates. Therefore, he might stay in this race right up until the last primary.

4. John McCain (Odds - 12:1)
Random thoughts: He reminds me of a veteran athlete in his farewell year. He doesn't move around like he used to. His form has broken down and he relies on old tricks to stay competitive. But damned if he isn't still alive with a puncher's chance. As long as he's still on his feet, he can just keep coming.
How he can win it: Similar to Thompson and Paul, he'd have to build up a head of steam, beginning with a third place Iowa finish. Unlike Thompson and Paul, however, one can argue that McCain has a decent shot to make a run at New Hampshire like in 2000. And if he can come up with a victory there again... hold onto your seats. The old gray mare, she ain't what she used to be, but she ain't dead either.
When he'll pack it in: Similar to aging athletes, it's difficult to hang up the sneakers for good. He'll hang in there until February and then support the nominee. So much for my dream scenario.

Tomorrow, we finish with the top 3.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Iowa Polling Updates and Analyses

Iowa Caucus Analysis, December 10th
Here are the two major Iowa polls released this weekend. This clearly frames the upcoming week into two main stories.
1) Huckabee vs. Romney in an elimination caucus.
2) Clinton vs. Obama, with Iowa as a microcosm.

RepublicansFrom Mason-Dixon (December 3-6):
Huckabee - 32
Romney - 20
Thompson - 11
McCain - 7
Giuliani - 5 (!!!)*
Undecided - 19

From Newsweek (December 5-6):
Huckabee - 39
Romney - 17
Thompson - 10
Giuliani - 9
Paul - 8
McCain - 6
Undecided - 8

Analysis on Republican polls: Both Romney and Huckabee, as well as the rest of the Republican Party, surely know this - unless Rudy Giuliani completely falls apart in national polling, there is only room for one candidate to be strong enough heading into Super Tuesday to compete on a national scale. Romney and Huckabee also know that both of their hopes rest on Iowa. A second place finish for either one is unacceptable and is a prelude to a death knell in New Hampshire.

Romney needs a victory there because he has outspent the rest of the field combined in Iowa, and to still lose despite the money advantage would be a huge hit to his credibility in the subsequent primaries. Huckabee needs a victory because his recent appeal across the country has been directly related to his surge in Iowa. If he loses Iowa, it would presumably be because Iowa voters became disillusioned with him, and if a guy like Huckabee can't win a state like Iowa, then he is not going to win a country like the United States.

*An explanation of my exclamations. Giuliani is now consistently polling single digits in Iowa, placing fourth and fifth in most polls, and going in the wrong direction to boot. The cause of this, aside from him never having a good shot to win the state anyway, is that he has pulled money, staff, and other resources away from Iowa to deploy them in states (New Hampshire, Michigan, South Carolina) where they would be more useful. Be prepared to hear from the Giuliani campaign that they put very little effort into Iowa, which would serve as the explanation as to why the Giuliani message did not resonate with Iowan voters.


Democrats
From Mason-Dixon (Dec. 3-6):
Clinton - 27
Obama - 25
Edwards - 21
Richardson - 9
Biden - 5
Undecided - 11

From Newsweek (Dec. 5-6):
Obama - 35
Clinton - 29
Edwards - 18
Richardson - 9
Biden - 4
Undecided - 5

Analysis on Democrat polls: Examining the most recent results of the last seven major Iowa polls (Newsweek, Mason-Dixon, Strategic Vision, Zogby, American Research Group, Des Moines Register, Rasmussen) taken in the last two weeks, Obama leads four of them, and Clinton leads three of them. If you average the results of those seven polls, Obama leads by a miniscule 1.6 percentage points, practically meaningless in the world of polling data.

What makes this tightness all the more interesting is that these are becoming two decidedly different types of candidates. Not only do they clearly identify themselves as the candidate of change (Obama) and the candidate with experience (Clinton), but in the past few weeks, they have attacked the other for basically what their opponent is touting about themselves. Obama chides Clinton as partaking in politics as usual (experience), and months ago he famously referred to her as "Bush-Cheney light." Meanwhile, Clinton consistently blasts Obama as being drastically under-experienced (change) to be the President of the United States.

These two platforms are so strikingly different, yet in Iowa, the two candidates are fascinatingly tied in polling. Though Clinton still holds double digit leads nationally, losing to Obama in Iowa when they both are putting so much effort into the state would undoubtedly help Obama and hurt Clinton in votes, momentum, money, legitimacy, and undoubtedly other categories. Of course, it would not ruin her campaign, but in a primary that is shaping up to be the closest in a generation, even a slim Iowa loss would sting a lot more than Clinton would ever let on.

(And don't forget about John Edwards.)

Friday, December 07, 2007

The Week That Was in the Republican Race

Iowa Caucus Analysis, December 7th
Prepare for a two man slugfest in Iowa. Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee owned the headlines this week. The build up to Romney's speech on faith in politics, culminating in its delivery yesterday, earned him headlines for days, and thus far has earned positive reviews. Huckabee earned his news by pulling even or ahead with Romney in most Iowa polls. What was perhaps most startling was that a Rasmussen poll had Huckabee ahead of Giuliani in a national poll, which is the first time Giuliani has ceded such a position in any major poll since John McCain was the front runner near the end of 2006.

In sum, both Romney and Huckabee, who were already 1-2 in some order in all Iowa polls, have solidified themselves in those positions. Every major headline belonged to the two of them. Prepare for them to go at it hard over the next four weeks, as the Iowa Caucus is make-or-break for both of them, with Romney outspending Huckabee ten-to-one. The winner has a showdown with Giuliani on Super Tuesday.

Regardless of the winner, they might be worse off for their struggles. The reason for Romney slowing in Iowa polling AND Rudy Giuliani slowing nationally is not only because of Mike Huckabee's surge, but also because Giuliani and Romney, who both considered the other their chief rival, have been bickering for weeks. This turned off some voters and greased Huckabee's rise.

Now, if Romney and Huckabee bicker in the month of December, this could allow Fred Thompson or John McCain to make this a four candidate race. It also allows Giuliani to re-assert a stagnant campaign, without worrying about the usual concerns a national poll leader has to worry about, specifically being the recipient of salvos (see: Clinton, Hillary) from all the other candidates.

What to look for next week:

  • Candidates take shots at Huckabee's record as Arkansas governor. This will lead to several pundits asking, "Did Huckabee peak too soon?"
  • Giuliani makes his presence felt nationally again.
  • McCain and Ron Paul each pick up a point or two in Iowa and New Hampshire.
  • Fred Thompson remains lackluster and unimpressive.
  • Romney gets lead back in Iowa with a blitzkrieg of ads. (Could be later in the month)
  • Tom Tancredo still hates immigrants.
  • Duncan Hunter still needs to introduce himself, "Duncan Hunter... I'm running for President."

See you next week!

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Iowa's Possible Impacts on the Dems' Big Three

Iowa Caucus Analysis, December 6th
If you missed it yesterday, as part of my month long daily analyses, I gave some quick hits on five Democratic candidates' chances in the election. Suffice it to say, their chances weren't very good. Today, we examine the three candidates that have a realistic shot at being the Democratic nominee for President of the United States.

Crucial to the prediction game when it comes to Iowa are the unique Iowa Caucus rules that I wrote about on Tuesday. In sum, current Iowa polling data regarding the Democratic field are misleading as the "second choice" factors play no role in those polls. And it's those second choices that are keeping this next candidate as a viable possibility as the Democratic Party's nominee.

3. John Edwards (Odds - 7:1)
What he has going for him:
1) He was running 3rd or 4th in Iowa at this time four years ago (Dean, Gephardt, Kerry). He ended up second. This shows the ability to rally late, which he'll need to do.
2) He has the best results in nearly all head-to-head hypothetical polls against Republican candidates, meaning he is seemingly the most electable candidate in a general election. The millions of Democrats who have been frustrated with a Republican White House might keep this in mind in the voting booth.
3) No one seems to dislike him, especially Iowans. He's always mentioned at or near the top of the list of every Iowan's wish list. This can become a huge factor in the Iowa Caucus, because enough second choice votes can push him over Clinton or Obama, even if they earned more first choice votes.
What he doesn't have going for him:
1) He runs third in every national poll, and is as close to fourth place as he is to first, leaving Democratic voters across the country thinking it's a two-person race.
2) His greatest constituency, the working class and poor, have reasons to be attracted to his top rivals. Moreover, his African-American appeal, a huge factor in the Democratic Primary, is stunted by Obama's race and Hillary's spouse.
3) He's oh-for-one in national elections, and voters might not want to vote for someone who's already lost once on the national stage.
Worst case realistic scenario: A third place Iowa finish, cementing his status as third billing to Clinton and Obama. This "as-expected" finish gives him no boost heading into New Hampshire and Iowa, and Edwards fails to win a state before Super Tuesday, effectively ending his campaign.
Best case realistic scenario: An Iowa win changes everything. With a caucus victory will come loads of free coverage and an all of a sudden rallied Democratic base, who remembers that he's the most electable candidate, not to mention he's also a legitimate liberal. He'll see an immediate spike in New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina polls, possibly winning the latter two, destroying Obama's chances, possibly leading to Obama supporting Edwards. Three primary wins by Super Tuesday gives him the cash and publicity necessary to defeat Clinton on February 5th.

2. Barack Obama (Odds - 4:1)
What he has going for him:
1) Undoubtedly the most convincing platform for the millions of Democrats who want change in politics and Washington.
2) He's the chief competitor to the candidate that many Democrats feel will mobilize the Republican Party.
3) He's the only contender to have always been against the war in Iraq, which could prove to be the most significant issue for Democrat voters.
What he doesn't have going for him:
1) Viability to go toe-to-toe with a Republican in a national defense and foreign policy election.
2) If he finishes third in Iowa, a real possibility, he'll lose New Hampshire, and really be behind the 8-ball as the clock runs heading into Super Tuesday. I'll say it now. A third place Iowa finish submarines the Obama campaign.
3) The electability wildcard. It goes beyond skin color, though that might still be a factor. No sitting Senator has won an election since 1960, and none before that since 1920. He's only three years removed from the Illinois State Senate, meaning no executive experience and very little foreign policy experience - a bad combination.
Worst case realistic scenario: Third place Iowa, second place New Hampshire, fourth place Nevada (Richardson). That's the ball game. With only South Carolina and Florida remaining, and at that point first place would be extremely improbable in either one, the Obama campaign is on hold until 2012 or 2016, when you can assure he'd be back.
Best case realistic scenario: An Iowa win propels him to a New Hampshire win. Edwards is then toast and probably supports Obama, as does the rest of the field. Clinton pours all her money in Nevada and wins it, finishes second to Obama in South Carolina, and then takes Florida. It's neck and neck heading into Super Tuesday, and this chink in the Clinton armor convinces leaning voters to head over to Camp Obama and he wins a tight race.

1. Hillary Clinton (Odds - 7:2)
What she has going for her:
1) Bill Clinton is advising and campaigning for her.
2) She has the largest campaign warchest in the history of elections.
3) Her enormous lead has made her attractive to a lot of contributors and supporters, and if she wins the first two states, it's over. She's the only candidate of either party that can say that.
What she doesn't have going for her:
1) The Democratic Party has concerns that if she is nominated, Republican voters will be much more motivated to show up at the polls in November.
2) It's impossible to say what role her gender will play.
3) She is no one's second choice in Iowa or anywhere else. It's highly unlikely she'll sway as many undecideds as Edwards or Obama down the stretch, as those who like her have already pledged their allegiance to her.
Worst case realistic scenario: Iowa goes 1. Obama, 2. Edwards. Obama's momentum carries into New Hampshire, and Edwards spends everyday after Iowa in Nevada and wins the state. Obama and Edwards are both palatable to South Carolina and with that much success in the first three states, finish 1-2 there, as well. Clinton then has zero wins heading into Florida and Super Tuesday, meaning no undecideds come her way on February 5th and one of the two men win the upset.
Best case realistic scenario: She runs the table, and all it'll probably take is an Iowa win, and coupled with a New Hampshire win would absolutely put the field away.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Handicapping the Democratic Field

Iowa Caucus Analysis, December 5th
Last night, I read an article which reported on Newt Gingrich's handicapping of both primaries. Gingrich, whom I rank as one of the two most intelligent American politicians of my lifetime (with Bill Clinton), is already positioning himself to run in 2012, which I wrote about in September. Therefore, between that possibility and his partisan ideology, it's very difficult to accept his commentary on the race to the 2008 White House.

That's what you have me for.

Today, the Part 1 of the Dems. Tomorrow: Part 2. Next week, the GOP.

Candidates in reverse order (Note, constantly updated odds can be found on the left sidebar):

8. Mike Gravel (Odds: 1001 - 1)
One line says it all: If the seven candidates above him were to die, Gravel might start to register in some polling data.
How he can win: Convincing Satan to reverse global warming.
When he'll pack it in: After the Alaska primary on February 5th.

7. Dennis Kucinich (Odds: 500 - 1)
One line says it all: He's right about everything, but he looks like Gollum.
How he can win it: If the Democratic base decides to vote ideology over viability.
When he'll pack it in: Oh, he's in this for the long haul, and then he'll endorse the nominee.

6. Christopher Dodd (Odds: 30 - 1)
One line says it all: Aun si habla espanol, a nadie le importa y no puede ganar.
How he can win it: Change Presidential requirements from "Must be 35 years of age or older" to "Must be in government for 35 years or more." Even then, Biden probably beats him.
When he'll pack it in: Between the Nevada Caucus (January 19) and the South Carolina Primary (January 26) after failing to tap into Midwest Spanish-speakers, and before getting embarassed at a primary with a nearly 50% African-American turnout.

5. Joe Biden (Odds: 25 - 1)
One line says it all: No one is better prepared to handle foreign affairs than Joe Biden, and no one is quicker to exhaustively remind us of it.
How he can win it: Put all resources into Iowa and sleep there until January 3rd. Then, just then, might Joe Biden crack into double digits and a top 4 finish. And then just wing it after that.
When he'll pack it in: After the New Hampshire primary (January 8), when he has two fifth place finishes and nothing better in sight. He's a realist.

4. Bill Richardson (Odds: 18 - 1)
One line says it all: He's the only governor in the Democratic field, he's the only one with cabinet experience, he's served in Congress, he's from a swing stage, he's been an ambassador, he's bilingual... and he still can't poll double digits.
How he can win it: Top 3 finishes in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina, with top 2 finishes in Nevada and Florida. This would cause Edwards to drop by Super Tuesday, and Richardson would be about even with Obama, trailing Clinton. Obama and Clinton destroy each other in a cosmic battle from February 3-5.
When he'll pack it in: In the week after February 5th, after Super Duper Tuesday reveals he is not a contender... which I could have told him this summer.


Tommorrow: The Big Three.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

The Dems and Des Moines

Iowa Caucus Analysis, December 4th
The recent Des Moines poll still has political America in a tizzy. Obama's roaring, Hillary's vulnerable, and Edwards is fading. Thus spake the masses.

What if I were to tell you that an Obama-Hillary-Edwards finish is just as likely as an Edwards-Hillary-Obama finish? Or an Edwards-Obama-Hillary finish, or a Hillary-Edwards-Obama victory, or, well, you get the point.

See, what's consistently overlooked when it comes to the Democratic Iowa Caucus are the interesting rules attached to the contest. These rules are unlike any other primary of either party, including the Republican Iowa Caucus. The most important of these rules is: if a candidate doesn't reach a particular threshold (percentage of votes), the votes that were going to him go to the voter's "second choice."

Example: The threshold is placed at 15% (It's usually between 15 and 25). Only the three candidates end up exceeding that threshold. Richardson gets 8%, Biden get 6%, etc. The votes intended for Richardson, Biden, et. al get scattered into the top 3, depending on the voter's second choice. (Note: The reason for this is because Iowans want to make sure their votes go their top candidates and a viable candidate, if these two aren't the same person. Not that bad of an idea, especially when you think of the Nader dilemma in 2000.) In the 2004 Iowa Caucus, for example, only John Kerry, John Edwards, and Howard Dean earned national delegates to the convention.

Okay, so, what does this mean for 2008? Well, the Des Moines Register poll revealed:
Barack Obama - 28%
Hillary Clinton - 25%
John Edwards - 23%
No one else above 9%

Say that ends up being the numbers for the Iowa Caucus itself. Those first three numbers mean that 76% of voters have chosen one of the big three, and 24% have not. Therefore, 24% of the vote is still available to be divvied up among the top 3 candidates!

Therefore, second choice is hugely important in the Iowa Caucus. The question is: Who of the Big Three is the most popular second choice of those who are voting for someone not in the top tier? Who of the top 3 has the most support beyond those who are already planning on voting for them?

This will be examined throughout the month, but I think you at least know this: It's not Hillary Clinton.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Iowa Caucus Analysis, December 3

Iowa Caucus Analysis, December 3

(Note: This is the first of a month long series analyzing the 2008 Iowa Caucus of both parties. I should have something up by 9:00 each morning, including the latest polling data, so bookmark this site and come back everyday.)

Political junkies have been blessed in 2007, with an unprecedented impending vacuum of power in the primary season. From the latest polls, 2008 will not let us down. There's a reason Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani are not guaranteed the nominations of their respective parties. The reason is Iowa.

The Iowa Caucus is the reason Howard Dean wasn't running against George W. Bush in 2004. The Iowa Caucus is the reason there are 8-10 candidates in a non-incumbent field, instead of 2-3. The Iowa Caucus is the reason a half dozen candidates of each party think they have a chance to be nominated for President.

If a candidate is shrewd and astute, an Iowa victory can be parlayed into many more victories in the subsequent primaries, and often times a nomination. A stumble in Iowa? Just ask 2004 top money-raiser and national poll leader Howard Dean.

So, with the importance established, here comes the juicy stuff.

With only a month to go, Hillary Clinton has lost the Iowa lead to her top rival, Barack Obama.
With only a month to go, Rudy Giuliani is between 3rd and 4th in all Iowa polls. A guy named Mike Huckabee is first.

National polls, for the moment, mean nothing. Iowans don't care about them. The Iowa Caucus affects the national poll, not the other way around.

Therefore, because of Iowa, does a guy named Huckabee have a chance to be the next President of the United States? Yeah, after all, here's what I wrote about him last January. While the only Huckabees that 98% of the country was familiar with was from a movie title, I had him in my Top Four of Republican candidates.

"4. Mike Huckabee, former governor of Arkansas - Last May, when I outlined much deeper rankings of both parties, I ranked him #14 for the Republicans. Why the jump to #4? Well, let's start with who he leapfrogged. There was Tim Pawlenty and George Pataki, two governors who have shown little nationwide appeal. There was Rick Santorum and George Allen, young stars whose contracts with the devil expired on November 7th, 2006. There was Bill Frist and Jeb Bush, who announced their decision not to run. Also aiding his surge, of course, is Huckabee himself. Of late, I have seen him on CSPAN and The Daily Show outlining a platform that could very well win a primary and a general election. His stance that "Pro life doesn't end at birth," has potential to be the most groundbreaking political platform since Barry Goldwater's Neoconservative movement. Huckabee has potential for some crossover appeal while still being firmly entrenched as a right win politician. He's the closest thing Republicans have to Bill Clinton. They just have to figure out if that's a good thing or a bad thing."


My prediction? With his Clintonian record of taxes and immigration, it's going to be a bad thing. Iowa will move back to Romney.

But who knows? It's Iowa. There's so much more to talk about. See you tomorrow.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Explaining Huckabee

(Note: this is the 100th post of Presidential Politics for America!)
(Note #2: Five days until daily Iowa Caucus updates on this website.)

Okay, since my post last week, which came when the country was abuzz at the Huckabee surge, a few readers were questioning my dismissal of Huckabee despite the momentum being in his favor. One reader in particular was upset with my conclusion that Romney's final push, made possible by his fortune, is the reason he would win the Iowa Caucus over Huckabee's growing but incomparable cashflow. Why would money win out over issues?

The answer is uncomplicated. First, I should point out I don't dismiss Huckabee altogether, and as early as January, before most of the country even heard of him, I had him ranked fourth in the race. Still, as a blogger who tries to dryly write moderately in a country drenched of partisanship, it is clear to me that there are, at least, two sides to every issue. Every politician has an explanation for everything they've ever said in their life. Every politician has a way of twisting a rival's words. Here's the kicker - explanations always sounds reasonable if the voter is uninformed. If you're just waiting for someone to tell you what they think to fill the vacuum in your brain, that person will sound right. Without a second opinion or a reference point, you will always think the way you're being taught to think.

So when Mike Huckabee is on the campaign trail and speaks of being a true conservative, he sounds great. The problem was, when he became a contender in Iowa, rivals started paying attention. Competitors like Romney or Fred Thompson come around and start talking about Huckabee's record, and it's a different story. Yes, it is difficult to question Huckabee's social conversatism. His fiscal conservatism, however, has come under fire.

The point is, an undecided voter's head will spin from the spin. Who they end up trusting comes down to who can convince them. Who can convince them comes down to not only who makes the best case, but who makes the best case most often. That, my friends, comes down to who has the most money.

As we've surely learned by now, money, for better or worse, plays an integral role in the nomination process. Romney has more of it, and needs a first place finish, not a strong second or third, in Iowa to win the nomination. Simply put, he has more resources than Huckabee to make it happen and will win the Iowa Caucus at all costs. As written last week, the best Huckabee can hope for is a strong second.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Huckabee Surging in Iowa - Impacts?

As predicted by this blog after the Ames Iowa Straw Poll, Mike Huckabee is making a run at the Iowa Caucus. This just in from Real Clear Politics:

Republicans (ABCNews/Washington Post poll)
Romney 28 (+2 vs. last poll July 26-31)
Huckabee 24 (+16)
Thompson 15 (+2)
Giuliani 13 (-1)
McCain 6 (-2)
Paul 6 (+4)

Now, pundits across the country, in their classic insta-reactionary tradition, are taking Iowa away from Romney. If these prognosticators end up being right, even a second place Iowa finish effectively ends the Romney campaign.

Which is why it's not going to happen.

Romney will spend every last nickel of his billions of nickels to win the Iowa Caucus. If polls are still close by the end of December, Iowans can expect a blitzkrieg of ad-buys and "paid volunteers" unlike any in political history, and it'll be courtesy of Mitt Romney.

What's most interesting about the latest poll is not that Mitt Romney is losing control of Iowa polls, but rather that a Huckabee bump has meant national Republican frontrunner Rudy Giuliani has slipped to fourth in the country's opening caucus. FOURTH. Fickle voters in New Hampshire and beyond will need to be very sure of their Giuliani vote to support a candidate that showed so poorly in a classic benchmark state, especially when the story on every cable news network will be sinking their claws into (remember - insta-reactionary) is about a reeling Giuliani campaign. Every social conservative who barely convinced themselves to support Giuliani will run to the closest conservative competitor.

Meanwhile, Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee will both be spinning the heck out of their top finishes and can ride the resulting free coverage, momentum, and huge added influx of money into the other primaries.

December will be a fascinating month, which is why I'm doing this.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Iowa Caucus Analyses To Come...

Beginning on Monday, December 3rd, exactly one month before the Iowa Caucus, this blog will have short but daily posts concerning the official kickoff to the primaries. Here you will find the latest polls and my brief analysis of the constantly fluxing status of both primaries. Note that these will be more focused on the Democrats, not because of any political affiliation on my part, but because the Democratic Caucus in Iowa is too close to call. Mitt Romney will win the Iowa Caucus, but that will not stop me from making concomitant Republican analyses, specifically regarding runners up and potential effects.

Thirteen days until the posts begin. Barring any major events leading up to the date, I'll see you on December third.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Romney Gets Weyrich, Giuliani gets Robertson

Earlier today, on my weekly guest blog at 1% More Conscious, I discussed Paul Weyrich and his impact on the Republican primary. My conclusion, to keep it simple, was that it was the kind of endorsement that will inevitably propel Mitt Romney to the nomination.

Today, with the news of Rudy Giuliani earning Pat Robertson's endorsement, I should make it clear I do not back off my belief that Romney will garner the GOP's nomination just because Giuliani got a similar endorsement.

The difference is clear: A social conservative who morally couldn't vote for the pro-choice Giuliani will not do so simply because Robertson endorsed him. It's a moral issue to them. If anything, they'll start to question Robertson's conservative loyalty and agenda.
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