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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:

Republicans
Nevada:
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.

Democrats
Nevada:
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.

The Democrats and Nevada

For the Democrats, tomorrow's Nevada Caucus will break the longest wait of the Democratic Primary season, as no meaningful votes have been cast since the New Hampshire Primary back on Tuesday the 8th.

For the Republicans, tomorrow is the first multi-state voting day that either party has seen, when both Nevada and South Carolina Republicans show up to their precincts to try and provide clarification to a race that has seen three major primaries won by three different candidates.

So tomorrow's a big day. Let's take a look at how each candidate is shaping up heading into it, as well as tomorrow's possible ramifications. Today I'll take a look at the Democrats, and tomorrow the Republicans.


Nevada is more important than most realize. Famously, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have each won one state a piece, and their delegate difference it negligible. Moreover, the last two major Nevada polls disagree on who's up in the state, just as most of the nation disagrees on who's up in the country. Therefore, the Nevada Caucus will temporarily put an end to the tie that's lasted for ten days. American Research Group has Clinton up three while Research 2000 has Obama up two. Nevada, as the first primary in ten days and the last one for a week, will be a fairly accurate barometer of where the race stands between the two seemingly even candidates.

Both Clinton and Obama, however, have a probable buffer if Nevada does not go their way.

Hillary Clinton - Her labor ties and husband's strength with Latinos should give her a small Nevada victory. However, if she did not win, the New Hampshire victory at least ensured that her lead in the big Super Tuesday states should hold. Unless Obama earns sizeable wins in both Nevada and South Carolina, Clinton will be a leader on February 6th, it's just a matter of by how much. She should and will win Nevada, which will ensure that she stays the favorite for the next couple weeks. She also has the superdelegate buffer if things really do make it to the convention, but that's a column for a different time.

Barack Obama - Obama will win South Carolina next Saturday, which means tomorrow's Nevada Caucus could either be the beginning of a great run or a quickly corrected hiccup. Obama would love to open up a lead in the delegate count by Super Tuesday, as he desperately needs to cut into Clinton's California, New York, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey leads. His goal is to be alive on February 6th. So far, he's on that path, but he needs to stay competitive in Nevada tomorrow. He can lose, but if it's by too much, a South Carolina win goes from probable to questionable, and the nomination becomes doubtful.

John Edwards - Edwards looked great in the three-person debate, never seeming as legitimate of a candidate since his eggs-in-one-basket strategy failed with a second place finish in Iowa. It would not be a surprise to see a moderate bump in his polling if he can finish a competitive third in Nevada, and a competitive third he is running in the last two major polls (C35-O32-E25, C30-O32-E27).

Check back for the Republican preview of tomorrow's Nevada and South Carolina votes.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Presidential Power Rankings (Part 2)

Now, on to the conclusion of the Presidential Power Rankings. Part 1 was posted on Monday. Remember, these are the rankings for most likely to be the next President.


3. Hillary Clinton - I really don't like her chances in a general election, but she's got a 50/50 shot at being a nominee, and only one other person of either party can say that. If she somehow lucks into a contest against Huckabee or Romney, she should win the election when VP nominee Richardson brings over New Mexico and Florida and the rest of the electoral map stays the same.

In the Democratic nomination process, the Obama-Clinton duel is the definition of a toss up. Clinton currently holds solid leads in national polls, but it'll be a close race in Nevada this Saturday, which gives Obama more credibility. Then Obama will win South Carolina to further dig into Clinton's national lead which Senator Obama has been softening since the end of December.

When it comes time for Super Tuesday, Obama will have a small lead in the delegate count. The national polls will then be about as reliable the infamous New Hampshire polls, meaning either one has a legit shot at coming out on top, and in the unlikely event that one of them dominates (note: this domination could only be from Clinton and her strength in NY, NJ, and California), the race is alive at least until March 4th.

2. John McCain - Last night's Michigan loss was disappointing, but by no means backbreaking. Simply, a Michigan win would have put McCain in position for a South Carolina win. Those two wins would have resulted in a runaway McCain nomination. All the second place finish means is that McCain's road to victory becomes a bit more difficult. South Carolina is a three-way race with Huckabee and Romney. The winner of that will be the leader heading into Super Tuesday, but as long as McCain doesn't finish at a distant third, he will remain the favorite.

Ultimately, McCain is the candidate that the Republican Party can rally around easiest. For eight years, he's been the third most visible face of the party, after President Bush and Vice-President Cheney. He's been at the front of a war that is still popular with Fox News and the party. He led a troop surge which has quelled violence. He has a record that is more conservative than many think, though isolated maverick forays like McCain-Feingold have always been a trademark considered undesirable in the Republican Party.

In a general election, John McCain is the favorite over Hillary Clinton. With Republicans coming out in full force to vote against Clinton, the Democratic ire of the last five years will be negated and they'll break even with voters registered with one of the two parties. Then it becomes a battle for the center, and Independents love McCain, while Clinton's unfavorables among non-Democrats are notorious. With John Edwards' non-viability, there's only one candidate from the Democratic Party that can compete against McCain in a general election.

1. Barack Obama - The 2008 general election will be won in the middle, in between the trenches. No candidate since Clinton appeals to the moderates of this country like Barack Obama does now. His continuing rhetoric about making America whole again appeals to every Independent and moderate who could not bring themselves to join the bitter partisanship that has developed in this country since the 1994 Republican revolution. Obama has untapped potential to attract moderate and young voters, meaning he could defeat almost any Republican that the GOP nominates.

Almost.

Only two things stand in the way of Senator Obama getting the chance to transform the nation from the Oval Office: the two people above him on this list. Enough has been written about the Clinton-Obama duel. What could shape up to be a very interesting general election is Obama vs. McCain. It's hope vs. reality. Rhetoric vs. straight talk. Liberal vs. conservative. Domestic agenda vs. foreign policy. It's the yin vs. yang of America, and you couldn't pick two better candidates to represent the balance and articulate their side. Moreover, they are the two candidates that most appeal to the center. The two candidates have the integrity to only speak to the issues and have a great debate about the direction this country needs to go.


Tomorrow I'll take a look at Nevada and South Carolina.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Michigan Results Analyzed

Son of a gun. So Romney's back in it and McCain's chances have taken a hit. Are we headed for a brokered convention?

Mitt Romney's win in Michigan means that he, Mike Huckabee (Iowa), and John McCain (New Hampshire) have earned a win in each of the first three major primaries (Wyoming can be glossed over, but that went to Romney, too). And of course there's Giuliani's strength in the big states lurking for February 5th. So who's the favorite?

Is it...

Mitt Romney? - Second in Iowa, First in Wyoming, Second in New Hampshire, First in Michigan. No other candidate's numbers look nearly that good. Plus, his breakthrough win in Michigan might make South Carolina a three-way race with Huckabee and McCain. So why isn't Romney the clear favorite? It just seems like the GOP is fighting his nomination. He poured money into Iowa. He poured money into New Hampshire. He did that for nearly all of 2007 and he lost both states. All it took was very little campaign time for Wyoming and Michigan to garner wins for Romney. It seems anyone who's overexposed to Romney ends up voting for someone else, and it's unlikely Romney doesn't write more huge checks to buy add time in South Carolina.

Rudy Giuliani? - Rudy Giuliani has been a non-factor in every primary, and this will continue in Nevada and South Carolina. He remains competitive in Florida, California, New York, New Jersey, and a handful of mid-sized states. The problem is he continues to fall in these polls after every horrendous showing in an early primary, and this will continue after finishing out of the top four in Nevada and South Carolina on this and the following Saturday, respectively. There's a strong possibility that he loses his lead in every sizeable state except New York and New Jersey, and a smattering of smaller states like Connecticut and, well, just Connecticut. Those three states, though they will add up to over a hundred delegates, will not be enough to make a run, though they could be enough to stop a Republican nomination.

Mike Huckabee? - Huckabee still should be considered the favorite in South Carolina. He should still be considered the favorite for much of the Midwest and Deep South. He should still be considered the favorite for winning the far right social conservatives that often steer the Republican Party. But should he be considered the favorite for the Republican nomination? I don't see how he can be. His appeal outside of the Midwest and Deep South is limited, evidenced by third place finishes in New Hampshire, Michigan, and his earning of zero delegates in Wyoming. The larger states with more metropolitan areas are more likely to opt for one of the other three candidates. No candidate can win without winning cities and big states, which does not bode well for the Huckabee campaign. He'll need a South Carolina and Florida win if he wants to see those larger states choose him over McCain and Giuliani.

John McCain? - Last night's Michigan loss was disappointing, but by no means backbreaking. Simply, a Michigan win would have put McCain in position for a South Carolina win. Those two wins would have resulted in a runaway McCain nomination. All the second place finish means is that McCain's road to victory becomes a bit more difficult. South Carolina is a three-way race with Huckabee and Romney. The winner of that will be the leader heading into Super Tuesday, but as long as McCain doesn't finish at a distant third, he will remain the favorite.

Ultimately, McCain is the candidate that the Republican Party can rally around easiest. For eight years, he's been the third most visible face of the party, after President Bush and Vice-President Cheney. He's been at the front of a war that is still popular with Fox News and the party. He led a troop surge which has quelled violence. He has a record that is more conservative than many think, though isolated maverick forays like McCain-Feingold have always been a trademark considered undesirable in the Republican Party.


John McCain is the favorite for the Republican nomination but is by no means a lock. Unless some power brokering occurs behind closed doors, this primary will last through March, and maybe April, May, and the Republican convention.

So here's to a Huckabee South Carolina win and a strong Giuliani showing on Super Tuesday.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

What's the Deal With Michigan?

When a plethora of states decided to have more influence in the primary elections, most state parties decided to push up their primary voting days to the earliest allowed date by the national parties: February 5th. In fact, it looks as though 22 states will be voting on that Super Tuesday. Some state parties, however, told the national parties exactly what they could do with their earliest allowed dates. Those states - primarily Michigan and Florida - picked out dates in January.

In order to keep structure, the national party needed to discipline these states, but it was up to each party to decide how.

In Michigan, which votes today, the Democratic National Committee opted to strip all of Michigan's delegates from the primary process, though the nominee might choose to re-award the delegates for the convention, when it will not matter. So while Michigan Democrats do in fact vote today, their votes do not count, and they can thank their state party for it. Furthermore, all contenders except Hillary Clinton have withdrawn their name from the ballot due to Michigan's maverick move in front of the February 5th allowance, further marginalizing their primary.

The Republican's penalty was lighter, penalizing Michigan only half its delegates. That means, instead of the 60 delegates that Michigan normally sends to the Republican Convention, they will only be awarded 30 seats. Considering Iowa sends 40, Wyoming 12, New Hampshire 12 (post penalty), and Saturday's Nevada Caucus 34, Michigan's 30 still carries some weight for the GOP, even with the penalty.

Therefore, it is time to examine how today's Michigan Primary will affect the GOP race, while we can understandably ignore the inevitable Clinton win for the Democrats.

Here is how the delegate count stands after Iowa, Wyoming, and New Hampshire (Note that delegates needed to win are 1,191 out of 2,382):
Huckabee - 31
Romney - 19
McCain - 7
Thompson - 3
Hunter - 1
Giuliani - 0
Paul - 0

What is most interesting is Romney's life in the race. He has come up short of expectations, but his mediocre consistency has kept him breathing long enough to compete in Michigan, his birth-state. Two second place finishes combined with Wyoming's first place finish has kept him within arm's reach of Huckabee while McCain is at arm's length behind. Now, with polls showing Romney and McCain going back and forth atop of Michigan's polls and Huckabee a distant third, one can make an argument that a Romney win in Michigan will bring him very close to Huckabee, and Romney would have the momentum heading into Nevada and then South Carolina, which would become a three-candidate race.

At that point, Huckabee, currently the delegate count leader, would have Romney and McCain very close to his perch. McCain, who most think is the favorite to win the nomination, is actually third in the delegate count and almost certainly going to remain third after today, unless he wins Michigan by double digits over Romney, which is extremely unlikely. Despite being third today and tomorrow, McCain is still the favorite in national GOP polls.

Meanwhile, Romney will have finished in first or second in the first four elections of the primary cycle, while no other candidate has even finished in the top three in all of them (Huckabee did not earn a delegate in Wyoming; ditto to McCain and he also placed fourth in Iowa).

Finally, lying beyond Michigan, Nevada, and South Carolina is January 29th's Florida Primary. Florida is similarly being penalized for having a January primary, but like Michigan, it still retains a healthy delegate count when its 114 is halved to 57, which is still easily the largest delegate count to that point.

In that state, Rudy Giuliani still polls in the top two, as he does in California, New York, and New Jersey, all of which vote on February 5th. Those delegate rich states, which are not penalized, are a terrific route to get back into this race. The obvious question for Giuliani is: Can he win those states if he continues to finish out of the top four in all of the early primaries?

My guess is no, but it still does not stop him from putting a serious dent into the Republican primary, which makes a brokered convention a real possibility.

So watch the Michigan polls tonight. McCain is going to win, Romney will finish a handful of points back, and Huckabee a distant third. Since the delegate count reads opposite to that list, Michigan is going to bring this Republican Primary even closer.

Good times.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Presidential Power Rankings

Here are the Power Rankings for the race to the White House, ranking each remaining candidate in likelihood of being our next President, beginning with the least likely.

T8 - Fred Thompson, Ron Paul, Dennis Kucinich, Mike Gravel, Duncan Hunter - One chance in a thousand... combined.

7. John Edwards - If he won Iowa, he'd be in this list's top 3, and if nominated, Edwards would actually have the greatest chance of any potential nominee of winning the general election. However, he neither won Iowa nor does he have a realistic shot at the nomination. Therefore, the reason less attractive general election candidates like Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee are ahead of him on this list is that at least they have a path to their party's nomination.

6. Mitt Romney - Although incredibly unlikely, it's easy to see how Romney can make a run at the Republican nomination, you just have to look really, really hard. Michigan votes this Tuesday and unlike the Democrats, the Republicans are still awarding the state delegates despite its controversial move into January. Born in Michigan and polling near the top in Michigan polls, it's not out of the question that Romney's last financial push will win the state, thus reviving his campaign and influx of contributors. If he does in fact win Michigan this Tuesday, he'll be up in the delegate count, and would be working off two firsts (Michigan, Wyoming) and two seconds (Iowa, New Hampshire). Then he's a South Carolina victory away from being the frontrunner. So what's the problem with this feasible scenario? He needs to win both.

5. Mike Huckabee - Huckabee has an easier path to the nomination than Romney. Michigan, like New Hampshire, is top three territory for Huckabee. He needed to Iowa, which he did, and he needs to win South Carolina. In between, "as-expecteds" will work just fine, and he's right on pace with his strategy. He can't be ranked as highly as Giuliani for a couple reasons. First, with a problem that Giuliani actually shares - there's a significant portion of the Republican Party that does not want Huckabee nominated. In fact, his potential nomination has driven many Reagan alum to support McCain before it's too late.

His second shortcoming for this Power Ranking is that, despite haveing as good of a chance as Giuliani to win the nomination, his chances in the general election are decidedly lower. His appeal to social conservatives is what is pushing him in this race, but his background as a Baptist minister will make Democrats nervous and give Independents enough unease that they'll opt for a new party in the White House.

4. Rudy Giuliani - Remember him? Remember he was leading all national polls by double digits? Now, while technically competitive within a few points nationally (of Huckabee and McCain) Giuliani is locked in slowly degrading polling numbers. The man is clinging to relevance and viability, but make no mistake, he is still relevant and viable. If he can hold national poll numbers around 20% by Super Tuesday, he will be thrust into the lead thanks to California, New York, and New Jersey, and then use that enormous bounce to push to the other primaries. However, if he continues to fall with each early primary, putting him in low double digits by February 5th, the leading Republican candidate at the time should catch him in those big states and end the Giuliani campaign.

If Giuliani were to win the nomination, he is a viable force in a general election. His moderation on social issues, which, to his credit, he never strayed too far from in his quest for the nomination, makes him palatable to anyone who doesn't want to support the Democratic nominee (a determining factor if the Democrats nominate Clinton). There's a large bloc of voters who want them kept safe and think Giuliani's the guy to do it. After that, social issues are secondary. This has always been Giuliani's greatest apparent strength as a candidate and it has the potential to get him to November.


Look for Part 2 on Thursday. Tomorrow I'll preview Michigan, and Wednesday I'll break down the results.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Take It To the Bank: McCain's the GOP Nominee

(Editor's note: This post was written on May 1 of last year. With McCain's recent boom in national polls, it seemed appropriate to re-run it. There are many accurate prognostications, but notice the dismissal of Mike Huckabee! Whoops!)


You think the Democratic debate was rough around the edges? At least they had only eight candidates. This Thursday night, the first Republican debate of the year will have ten candidates, and this is before guys like Chuck Hagel, Fred Thompson, and Newt Gingrich decide to enter the race. Thursday's Republican debate had the same amount of pie as the Democratic parallel, but two more fat guys are at the table.

Well, as always, I aim to help all the readers who stumble upon PPFA. I hate to ruin it for you, but I already know who's going to win the nomination. So by all means, watch the debate, but don't think for a second it's going to matter.

The no-Senator-in-the-White-House streak is about to end. All it took was the most invasive attack on mainland America since 1815. At a time when foreign policy and national security trump every other issue, January 20th, 2009 will see the first U.S. Senator sworn in since John Kennedy in 1961. Make no mistake about that.

With two incumbent Senators and one former Senator duking it out on the Democrats' side, this logic does not help narrow down the clusterfield on the Democratic side.

The Grand Old Party, on the other hand, is all but locked up for John McCain. It's why, on this very blog, Senator McCain has remained the top Republican on The Line, despite poll after poll showing Giuliani with double digit leads and conservatives still not trusting McCain, and possibly turning to Mitt Romney, or the conservatives' new heartthrob, Fred Thompson.

The process by which I decided on John McCain was not an intricate or arduous one.

Sam Brownback, Mike Huckabee, Fred Thomson, and Tommy Thompson won't have the funds.

Mitt Romney has the funds but he won't succeed in what will ultimately be a terrorism and national security election. The former Massachusetts governor won't make Republicans feel safe, especially while having to go against two heavyweights who make national security the paramount plank in their platform. Even if Romney makes national security his central issue, he'd be playing right into the hands of McCain and Giuliani. Giuliani has 9/11 to fall back on, while John McCain has, between serving in the military in the U.S. Senate, roughly six hundred years of foreign policy experience.

Now here's what I don't get:

How in the hell did Giuliani inherit all that was good about President Bush's foreign policy, while McCain inherited everything that was bad? (Rhetorical question.)

Think about it. Until social issues and his inflated Tough Guy personae catch up to him (and they will), Giuliani has come across as the guy who can keep us safe, the guy who won't let the terrorists touch his citizens ever again. In essence, Giuliani has inherited all the good parts of George W. Bush. It's the reason the county re-elected the President and it's the reason his approval rating stayed as high as it did for as long as it did. Americans, or at least the majority of them, felt safe with him in power. To this point, that has been Giuliani's inheritance.

Contrarily, John McCain has inherited everything else about national security - the bad parts of national security. He's inherited Iraq. You think John McCain, you think war, troop surge, Baghdad, and troops dying.

It's like the movie Twins, and McCain is Danny DeVito.

But here's the thing. When it comes to national security, foreign policy, support of the President, and the war on terror...these guys have practically the same stance. The only reason that McCain get saddled with all the undesirables is because he actually has to cast votes in the Senate while Giuliani can freely bound around the country talking about how he'd stand up to terrorists.

Let's delve deeper into the quandary. Looking into their Tough Guy and Courageousness past, there is a stark contrast between the two men.

Rudy Giuliani has no foreign policy experience. He received a student deferment and stayed out of Vietnam. He became a national political player because his city was attacked.

John McCain has been in the Senate for 20 years. During Vietnam, he was a prisoner of war for over five years, where he was beaten regularly for refusal to divulge information or accept special treatment. He knows what it's like to be in an unpopular war in a far away land. He has loads of foreign policy experience and is currently the ranking member on the Senate Armed Services Committee.

And Giuliani's the one with leads in the polls because of what he brings to national security when on that issue he and McCain practically agree on everything? It doesn't add up. In due time, the polls will reflect this.

Eventually, Giuliani won't be able to stand toe-to-toe with McCain on Giuliani’s greatest strength. Moreover, Giuliani's incongruence with the conservative mainstream will be another enormous strike against him in the Republican Primary.

Therefore, one of two huge national security candidates will be eliminated in a national security election.

So, enjoy the debate (Thursday, 8:00, MSNBC), and keep your eye on the winner, John McCain, the next Republican nominee for President of the United States.
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