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Monday, January 07, 2008

The Democrats and New Hampshire

If we were to just take a look at the numbers, we'd see that to call Iowa's Democratic delegates a drop in the bucket would be doing an injustice to buckets everywhere. Take a look:

Delegates won, thus far, by Barack Obama: 16
Delegates won, thus far, by Hillary Clinton: 15
Delegates needed to win the Democratic nomination: 2,209

(The Republican race is similar, though the delegates needed for victory are nearly cut in half and Mike Huckabee won by a larger margin. That primary will be addressed tomorrow.)

So, with Iowa fading from the rearview mirror and New Hampshire growing larger through the windshield, what is the status of the Democratic Primary and its six remaining candidates?

It simply boils down to this: Barack Obama overwhelmingly wins the "Change Vote," and most of the voters are for change. It's mathematics. I'm not saying Hillary Clinton didn't do a good job marketing herself as the "Ready" candidate who's prepared to take over on "Day One." I am saying that 70% of the Democratic and Independent electorate doesn't seem to care, which means she's not winning the primary election, and she's certainly not winning one against the Republican survivor.

However, if Clinton did win New Hampshire, she'd be right back in it. Primaries are all about momentum. The problem for Clinton is that she won't win the New Hampshire primary because the momentum belongs to Barack Obama. Both Rasmussen and CNN have Obama shooting out to double-digit leads in the state, to say nothing of USAToday/Gallup giving him a 13 point lead.

And it doesn't end there. Franklin Pierce University, Strategic Vision, the Concord Monitor, each have him up. The American Research Group has him up by a dozen.

Translation: Between the Iowa momentum, the Independent vote (addressed Friday), and these new polls, only one conclusion can be drawn: Barack Obama is winning the New Hampshire primary.

Then, since a major poll hasn't been taken in Nevada since Clinton was up there in very early December, it's reasonable to think Obama can use tomorrow's New Hampshire primary to make an eleven day spin into January 19th's Nevada Caucus. Even if he only finishes a strong second to Clinton there, South Carolina is a week after that, and it's safe to say that African-American voters, whom in 2004 made up half of the vote in the Democratic Primary, will run to Obama now that they see he can actually win the thing. With 75% or all early primary states under his belt, he should be able to dethrone Clinton as the favorite in states across the country for Super Tuesday.

A potential and unlikely wildcard in both states is John Edwards, who has influential labor ties in Nevada and geographical ties in South Carolina, to say nothing of his strong popularity among black voters. Edwards, however, has been effectively eliminated with a distant second place finish in Iowa. He needed all the attention and money that goes with an Iowa victory, and instead of being lauded for finishing ahead of the Clinton Machine, all headlines went to Obama's win and Clinton's stumble.

At the debates this weekend, it seemed Edwards decided to continue to attack Clinton. This was because her vulnerability is obvious, while Obama seems invincible. Edwards, a candidate of change like Obama, will try to take down Clinton and make it a two-man race with Obama. Easier said then done. Edwards does not have the ammunition or the funds to cut into the top two Democrats, but he'll hang in there until Super Tuesday.

Bill Richardson, while having no discernable strategy or potential for success, will also stay in it until February. While he must feel good about being the fourth and final candidate included in the New Hampshire debates, surely he realizes that stealing a couple of Southwest primaries on February 5th does little more then to add up to maybe a hundred delegates.

But if he wants to show Latinos across the country that a Latino is running for President with the big boys, then that's his right.

Similarly, Dennis Kucinich is inspiring quixotic liberals everywhere, but there's nothing unique about that sort of candidacy. When he'll bow out is irrelevant, but he might go deep into February himself before dropping out and endorsing Obama, as he did in 2004 before endorsing Kerry.

And I refuse to spend more than twelve words on Mike Gravel.

Check back tomorrow for the Republican race.

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