Thursday, December 13, 2007

state of the presidential race

With the holidays rapidly approaching, campaigns are scrambling to get their attacks in on their opponents before Iowans and New Hampshirites really get cheesed off by the negativity. Which is why Huckabee, the only candidate with a theology degree, recently "asked" if Latter-Day Saints believe that Jesus and Lucifer were brothers. This is also why Billy Shaheen, NH chair of Hillary Clinton's campaign said he was "concerned" that Republicans would attack Obama on his experimentation with drugs while he was in high school.

Both apologized after the attacked party expressed outrage, but the message was sent like a Christmas card with pictures of children who you don't know who it is from. Please, if you send a photo card for Christmas, include either a) your full name (not just "the Robinsons") b) a current picture of yourself, not just your grandkids. OK, pet peeve rant over.

Anyway, the interesting thing is that every campaign save the two Iowa surgers--Huckabee and Obama--are worried that the race will freeze over Christmas and New Year's, which means they will have 2-3 days to change momentum in their favor. A nearly impossible task.

So what happens if this CW is right and Huckabee and Obama hold on to win the caucuses?

On the Dem side, Obama is basically tied in New Hampshire and South Carolina and so he would win those states should he win Iowa. Michigan, Florida and Nevada, however, still seem solidly on Hillary's side, even if two of them aren't supposed to get delegates under DNC rules (which is why Obama isn't even on the Michigan ballot). But a win is a win, and the way the media portrays the race ("Obama and Clinton as neck and neck after the first round of early states") matters more than the delegate count or anything else. This means that the February 5th states--including Utah--might actually matter. It will be very interesting to see how those states go; my impression is that Utah is ripe territory for Obama. This could be a nasty fight all the way to Denver.

On the Republican side, it is much harder to tell. A Huckabee win will really hurt Romney, but his leads in New Hampshire and Michigan seem insurmountable. Then again, so did his lead in Iowa. Like in 2004 for the Democrats, Republicans in 2008 are tired of losing after only one cycle (Democrats are much more patient, waiting 12 years to get back Congress) and want to pick a winner to beat the Democratic nominee. Such feelings will intensify if Hillary manages to pull out a win in Iowa and sows up the nomination then and there. Giuliani stands to lose as much as Romney does from the combo of a Huckabee surge and a Obama string of victories. Conservatives support Giuliani because they see him as tough--against terrorists, radical Muslims, mobsters, the Clintons, etc.--but if Clinton isn't there to beat, the purpose of his candidacy is lessened. Huckabee is a true social conservative, Romney is a true economic conservative. Usually social conservatism take a back seat to economic conservatism in the GOP but this year it may be the opposite. If Huckabee wins Iowa big, I see him winning in New Hampshire and South Carolina. Florida still goes for Giuliani and Michigan stays with Romney. After that, your guess is as good as mine.

For political junkies like me, this is going to be a fun race to watch. And unlike last cycle, I don't have an emotional stake in any of the candidates, so I can be more rational and reasonable about what is going on. Maybe it is because of the candidates, or maybe it is because I have grown older and more cynical. Or maybe I am just in denial, thinking I am detached. Feel free to psychoanalyze me in the comments below.

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