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Saturday, January 05, 2008

Huge Obama Bounce in New Hampshire

This in from a Rasmussen poll:

Obama 37 (+9 vs. 12/18 poll)
Clinton 27 (-4)
Edwards 19 (+1)
Richardson 8 (no change)

Furthermore, as explained on this blog yesterday, the Independent vote will be huge in the New Hampshire Primary. Rasmussen predicts that Independents will be 40% of the voters, and in that category, Obama has a 16 point lead.

So be prepared for Obama 2, Clinton 0.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Iowa Caucus Results Analyzed

Iowa Caucus Analysis, Friday, January 4th
(Note: The odds have been updated on The Line on the lefthand sidebar.)

Republican Implications
The Romney Rejection

The Republican Iowa Caucus was a referendum on Mitt Romney.

The Iowa Caucus results, found here, helped three of the four viable Republicans. Mike Huckabee, clearly, is thrilled with the nine-point win. All eyes will be on New Hampshire polls to see what kind of bounce Huckabee has earned with the victory. A nine-point victory over Romney, when Romney spent nearly twenty times as much money in the state, is a significant development heading into the New Hampshire Primary. Romney poured much of his personal fortune into Iowa, aiming for no less than first place. He outspent the entire field combined, and still lost by nearly double digits.

Romney's stumble greatly helps John McCain. McCain was battling with Romney for first in New Hampshire, and Huckabee's shellacking of Romney is a great help to McCain's chances. The Romney underachievement in Iowa, while McCain did an as-expected fourth place, will hurt Romney's New Hampshire numbers while aiding McCain's. The Huckabee win gets the former Arkansas governor a strong third place showing if not a second over Romney. If Romney does indeed finish third or lower in New Hampshire, it's time to pack it up.

Giuliani is another who should be pleased with Huckabee's success, as Huckabee is the Republican candidate least likely to compete with Giuliani in the big primary states, specifically California, New York, and New Jersey.

For those keeping track, of the four viable GOP candidates (Giuliani, Romney, Huckabee, McCain), Iowa helped three of them (Giuliani, Huckabee, McCain) and hurt one (Romney). Ultimately, it seemed that Iowa was indeed a referendum on Mitt Romney. John McCain summed it up best in his concession speech last night.

"You can't buy an election."

Maybe it's not true in all cases, but it was in Iowa, and it's about to be in New Hampshire.

Democratic Implications
President Obama

An eight-point win? Did anyone see that margin of victory coming?

Maybe history did. One cannot ignore the parallels between yesterday's Iowa results and the Iowa results from four years ago. Hillary Clinton's big lead evaporated, just like Howard Dean's. Barack Obama benefited from a late surge, just like John Kerry. John Edwards came in second, just like John Edwards.

Most importantly, what's about to happen may follow a similar parallel to 2004. There is about to be a rush to Obama, from candidates dropping out and endorsing him, to the already long donor list getting longer.

I expect Barack Obama to win New Hampshire, which I'll further detail below. Nevada's up in the air, but then I expect Barack Obama to win South Carolina as well. Very possibly, Hillary Clinton will not win a legitimate Democratic primary state before February 5th.

Then let's see if that national lead holds up.

Iowa's Impact on Everything
The North's Polls

Most anticipated polls to come this weekend:
1. New Hampshire Democrats
2. Republican National
3. Democratic National
4. New Hampshire Republicans

Up Next: The New Hampshire Primary
The Coveted Independents

Barack Obama will win the New Hampshire primary for two reasons. First, the obvious: the momentum from the Iowa Caucus will carry over. Second, and most important, New Hampshire has a quirky rule which is as significant as the Iowa second-choice wrinkle. In New Hampshire, a registered Independent can walk up on primary day and register with one of the two parties to partake in the primary elections. On their way out, they can switch back to Independent.

This nearly always helps the candidate that most excites and mobilizes the independent voters, a constituency around which Obama's campaign is geared. Any poll taken in New Hampshire that did not include the Independents can be thrown out. Obama gets a huge bump if you include them.

This was evidenced in Iowa. Among Democrats who voted last night, Obama only defeated Clinton 32-31. Among Independents, however, Obama won 41-17, with Edwards earning 23 to once again provide the meat to Obama and Clinton's bread.

Obama's surging campaign probably subdues the Republican ability to draw in Independents for their election. Independents don't seem to be leaning towards the GOP in the election cycle yet, but if they do, it's either because of Huckabee inspiring win or McCain's recent resurgence.

More bad news for Romney.

I'll see you here on Monday to wrap up Iowa and further break down New Hampshire. Have a great weekend.

Mike Gravel In

My last post was erroneous. CNN incorrectly reported that Gravel had dropped out.

You know, it's the media's fault he won't compete in New Hampshire now.

Full length post coming within 90 minutes.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Mike Gravel Out

This just in from the Department of FINALLY, Mike Gravel has dropped out. Thanks for the laughs.

Dodd and Biden Drop Out

Joe Biden and Chris Dodd have dropped out after finishing a distant 5th and 7th (Dodd lost to the the dark horse Undecideds), respectively. They polled a combined 1%.

Joe Biden must be considered the favorite for Secretary of State in a Democratic administration. Dodd, if he wants a new job, can consider making a run at Jodi Rell for Connecticut's governor's mansion.

Still waiting on Mike Gravel, Dennis Kucinich, and Duncan Hunter to join them. Richardson, Thompson, and Paul will hang on until at least Super Tuesday.

It's Here! Iowa Questions and Predictions

Iowa Caucus Analysis, Thursday, January 3rd

This blog started just over a year ago. In my third blog post, on January 17th of last year, I ranked the Republican contenders. This is what it looked like:
1. John McCain
2. Mitt Romney
3. Rudy Giuliani
4. Mike Huckabee

That's looking pretty good, wouldn't you say?

Back up even more to my first blog post, titled Resisting Temptation. I outlined why Barack Obama should not run, despite Democrats swooning from his 2004 Convention speech. My reasoning, aside from the questionable electability of the inexperienced African-American, was that an Obama candidacy effectively eliminated every other candidate from the Democratic Primary, save Obama and Hillary Clinton. Here's what I wrote in December 2006:

"He's taking all the oxygen away from the other candidates who will be looking to get off the ground... no one else will be able to make a run at Hillary’s money, and I can’t see a good Democrat wanting Hillary to be the nominee either."

Well, I was right and I was wrong. With the exception of Edward's fringe viability, no candidate ever stood a chance to raise the funds necessary to compete, but I never thought that Obama would have a legitimate chance to be President of the United States. However, I failed to believe this at the time: Obama can win the whole thing. That thought has been dismissed. He could become the Democrat that could make a legitimate run at Clinton. Now everyone is asking this question:

"Can Obama overcome the Clinton inevitability?" is just one of the intriguing inquiries that will begin to get answered by today's Iowa Caucus. Here's a quick look as some other fascinating questions for today and the rest of the primary.

"Can John McCain possibly pull this comeback off?" In May, I guaranteed John McCain would win the Republican Primary. I'd feel better about that if I hadn't, like everyone else, written him off this summer. On the left sidebar, I dropped him to as low as 20-1 in The Line, before steadily moving him back up after he didn't go away. This July, he had nothing going for him. Now? A lot of people consider him the favorite.

"Will the Democrats be short-sighted enough to nominate Hillary Clinton?" A Clinton nomination rallies Republicans to the polls more than any other candidate. Everyone knows this. Does everyone also make the connection that more Republicans voting for the Republican nominee translates to more Republicans voting for for the House and Senate? So not only does a Clinton nomination endanger the Democrats' chances of regaining the White House, but it also increases the risk of losing the majority in both houses of Congress.

And yet, they will more than likely nominate her. They better be prepared to lay in a bed they make.

"Can Rudy Giuliani win the nomination via the unprecedented route of not caring about the early primaries?" Rudy Giuliani will not finish in the top 3 in Iowa, New Hampshire, or South Carolina. No candidate with those results has ever gone on to win their party's nomination. His strategy of waiting until the big states (he polls extremely well in Florida, New York, New Jersey, and California) to do well holds potential but, as it is unprecedented, not a sure thing. The possibility remains that the Republicans coalesce around one of the other three candidates after the first handful of states, knowing they need one man alone to compete with Giuliani. Candidates that drop out endorse this challenger, and the undecideds run to him. With no momentum, Giuliani's numbers collapse.

However, if Giuliani hangs on, it'd change traditional primary strategy indefinitely.

"Can Mike Huckabee come out of national obscurity in the last six weeks before the Iowa Caucus to win the nomination?" Will this give legitimate hope to every candidate that polls in single numbers all year round? If Huckabee holds onto Iowa today, finishes a strong third in New Hampshire, and first in South Carolina, it will be his social conservatism taking on Rudy Giuliani's social liberalism for the nomination of the socially conservative party. Two months ago? Most of the country never heard of him... though I thought he was a top four contender last January.

"Can John Edwards rally the Democratic Party with an Iowa win?" The Democrats do not yet realize what they have in front of them. They have an angry, progressive, religious southern Democrat with foreign policy experience and a history fighting special interest groups. It's like the perfect Democrat (note: not the perfect liberal) was created in a machine and out came John Edwards. Yet he cannot get noticed outside of Iowa because of the political machines that are Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. An Iowa win could chance that.

"Can Mitt Romney run the table in the early primaries to re-establish the two-man race with Giuliani?" Once the best bet to take on Giuliani, Romney's Iowa-New Hampshire spendathon is now in danger of becoming the Huckabee-McCain shoestring successes. With Romney's Mormonism becoming less of a problem, it's his wishy-washiness and willingness to attack his Republican brethren that are worrying GOP voters in the early states. So he just keeps pumping the airwaves full of ads hoping to distract them long enough to build momentum by Super Tuesday.

"Can ANY of the following candidates finish top three in Iowa, New Hampshire, or South Carolina: Ron Paul, Joe Biden, Fred Thompson, Mike Gravel, Chris Dodd, Dennis Kucinich, Duncan Hunter, Bill Richardson." With the possible exception of Fred Thompson: No.

Finally, predictions I have little faith in.

Iowa finishes:
1. Edwards
2. Obama
3. Clinton
4. Biden
5. Richardson
6. Dodd
7. Kucinich

1. Romney
2. Huckabee
3. McCain
4. Paul
5. Thompson
6. Giuliani
7. Hunter

1. Clinton
2. Obama
3. Edwards

1. McCain
2. Giuliani
3. Romney

See you tomorrow for the results and implications of the Iowa Caucus!

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Iowa Recap

Iowa Caucus Analysis, Wednesday, January 2nd
Tomorrow is the Iowa Caucus. Nothing is left except the voting process. Seemingly the only updates are that Edwards has slipped in a CNN poll to ten points back, while Romney has re-asserted himself as the Iowa frontrunner for the GOP.

Until tomorrow, enjoy the links.

Tuesday, January 1
Odds for the Republicans.

Monday, December 31
Odds for the Democrats.

Friday, December 28
Analysis of polling data.

Thursday, December 27
Clinton-Obama-Edwards electability argument.

Wednesday, December 26
Republican breakdown.

Tuesday, December 25
Previous links.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Updated Presidential Odds (Republicans)

Iowa Caucus Analysis, Tuesday, January 1st
Happy New Year.

On with the show.

Republican Candidates (Democrats yesterday.)

4. Mike Huckabee (Odds on nomination - 9:2)
Rank among Republican Top Four to win Iowa: 1
Rank among RTF to win New Hampshire: 3
Rank among RTF to be ahead by Super Tuesday: 3
Rank among RTF to be leading after Super Tuesday: 4
Reasoning: Iowa and New Hampshire are talked about more than any other early contest, but High Noon for Mike Huckabee is South Carolina. If he holds onto his Iowa lead, he has a chance to make a run, even after a third place finish in New Hampshire. However, if McCain wins New Hampshire, Huckabee cannot withstand McCain riding that bounce into a South Carolina win. Huckabee needs Iowa AND South Carolina to compete on Super Tuesday. If Romney comes out on top in Iowa, whether he outspent Huckabee twenty to one or not, Huckabee's campaign is essentially over.

For Huckabee to compete with Giuliani on Super Tuesday, it is absolutely essential that he be the clear cut conservative alternative. That means neither Romney nor McCain can have any viability left on February 5th. If either of those men take two states, it's enough to sink Huckabee's chances.

3. Mitt Romney (Odds on nomination - 4:1)
Rank among Republican Top Four to win Iowa: 2
Rank among RTF to win New Hampshire: 2
Rank among RTF to be ahead by Super Tuesday: 3
Rank among RTF to be leading after Super Tuesday: 3
Reasoning: Similar to Huckabee, but not as desperate. Romney can still win Iowa. If he does, he's winning New Hampshire, too. If he wins that, he can win South Carolina. If he does that, he's the Republican nominee. The upside is enormous.

But what if he doesn't win Iowa? Then the dominoes don't fall in place. Romney is unique among the candidates as he is the only one who has the potential to win both Iowa and New Hampshire. Huckabee's win in Iowa just means he sews up the 3 spot in New Hampshire and can compete in South Carolina. McCain, at best, places third in Iowa, and needs to win New Hampshire to take South Carolina. Romney, if he comes out on top on any one of those states, is looking like the best chance to take on Giuliani in February and beyond.

However, the most likely scenario is Romney finishing second, second, and third. Still, he's the only one that could go first, first, first.

2. John McCain (Odds on nomination - 7:2)
Rank among Republican Top Four to win Iowa: 3
Rank among RTF to win New Hampshire: 1
Rank among RTF to be ahead by Super Tuesday: 2
Rank among RTF to be leading after Super Tuesday: 2
Reasoning: Can the comeback of the century be completed? McCain, who this summer was counted out by pundits across the country, has come roaring back into contention. His resurrection campaign has been one of slow but building momentum. It can peak this month with a third place Iowa finish and first place New Hampshire finish catapulting him into South Carolina and beyond as savior of the party.

If Mike Huckabee is the favorite of the social conservatives, McCain is undoubtedly the favorite of the foreign policy conservatives, the hawks who support the war in Iraq (a majority of Republicans do) and was the most outspoken advocate for the troop surge which has since slowed the bad news coming out of Iraq. The Republican Party can easily be rallied around this war hero who is old as dirt but has as much experience and leadership as anyone in the GOP. They'll laud his honesty and conviction and stance on social issues, while ignoring his cross-party ties and maverick status.

But first thing's first. A New Hampshire win is an absolute must for McCain. Anything short of that and his campaign is over.

1. Rudy Giuliani (Odds on nomination - 3:1)
Rank among Republican Top Four to win Iowa: 5
Rank among RTF to win New Hampshire: 4
Rank among RTF to be ahead by Super Tuesday: 4
Rank among RTF to be leading after Super Tuesday: 1
Reasoning: He's still the favorite and the new primary schedule is why. The unprecedented weight of Super Tuesday makes national poll leaders still very competitive. Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani, despite their steady decline in the early state polling, should still be considered favorites because of the enormous states they will carry on February 5th.

Yesterday, the Giuliani campaign released a memo that reminded us of some indisputable facts.

Fact #1: Up until January 29th, there will be 78 delegates awarded in the early primaries.
Fact #2: From January 29th (Florida) to February 5th (Super Tuesday), there will be 1,039 delegates awarded.

Now, look at the polling numbers in some of the most sizeable of the states.

Giuliani vs. Closest Opponent
Florida: 30% - 17%
California: 29% - 15%New Jersey: 38% - 12%New York: 40% - 12%

Giuliani, if he wins by those margins, would win hundreds of delegates just in those four states. Therefore, while the three candidates above Giuliani on this list duke it out in the early states to win, maybe, 40 delegates, Giuliani can win 30-35% of Super Tuesday for a healthy 300-350, while all the other seven candidates divvy up the other 70% between them.

So the question becomes, can one other candidate rise enough to win at least 25% of the vote to hang with Giuliani for the rest of the primary calendar? The only way this happens is if one of them performs head and shoulders above the other candidates in the early primaries, and since it's so heated and competitive, it seems unlikely. As said by this blog last week, Huckabee's rise was the best thing to happen to Giuliani.

Finally, let me say this: Never, in the last thirty years, have we been as likely for a brokered convention, which might be the most exciting event in politics. This will happen if no candidate earns 50% of the delegation by the end of the primaries. It's probably not going to happen, but even the chance of a Republican brokered convention is enough to make any pundit swoon.

See you tomorrow when I'll talk about who knows what.

Two days.

Monday, December 31, 2007

Updated Presidential Odds

Iowa Caucus Analysis, Monday, December 31st
We don't need an MSNBC headline to tell us it's too close too call. We know that. We're going to see dozens of polls between now and Thursday, each varying in percentage points and leaders. They'll all say the Democrats are in a three way dog-fight for first in Iowa and that Romney and Huckabee are going back and forth for the GOP, with McCain and Thompson fighting for third. They'll all say the same thing, just in different orders. So, this week, you're not getting any polls on this blog because they're all pointless. The next poll I'll report on is the Iowa Caucus itself.

For now, just analysis and predictions. Who's in the driver's seat in each party for Thursday's caucus? For the nomination? Let's break it down. Democrats today. Republicans tomorrow.

Democratic Primary ScheduleThursday, January 3 - Iowa caucus
Tuesday, January 8 - New Hampshire primary
Tuesday, January 15 - Michigan primary*
Saturday, January 19 - Nevada caucus
Saturday, January 26 - South Carolina primary
Tuesday, January 29 - Florida primary*
Tuesday, February 5 - "Super Tuesday." 20 states, including California, New York, Illinois, New Jersey, and Massachusetts

*Will not technically count, but the momentum factor is impossible to be gauged as it is an unprecedented situation, and will, for the sake of this blogger's sanity, be ignored.

Democratic Contenders
3. John Edwards (Odds on nomination - 5:1)
Rank among Democratic Top Three to win Iowa: 1
Rank among DTT to win New Hampshire: 3
Rank among DTT to be ahead by Super Tuesday: 3
Rank among DTT to be leading after Super Tuesday: 3
Reasoning: John Edwards has the best chance to win Iowa, for the following reasons:

1. He has the best change to earn the second-choice votes that are so crucial in the Iowa Democratic Caucus.
2. He has the best chance to make a late surge in this final week, similar to 2004.
3. He is most likely to get votes from those who have not been motivated enough to make themselves heard so far in the Obama-Clinton battle, not to mention those who have been turned off by the constant Obama-Clinton bickering.

But Edwards can't just win Iowa. He has to win convincingly in Iowa. He has to win by at LEAST five points in order to turn the victory into momentum. It's looking like the results will be too close for an Iowa win to be any more than a few thousand votes.

If, however, he can win by 5+ percentage points, he'll have the entire weekend to spin the big win, meaning major headlines for the Sunday papers and morning political shows, both free coverage for the campaign, hugely important because of the bank rolls of the Clinton and Obama campaigns. This then leads into Tuesday's New Hampshire primary, where Edwards only has to show a strong third, though if Obama finished third in Iowa, Edwards might take second from him.

A second or strong third in New Hampshire means he can compete in Nevada (labor ties) and South Carolina (geographical ties). Once Democratic voters are convinced this is a legitimate three-way race, you will see a LOT of undecideds run to Edwards. After all, they were probably undecided because they didn't like Clinton or Obama.

But this all must start with a convincing Edwards win on Thursday. A narrow win isn't nearly as helpful, and a second or third place finish eliminates him from viability.

2. Barack Obama (Odds on nomination - 3:1)
Rank among Democratic Big Three to win Iowa: 2
Rank among DBT to win New Hampshire: 2
Rank among DBT to be ahead by Super Tuesday: 1
Rank among DBT to be leading after Super Tuesday: 2
Reasoning: Barack Obama has the second best chance to win Iowa, for the following reasons:

1. He should get more second choice votes than Clinton, as her unfavorability among voters who are not intending to vote for her are high.
2. He has a very passionate voting base ready to support and recruit on Thursday as caucus goers step out of their cars.
3. Never forget that there are Iowans who do their part simply by voting on voting day and nothing else. Those aren't Obama voters. Obama voters are passionate, outspoken, and have made themselves known in all these polls already. He won't get the voting day pop in numbers that Edwards will get.

If Obama were to win Iowa, a few wins should follow, including a New Hampshire victory the following Tuesday, and a South Carolina later in the month. And if Obama wins all of the early primary states, the country will follow on Super Tuesday. In fact, come Super Tuesday, Obama must be leading the delegate count in order to defeat Clinton's massive national lead.

If, however, Obama were to finish third in Iowa, and Clinton were to win it, the reverse would happen, and Clinton would do the early sweeping and Super Tuesday winning. Clearly, Iowa is overwhelmingly important. It seems as if the only way Clinton and Obama are both alive after Iowa is if Edwards does not finish between them.

1. Hillary Clinton (Odds on nomination - 5:2)
Rank among Democratic Big Three to win Iowa: 3
Rank among DBT to win New Hampshire: 1
Rank among DBT to be ahead by Super Tuesday: 2
Rank among DBT to be leading after Super Tuesday: 1
Reasoning: Of the three viable Democratic contenders, Hillary Clinton is least likely to win the Iowa Caucus for the following reasons:

1. There is no reason to think her numbers will get any higher than the recent Iowa polls. Her polling average's standard deviation has been in a gradual declination for months.
2. Obama and especially Edwards are expected to earn all second choice votes from voters who reluctantly but inevitably leave Biden, Richardson, Kucinich, and Dodd on caucus night.
3. No undecideds will decide on Hillary Clinton.

Clinton will have a top two finish in New Hampshire regardless of her Iowa finish. However, if a second place finish in New Hampshire is coming on the heals of finishing below Obama in Iowa, then she has problems, as that's all South Carolina needs to run to Obama, meaning Clinton finished behind Obama in three states, if not Nevada as well, heading into Super Tuesday.

Of course, though realistic, that path is not a sure thing at all. If Clinton finishes ahead of Obama in any primary, she's more than healthy enough for Super Tuesday. Her national lead is still formidable, with double digit leads in all of them, and some over twenty points. Super Tuesday state like California has her with double digit leads, while New York and New Jersey have her up by over 30.

So it seems that as long as she stays in one piece, that is to say, as long as Obama or Edwards don't finish ahead of her in every early primary state, she has a firewall on February 5th to take a lead in the delegate count. If it's still close between her and one of the gentlemen after Super Tuesday, that will be the first time in recent memory that a primary has been significant beyond that event. (Among others, Virginia, Texas, and North Carolina would still be remaining, where Clinton would not be expected to do well against Edwards, but let's not get ahead of ourselves.)

Three days.

Check back tomorrow for the Republican candidates.
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