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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

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