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Friday, January 18, 2008

Nevada, South Carolina, and the GOP

Today is the Nevada Caucus for both parties. However, while the Democrats wait until next Saturday to hold their South Carolina Primary, the Republicans give us that treat a little early, making it the first multi-primary day for either party.

To see the Democratic preview for the Nevada Caucus, check out yesterday's post. Now onto the GOP.

Over the last ten days, I've spoken at length about the Republican situation. A brokered convention has not been this real of a possibility in sixty years. There's only one person who can stop this primary from heading into March (Texas Primary) or beyond into May and June (last few minor primaries) or even September (convention).

John McCain - McCain, like Hillary Clinton for the Democrats, is most likely to rally consistent base voters, to wrangle party elders, to call in favors, to win big on Super Tuesday and to put an end to the brokered convention talk on both sides. Neither candidate on either side can possibly have an insurmountable lead on February 6th except Clinton and McCain, and even those are unlikely. This is a departure from recent presidential cycles, when you could practically be guaranteed a runaway nominee by the day after Super Tuesday.

McCain's path to a romp on Super Tuesday involves winning two of Nevada, South Carolina, and Florida, and he is the only one with potential to win all three. Romney has recently taken the lead from McCain in Nevada, McCain and Huckabee are tied up in South Carolina, and McCain, Romney, Huckabee, and Giuliani are all running within a handful of points of each other in Florida.

So, potentially, McCain could finish in second in all three races (even lower in Florida if he does indeed finish second in the previous two) and this thing would be as close as ever on February 5th, but he's also the only one that could win all three and put away the rest of the field.

Mike Huckabee - Any Democrat who has temporary bouts of preferring a Huckabee presidency over a McCain or Romney presidency needs only to be reminded of how far right Huckabee is on social issues. Two stories to come out in the last week should unnerve most of the moderate and liberal voters in the country. In his endeavor to get back on track with a South Carolina win, Huckabee has defended the Confederate flag and equated gay marriage with bestiality. Huckabee has also made explicit suggestions that the Constitution should be amended to liken the Christian "God's standards," which would mean banning abortions and making a federal amendment banning gay marriage.

So no, he can't win a general election with that type of extremism... but he just won over the plurality of Republican South Carolina voters.

Mitt Romney - His renaissance in Michigan gave Romney a couple of choices. With fresh legs, he could go do battle in classic South Carolina, where Huckabee and McCain would both be trying to get back in the win column. Or he could cede that state and campaign uncontested in the lesser known Nevada Caucus, a state that actually will be awarding more delegates. Therefore, he pulled his resources out of South Carolina in order to compete with McCain in Nevada. He's done more than that, and has taken a couple sizeable leads in the polls, and with McCain unable to punch back due to his presence in South Carolina, Romney's Nevada lead should be safe, and another primary win is imminent, as is an extension of his lead in the delegate count.

Rudy Giuliani
- The wait for the January 29 Florida Primary has been excruciating for Giuliani and his supporters. It's like a sports team playing half a season without their superstar, and just trying to stay within striking distance for when he comes back. Florida is Giuliani's superstar, only if that superstar might not come back at full strength or ever be the player he once was. Florida is Giuliani's Pedro Martinez.

Fred Thompson - Could you imagine if Thompson still had not thrown his hat into the ring? He'd be the most popular candidate! And if there indeed was a brokered convention, he could enter the race at the convention itself and have as a good of a shot as any candidate. However, he did in fact enter the race, and his numbers declined almost immediately. He'll finish fifth in Nevada, fourth in South Carolina, and he'll pull out of the race as early as his concession speech on Saturday night.

Final predictions for both parties:

1. Romney
2. McCain
3. Huckabee

South Carolina
1. Huckabee
2. McCain
3. Romney
4. Thompson

Combined result: McCain, the favorite, finishes second twice, and his national lead shrinks.

1. Clinton
2. Obama
3. Edwards

Result: Clinton reclaims her inevitability status... until Obama takes it again in South Carolina... until Clinton takes it for a third time in Florida.

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