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Thursday, August 16, 2007

The Edwards Reallocation

I've received a couple questions about what I think about John Edwards' decision to de-prioritize Nevada in his campaign. Here is my response...

John Edwards, no stranger to being the first to do something in the Democratic field (see: sticking it to Fox News, universal health care plan), has recently announced his intention to reallocate resources (funds, personnel, etc.) from Nevada in response to the shifting of the early primary schedule. This marks the first time a campaign has directly reacted to South Carolina's decision last week to move up its primary a full two weeks. Famously, South Carolina's decision will coax New Hampshire and then Iowa to each move up their dates in order to maintain their prestige and value as the country's first primary and caucus, respectively. Thus we see the reasoning behind Edwards' decision and I completely agree with it.

The likely order of the caucuses and primaries (Iowa, New Hampshire - after they officially moves up - Nevada, South Carolina then Florida in January, then about 20 states on Super Tuesday, February 5th) dictates that any candidate not named Clinton or Obama must make a splash in Iowa, as both Clinton and Obama are expected to do very well in New Hampshire regardless of the Iowa results. Therefore, if Clinton and Obama finish 1-2 in both of the first two states, they will finish 1-2 in all of those states before Super Tuesday.

John Edwards' lead in Iowa has been steadily slipping. Voters across the country are looking at the dominant national numbers of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama and find themselves gravitating towards those two, as if they don't have a choice anymore. Moreover, as outlined in the last paragraph, the morning after Iowa could very well limit the Democratic primary to a two-candidate race. Therefore, it's absolutely imperative that even the idea that it's a two-candidate race is obliterated after the Iowa caucus. A John Edwards victory, one that is very attainable by the way, considering he's in first or second in all Iowa polls, would shake the Democratic faithful. His status as the field's most progressive and electable candidate would dominate the headlines.

This is why Edwards' lead slippage in Iowa is so significant. If this pattern holds, and Clinton wins Iowa and then does battle with Obama in New Hampshire, Edwards will become an afterthought. A second place Iowa showing and a third place New Hampshire showing will mark the end of the Edwards campaign. It is essential that he wins that Iowa primary. Therefore, moving resources out of Nevada to Iowa makes all the sense in the world.

Furthermore, a likely scenario is that Edwards' victory in Iowa propels him to a victory in Nevada anyway. Labor loves him and Nevada is all about labor. The reason his numbers are subdued there is because Democrats across the country, Nevada included, sees this as a two-candidate race and therefore it'd be pointless to support any candidate but Clinton or Obama. Nevada is just looking for a reason to support Edwards. A win in Iowa would give them just that reason. An Iowa win, couple with a strong showing in Nevada, probably brings Edwards success in South Carolina, his home state's backyard. Then it's Edwards with the momentum heading into Super Tuesday, not Clinton or Obama.

So do I agree with the Edwards decision? Yeah, I do, and I would have told him to do this last weekend.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

The Huckabee Resurgence

What a difference a poll makes.

In one day, Mike Huckabee jumped from a crowded second/third tier to fringe first tier status. In one day, he jumped from 20-1 to 15-1 in The Line. In one day, Mike Huckabee made the first best case to be the "conservative alternative."

The conservative alternative is what's missing from the Republican top tier. Mitt Romney has inconsistencies on his conservative resume. Rudy Giuliani is socially liberal and doesn't apologize for it. John McCain has worked with many-a-Democrat to pass bills. Fred Thompson is unannounced and has a spotty conservative record.

The shortcomings of those four men have always left room for a tried and true conservative candidate to join them. While each of those men have tried to make cases that they are the most conservative and loyal to Republican values, there have been a group of men below them who have undoubted conservative records. If any of these men could establish themselves as an alternative to the Big Four, money and support would steadily grow.

California Congressman Duncan Hunter, endorsed by Ann Coulter, was one of these men, but without name recognition and any way to raise competitive funds, he never had a chance. Ditto to Tom Tancredo, a Colorado Congressman, and former Minnesota governor and cabinet secretary Tommy Thompson, who dropped out earlier this week.

Ron Paul, of course, is the Republican that fiscal conservatives are fawning over, not to mention Democrats, and by extension, the media. His debate style, not to mention his much publicized cash on hand after the second quarter, made him a legitimate sensation in the Republican Party. Unfortunately for Paul, three things are continually forgotten when people get excited about his candidacy. First, his blatant hatred for the war in Iraq is still unpopular in the party. Second, his stinging comments towards President Bush's administration won't work in the primary, as 60-70% of Republicans still support the President. Third, while his fan base is undoubtedly passionate and will stick up for him until the cows come home, in the end they only get one vote each. Just because you like your candidate more than other people like theirs does not mean your vote carries more weight. Paul is still low single digits in state and national polls. He will not get the nomination.

For a while, it seemed as if Senator Sam Brownback had the best chance to join the top tier. As the only Senator outside of the Big Four, Brownback had the unique combination of foreign policy experience, voting on national issues, as well as being a devout and passionate social conservative his entire career. Moreover, Kansas' proximity to Iowa gave him a nice base to win the first caucus of the primary season. The Ames Iowa Straw Poll was his chance to prove that he was the conservative alternative the party had been waiting for.

But someone else took the mantle.

Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Mike Huckabee. Here's what I wrote on June 7th, when I had him ranked 7th on my Republican Power Rankings.

"His authenticity impresses me. He seems genuine, he seems bright, he seems southern, he seems religious, he seems conservative, and he speaks articulately and honestly. Indeed, he seems like a great candidate for the GOP. So why isn't he higher? The man can't fundraise, finishing way back with only half a mil in the first quarter."

His second quarter wasn't much better, raising only about 750k.

However, his chief weakness, his inability to fundraise with Giuliani and Romney sucking up all the oxygen in the arena, might not be as weak anymore. His strong and overachieving second place showing in the Iowa Straw Poll has all but given him the conservative alternative label. In all likelihood, this victory puts him in line for more money and national name recognition. This of course greatly helps Huckabee across the country, but also shows Iowa voters who their fellow Iowans are supporting, using August as a reflection point come January. A Huckabee top two showing in January's Iowa caucus is necessary for a Huckabee nomination.

Finally, what remains to be seen is how much this second place finish helps him. Of course it'll help him, but what kind of boost will it be to his fundraising and poll numbers? I've moved him from 20-1 to 15-1... but if I see some Iowa and national polls consistently showing him in the top 4, he'll see 12-1 or 10-1 in no time. How will the Republican voters of the country respond?

We'll see.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Iowa Straw Poll Results

Iowa Straw Poll Results

1. Mitt Romney: 4,516 votes
2. Mike Huckabee: 2,587 votes
3. Sam Brownback: 2,192 votes
4. Tom Tancredo: 1,961 votes
5. Ron Paul: 1,305 votes
6. Tommy Thompson: 1,039 votes
7. Fred Thompson: 203 votes
8. Rudy Giuliani: 183 votes
9. Duncan Hunter: 174 votes
10. John McCain: 101 votes
11. John Cox: 41 votes

Despite having no legal or binding impacts, the Iowa Straw Poll can affect a Republican field. It's a barometer of the candidates' standing thus far in their campaigns, and a legitimate precursor to the first caucus of the year, the Iowa Caucus, to take place in early January.

Here's a look at the impact these results have on the Republican candidates.

San Brownback - One of three candidates likely to be the next to drop out, Brownback's third place showing is worse than it looks. With Rudy Giuliani, Fred Thompson, and John McCain using no resources in Iowa, other candidates had the opportunity to show a strong second place to Mitt Romney. Thanks to the doubtful conservative credentials of the top tiered Republicans, the tried-and-true conservative constituency is still up for grabs. This was the chance for Brownback, a life-long conservative, to secure those voters, and he did not. Someone else did, which might have signified Brownback's last best shot to become a contender.

John Cox - In a party that has allowed a whopping ten candidates to appear in national debates, the fact that John Cox was not allowed goes to show you the legitimacy of his candidacy. And if that doesn't do it for you, mind the last place finish in the ISP.

Rudy Giuliani - Giuliani put no resources into Iowa, realizing he'd probably lose to Romney. Therefore, if he didn't try to win Iowa, the reason he didn't win was because he didn't try, not because Romney would have won even if he did. (Follow that?) Giuliani will still lead national polls, though Romney will close on that lead. It's interesting to note that, though Giuliani's 8th place finish without trying isn't a disappointment in itself for his campaign, the fact that unannounced candidate Fred Thompson beat him out, despite similarly putting no effort into the straw poll, can't be a good sign for things to come for America's Mayor.

Mike Huckabee - This was the biggest winner of the Iowa Straw Poll, despite the second place finish. If you ask this blogger, the Republican debates have been won by Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee. Romney is a calculating, consistent (of late) debater and doesn't make a mistake, but still rattles some conservatives for past socially liberal statements. Huckabee, I feel, is the genuine article and means exactly what he says. As a governor and Baptist minister, he's developed an impressive ability to articulate issues and voters are responding. His second place showing was an enormous boost to a campaign that was stuck in neutral (which was better then other candidacies stuck in reverse). Now we wait to see if Huckabee can ride this momentum and become the conservative alternative to the top tier, and perhaps even join them in top tier status.

Duncan Hunter - He insists he's in this for the long haul, despite the hideous 174 vote showing. He's calling the ISP the beginning of a marathon and if he decides that having no money is not a death knell in a campaign, than technically he can stay in it until the convention. Still, the Hunter campaign is effectively over, and hopefully he comes to that realization soon. He's one of the three candidates likely to be the next to drop out.

John McCain - Tenth place, next to last to John Cox, with 101 votes. Sure, maybe he put no effort into winning the Iowa Straw Poll, but appearing that low on the results is yet another hit to a struggling candidacy. How much more embarrassment can this proud man take?

Ron Paul - He's still Ron Paul. His supporters are fervent and Democrats are pulling for him. Of course, main stream Republicans are terrified. This set of circumstances means that Paul will never be better than middle of the pack.

Mitt Romney - Romney's domination of the Iowa Straw Poll was completely expected, and therefore not nearly as big of a victory as the numbers show. With Giuliani, Fred Thompson, and McCain not even trying to win the ISP, Romney was supposed to trump the field while the second and third tier candidates jockeyed for a strong second place finish. Still, a win is a win, and Romney should see a slight bump in numbers across the country. The Iowa Straw Poll results are a great example of what Romney is trying to accomplish. His allocation of resources in Iowa and New Hampshire is already making him money elsewhere, as the media coverage of the ISP will attract voters and money across the country, despite him not spending any extra cash outside of those two locations. Once he wins the Iowa caucus and New Hampshire, primary, his national numbers will take off.

Tom Tancredo - He's one of the three candidates who might be the next to drop out, though Tancredo, as a one issue candidate, might stay in as long as possible. He does not expect to win the nomination. He expects to keep immigration on the table as a debate point as long as possible. Therefore, despite low, single-digit support across the country, and an unimpressive bank account, he could stay in for a while. The pleasing fourth place finish in the Iowa Straw Poll is a small boost, and he should last until the Iowa caucus itself.

Fred Thompson - He has yet to officially enter the race and put no resources into the ISP. Pay no attention to the low numbers. If you're curious about the Fred Thompson candidacy, check this out.

Tommy Thompson - The impact of the ISP was obvious. He dropped out.

One Thompson down...

1. James Gilmore
2. Tommy Thompson
3. Duncan Hunter
4. Tom Tancredo
5. Sam Brownback
6. Mike Huckabee
7. Ron Paul
(Fred Thompson)
8. Rudy Giuliani
9. Mitt Romney
10. John McCain

Predictably, Tommy Thompson showed poorly in yesterday's Iowa Straw Poll, and promptly became the next man to drop out of the GOP primary. It's helpful to have one less impossible candidate in the debates and forums, giving more time to those who actually have a shot to win (Are you reading this Mike Gravel?). It's also helpful to have Tommy Thompson to drop out three weeks before Fred Thompson, for fear of exploding heads. Now we wait to see which of three men (Hunter, Tancredo, Brownback) drop out next.

More on those and three and other revelations of the Iowa Straw Poll to come later today.
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