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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.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Very interesting and well written, but why do you have Romney's odds so good still?

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