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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.

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