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Tuesday, January 08, 2008

The Republicans and New Hampshire

(Quick addendum to yesterday's Democrat post: A new South Carolina poll from USASurvey has Barack Obama up TWENTY on Hillary Clinton, 50-30, after a 20 point bump. Meanwhile, a USA Today/Gallup national poll has Obama even with Clinton at 33, after rising 6 points while Clinton dropping twelve. Translation: Friday's prediction continues. Obama is the Democratic nominee.)

While the Democrats begin to coalesce around Barack Obama, the Republican race is as open and exciting as ever. Despite Romney's hit, even he can claim a reasonable path to the Republican nomination, though he's the least likely of the four viable candidates to succeed in this task. Let's take a look, one by one.

Rudy Giuliani is no longer waiting for a challenger on February 5th. Rudy Giuliani is hoping to be the challenger.

The three major polls taken since the Iowa Caucus show that Rudy Giuliani's national lead is gone. Who's the average national poll leader for the GOP now?

It's Mike Huckabee, who edges out McCain and Giuliani. Is the importance of Iowa finally clear to everyone? True, his national lead isn't massive. In fact, some recent national polls have John McCain still ahead, and undoubtedly there are some minor polls showing Giuliani clinging onto his lead. Still, Mike Huckabee, running in fifth place nationally two months ago, is now leading the race.

But so was Giuliani and so was Hillary Clinton for the Democrats, so what can we expect from this new poll leader?

Answers wait in New Hampshire (today) and South Carolina (January 26). Huckabee will definitely survive until South Carolina, but the same can't be said for all of his rivals. The two guys expected to beat him in the Granite State desperately need a victory today.

Ultimately, New Hampshire is an elimination match for Mitt Romney, who even with a New Hampshire win, now has to bank on the unprecedented and unpredictable early Michigan primary to make a comeback. (More on that later in the week.) He's grasping at air, though. If John McCain wins New Hampshire, it is expected by many, including this blogger, that McCain will go on to finish in the top two in South Carolina and win the Republican nomination.

Mike Huckabee, though, will still compete well in South Carolina, regardless of the New Hampshire primary, and the same cannot be said for McCain nor Romney. If Huckabee wins in South Carolina, he'll be the healthiest candidate to move on to Super Tuesday.

It's then Mike Huckabee vs. Rudy Giuliani on Super Tuesday and beyond, which would pit a smooth talking, southern Baptist, social conservative against a tough talking, aggressive, New York social moderate. The Republican Party would then make the decision that could define the party for years to come. Are their priorities with social conservatism (Huckabee) or foreign policy aggression (Giuliani)? With President Bush, Republicans never had to make that choice. If Huckabee squeezes into the final two against McCain or Giuliani, they will.


As for other GOP candidates:
Fred Thompson - What a bust of a campaign. If a fifth (sixth?) place New Hampshire finish (Behind McCain, Romney, Huckabee, and a combination of Giuliani and/or Paul) doesn't get him out of the race, a subsequent fourth place South Carolina finish (Behind Huckabee, McCain, and Romney) will. He's waiting for Southern primaries to get his momentum going, but there are two problems with that. 1) South Carolina comes after Iowa, New Hampshire, Wyoming, Nevada, and maybe even Michigan, so it'll be too late to make a move; and 2) Huckabee unexpectedly cornered the southern market.

Ron Paul - Uh oh, I didn't include Ron Paul as a viable candidate. I must not be paying attention. I must be a conservative trying to stop Paul's minority ideas from spreading. No comment spam, please. Paul supporters: Your guy did not do as well as you said he was in Iowa, nor will he in the rest of the country.

Duncan Hunter - The audacity of this guy to tell the media that he was having a "major news conference" yesterday, only to announce he was pushing forth in the race. Just for that, I hope he doesn't win any states and polls at one percent nationally.


I'll see you back here tomorrow when I break down the New Hampshire results. Finally, Democrat and Republican Predictions for New Hampshire:

Democrats:
1. Obama - 42
2. Clinton - 29
3. Edwards - 19
4. Richardson - 5
5. Kucinich - 4
6. Gravel - <1>

Republicans:
1. McCain - 35
2. Romney - 29
3. Huckabee - 14
4. Paul - 10
5. Giuliani - 8
6. Thompson - 3
7. Hunter - 1

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