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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.)
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