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Friday, December 28, 2007

Latest Iowa Poll

Iowa Caucus Analysis, Friday, December 28th
(Note: I refuse to talk at length about the assassination of Benazir Bhutto and its effects on the presidential primaries, as many have done in the last 24 hours. I was a huge admirer of hers, and her death is just a little too fresh to talk about American political ramifications. In one sentence, the ramifications on the Democratic primary will be negligible, while McCain and Giuliani could get a small boost for the Republicans. The general election, however, is a different story for a different time. We'll get to the role of Pakistan, India, Islamic terror, nuclear arsenals, and Al Qaeda in a few months. Trust me, I have a lot to say. On with the show.)

The Iowa poll of the day, from New Strategic Vision, taken over the last two days.

Democrats
Obama 30 (no change vs last poll Dec 16-18)
Clinton 29 (+2)
Edwards 28 (+1)
Biden 5 (nc)
Richardson 2 (-1)
Dodd 1 (nc)
Kucinich 1 (nc)
Undecided 4 (-2)

The poll is representative of most Iowa polls these days. Obama, Clinton, and Edwards are bunched up within the margin of error, while all the other candidates are far back. These standings are becoming further solidified with each passing week. In this poll, for example, no numbers have fluctuated beyond a couple percentage points. What has transformed over time, however, is by how much the big three are leading. They continue to separate from the pack. Fourth place has fallen all the way back to 5%, while fifth place is at a miniscule 2!

What this tells us is that the top three will not fluctuate much in the Iowa Caucus, even after the first round of voting. There are not many undecideds to win, nor will there be many second choices to seduce because nearly 90% have decided on one of the top three. Basically, we are flying towards a finish that looks something like:

Obama - 33
Edwards - 32
Clinton - 30

with some diehard Kucinichites and Doddheads holding strong onto their candidate despite their lack of viability.

So the question I am forced to ask is how the national media would cover such a finish. Is a Clinton 3rd place finish like the one above really that much of a loss? She would only be out of first by three percentage points. In a state that has 57 delegates up for grabs, which go into the eventual pool of 3,515, the above scenario would mean Obama gets 19 delegates, Edwards gets 18, and Clinton gets 17. There would only be a two delegate difference between Obama and Clinton, with 3,458 still up for grabs across the country. Yet I think we know how the media would play it up.

"Obama Wins! Hillary Back in 3rd Place!" This then give the momentum to Obama heading into New Hampshire. The responsibility, or lack thereof, of the media after the Iowa Caucus will play a direct role in the electing of our next President. That's a whole blog in itself. Maybe next week.

Republicans
Huckabee 29 (-2 vs. last poll Dec 16-18)
Romney 27 (+2)
Thompson 15 (-1)
McCain 14 (+6)
Giuliani 4 (-2)
Paul 4 (-1)
Undecided 6 (nc)

Has Huckabee peaked too early? A Romney victory is now better than ever for the former Massachusetts governor. If Romney comes back to win the state after being down for most of December, it would be much more meaningful to Republicans than if he had outspent the field and won going away. Before, all Romney could have hoped for was an "as expected." Once expectations were lowered, however, it was possible to beat them, thus earning even more momentum in New Hampshire. A Huckabee second place finish, meanwhile, would be disappointing after being in first by so much, and might end his viability, with New Hampshire and South Carolina probably going to other candidates.

It's also notable that McCain had a 6 point pop, and since he's spending time in Iowa this week, he could be looking at a 3rd place finish, which is a nice moral victory for the McCain campaign. Such a better-than-expected showing could translate into a New Hampshire win, and possibly status as the frontrunner.

That happened pretty fast, didn't it?


Next week is going to be fascinating to follow. I hope to see you all back here for the final push.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Clinton, Obama, Edwards: Who's Most Electable?

Iowa Caucus Analysis, Thursday, December 27th
With one week to go before January 3rd's Iowa Caucus, the contenders for the Democratic nomination are sticking to message. Hillary Clinton is the candidate that can take over on Day One. Barack Obama will bring the country together. John Edwards has experience fighting and defeating interest groups in Washington.

However, if you pay attention, there is one other key ingredient to all of their stump speeches. Each of the three claim that they have the best chance to go up against the Republican nominee in November. So let's examine that. Which of the three has the best chance against Republican candidate X on November 4th, 2008?

Hillary Clinton
Pros - For the bulk of 2007, Clinton has been the only candidate to temper her votes and words on the Iraq War, gearing up for a general election. She has positioned herself as a foreign policy moderate so as not to suffer the same fate as the last few northern Democrats who were not able to rally any support from the South or Midwest. She has appeared aggressive so as not to let the electorate think she is a dovish woman. She has consistently touted her experience in foreign policy, claiming to be the most ready candidate of the top tier.

Cons - Her argument as the most electable candidate can be questioned. As written by this blog on numerous occasions throughout the year, Hillary Clinton unites the right. Democrats will turn out to vote regardless of their nominee next November, however no Democratic candidate turns out the Republican vote like Clinton. Her infamous unfavorable statistics have held strong all year, while her favorables fluctuate in the forties. This was always the concern for Camp Clinton. Too many people have already made up their mind about her, and not enough of those people are on board for her to win a national election.

Barack Obama
Pros - Since bursting onto the national scene at the 2004 Democratic Convention, Obama has predicated his entire candidacy on overcoming partisanship. His messages of change and hope resonate with the Democratic base, but also have the ability to siphon off Republican votes from the GOP nominee. Most importantly, the independents are much more likely to be motivated by an Obama candidacy than a Clinton candidacy.

Cons - First, the superficial truth that is disappointing but existent. In the 2006 elections, every battleground Senate race went to the Democrats except Tennessee, the southern state where a black Democrat was running. Harold Ford Jr. told Tennessee everything they wanted to hear, but the state went Republican. Ford should have had a better chance than all of his Democratic colleagues who won. He was a good looking, bright, articulate candidate who spoke the language of Tennessee, and he was moderate, even conservative on many key issues important to the state. But he got beat by a white non-incumbent who allegedly played the race card in a political advertisement.

The Tennessee Senatorial election might be an omen for the Obama campaign. Look at Virginia in 2006, where Democratic challenger Jim Webb defeated incumbent Senator George Allen by a 1% margin. If Webb were black, however, could you not say with near certainty that Allen would have kept his seat? If Webb were black, wouldn't his 1% margin of victory have been in the other direction and possibly larger?

And how many states, in an election that will probably be as heated and close as the last two, might that play enough of a role that the state ends up in the red column, along with the balance of its electoral votes?

Moving away from aesthetics, an argument can be made that if McCain or Giuliani get nominated, Obama's chances take a hit. He'll have to go toe-to-toe against a candidate whose party owns foreign policy elections, deservedly or not. Edwards and Clinton, each with at least a full Senate term in their belts, probably fair better in such an election. A McCain-Obama showdown in a national security debate could be a blowout, especially after McCain's recent momentum push as the news from Iraq improves.

John Edwards
Pros - The last three Democrats in the White House were Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter, and Lyndon Johnson, from Arkansas, Georgia, and Texas, respectively. All southern states. In fact, only two Democrats from north of the Mason-Dixon line (JFK and FDR) have been President in the last eighty-five years. Yesterday, Edwards made a direct reference to the recent Democratic presidents being southern when he said, "The last two Democratic presidents, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter, both talk like me." And this is to say nothing of the fact that the last 42 people to be President have been white men, unlike the two candidates above Edwards on this list.

Cons - In a general electability argument, there are not many cons for John Edwards. Yes, he voted for the Iraq War, but so did lots of Democrats at a time when the majority of the people wanted action. Edwards has since admitted the vote is a mistake he will have to live with for the rest of this life, and you cannot ask much more of him in that regard, as he has been a vocal critic of the war for the last couple years. The biggest con for Edwards' electability case is that without winning the nomination, he has no shot at the general at all.

Verdict
Clinton is the least electable of the three, there is no doubt about that. Her assertion that she has the best chance to go up against a Republican is erroneous.

Obama can make the case that he is the most electable. The race factor occurs only in states that John Kerry did not carry anyway. Those are states that were red and would stay red with Obama on top of the 2008 Democratic ticket. All Obama has to do is swing a couple of those red states where race is not as much of a factor in order to get 270 electoral votes. The inexperience factor is a wildcard, but never forget that Obama is the only candidate on either side that can say he has never supported the War in Iraq, which would be huge with independents.

Edwards probably has the most convincing electability argument. It can be argued that he is the only candidate on either side that actually puts all fifty states in play, though Rudy Giuliani might have a thing to say about that. Here is the crux of the argument: since it is highly unlikely that a 2004 blue state goes red in 2008, the Democrats' best chance in this election is to nominate a candidate that can subdue Republican voter turnout in the red states. That candidate is John Edwards.


Until tomorrow.

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.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christmas Gift: More Iowa Links.

Happy Holidays to the appreciated readers of President Politics of America. My gift to you is a batch of links from the last twelve days of Christmas. (Feel free to re-gift!)


Monday, December 24th
The Iowa Holiday Armistice


Friday, December 21st
Some developed thoughts on the tight three-way Democratic primary.

Thursday, December 20th
A pat on the back and analysis on the Tom Tancredo drop out.

Thursday, December 20th
A look at VP candidates for four potential nominees.

Wednesday, December 19th
A look at VP candidates for three potential nominees.

Tuesday, December 18th
Boiling down every GOP candidate to one sentence.

Monday, December 17th
Analyzing the difficult situation the Republican candidates are in.

Friday, December 14th
An analysis of the most recent polling data available at the time.

Thursday, December 13th
The links for the rest of the month of December.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Temporary Iowa Truce; Endorsements to Come

Iowa Caucus Analysis, Monday, December 24th

Every four years, in Decembers prior to presidential primaries, there are several days of politically predetermined placidity in the middle of maniacal mayhem. For the several days preceding and including Christmas, there is an uneasy and unofficial truce between candidates. This truce, this unspoken agreement, this purposefully temporary armistice, states that the candidates will let people enjoy the holidays, because berating them with more commercials or canvassers is not only inelegant, but probably hurtful to their campaign.

And so we wait. We wait for the eye of the hurricane to pass. Beginning on Thursday the 27th, there is exactly one week of news left to report before the Iowa Caucus. The caucus is on Thursday, January 3rd, where all the polling data and hypothetical scenarios are replaced with voters actually casting votes.

Next week, on Wednesday morning, this blog will be endorsing a Republican for President. On Thursday morning - a Democrat. And then we wait for exit polls, news reports, and hopefully by the end of the night, results from Iowa.

Finally.
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