Wednesday, January 09, 2008

crow eatin' time

Well another prediction ruined by those pesky voters. Maybe I should get out of the prediction business. Then again, I did about as well if not better than those who get paid big bucks to conduct polls and pontificate on TV. Maybe I should get into this business. On this 1,316th post (plus a dozen or so of the early ones when I switch blog addresses from thethridaveune to 3rdave), I thought I would give you a two-fer, a mea culpa on what I got wrong and what I think these results mean more long term.

First, as always, the Democrats:

I had "Obama ... 36-40%" He got 36%. I had "Clinton ... 28-32%" She got 40% It seems I overlooked my own analysis: "She handled the media blow up over her 'tearing up' and those 'iron my shirt' morons very well. ... Bill and Hill are very frustrated, but they aren't out of it." In retrospect, it seems Democratic voters flocked to her in repudiation of the overt misogyny displayed by the media (especially those "iron my shirt" guys, who were shock jocks from Boston) and of the media's presumptive happy talk of the Clinton's demise.

Another thing to consider: Obama hired Kerry's Iowa organizer and Hillary hired Kerry's New Hampshire organizer. I don't think that is a coincidence that they both exceeded turnout expectations in those respective contests.

Obama needed to win Iowa to prove that he wasn't a flash in the pan. Clinton needed to win New Hampshire to prove that she wasn't Howard Dean redux. Both did what they needed to do to stay very competitive in this race. Edwards, on the other hand, needed to win Iowa, and he didn't. He came in at 17% in New Hampshire a point lower than my 18-20% estimation. He gave a passionate speech last night, and rightfully pointed out that 99.5% of voters haven't voted yet.

But here's an ugly secret: voters in presidential primaries vote for the "winner," not necessarily the best candidate. Exhibit A is John Kerry.

For Democrats, the results here mean the race will undoubtedly go on for another month at least. And that will probably be a good thing. If Obama had won another by a big margin, the coronation process would have begun and Democrats would have had their nominee with lots of time and money to spare...but they wouldn't know what they were getting until it might have been too late. Kerry's instincts during the spring and summer of let Bush and his surrogates attack him without any push back, made him look weak and gave credence to some of the attacks, even though many were factually falsehoods. Obama will be (assuming he still wins the nomination) a much stronger candidate for having to outright defeat Clinton over and over with less candidates on the field than merely sweeping IA and NH with people like Richardson, Dodd, and Biden in the way.

The same thing goes for Clinton. She can only count on using the media as foils for so long. The married women who voted for Bush (let alone the men) are not going to come to her defense if she is maligned during the general election like Democratic women did in the New Hampshire primaries. [My campaign junkie friend who ran a governor's race in RI claims that race placed a bigger factor in the results, but I am not buying it.]

"Richardson ... 8-10%" Reality was 5%, most of this dip went to Clinton I bet. Like I said last time, I expect him to hang around quietly until Nevada, and then exit gracefully. At first I thought he would endorse Clinton, but I think he isn't expecting a VP nod from her after what he did in Iowa. On the plane ride back from Iowa, Clinton's fundraiser (and former DNC chair) commented on how many key appointments Bill Clinton gave to Richardson, and implied that Richardson was not only ungrateful, but had betrayed the Clintons and was forever in the doghouse. Assuming it is still neck and neck between Clinton and Obama, look for him to endorse Obama.

Clinton is now going to fight in Nevada, where she was once up hugly, but now that Obama got the culinary union and local SEIU endorsement, he should be in great shape. South Carolina similarly should be intersting. He was up 20 points on the eve of New Hampshire thanks to his surprisingly easy Iowa victory, will black voters come back to Clinton?

Get out your popcorn, because it is now a two way brawl for the Democratic nomination. As long as Clinton and Obama keep it civil, both will be better for it. Clinton's victory speech was much better than I had seen her in a long time, and her "crying" moment seemed genuine and was excellent as well.

OK now on to the Republicans, where I seem to have a thing for Mitt.

"Romney: ... 32-34%" Actual result? 32% "McCain: ... 30-33%" 37% I wonder if those independents thought Obama didn't need them and pulled the lever for McCain. "Huckabee: ... 10-15%" 11% "Paul: ... 8-10%" 8% "Giuliani : ... 5-8%" 9% "Thompson: ... 3-5%" He got 1% (as did Hunter)

So what does this all mean on the GOP side? Chaos. My RI gubernatorial campaign vet thinks McCain is done. And his victory speech sounded like a farewell speech more than a rousing "win one for the gipper" speech. NPR this morning played the best clip of it but my wife and I were stunned by how flat his affect was. He seemed to be reading something and didn't really care what he was saying. He looked OLD.

Romney's troops seemed a lot more energized, although I am sure they were disappointed to be sure. Twice he was up in important early states, and twice his lead melted away to candidates with no money. My friend I keep referring to (he called, as he always does, on election night) lives in Boston now and said Romney's ads were really just terrible and very negative. The exit polls support his belief that all of Mitt's ads turned people off Romney and towards McCain. Those polls indicate a person dislike of Romney and like of McCain, which drove Lou Dobbs nuts. After all, his candidate has got to be Romney, now that Tancredo endorsed him.

Lou Dobbs has been having hissy fits with CNN because they won't let him blabber on about isolationism (both in the form of immigration and trade, but not necessarily on war) and slam the candidates rather than just report/analyze the results. And as unbearable as Lou Dobbs is, Chris Mathews is even worse. At least Dobbs has a point of view that is relatively consistent on issues rather than individuals or parties. Mathews clearly hates the Clintons and wants to call the race for Obama and McCain, results be damned. Keith Olberman tried, but it took semi-retired Tom Brokow to shut Tweety up for a couple seconds. Mathews talks first and thinks second, which is a virtue in today's media market I suppose.

Anyway, sorry to get off on that diatribe. It is easier for me to tell you who isn't going to be the Republican nominee than who will win. Thompson is done. You can't get 4th in Iowa and not even give a speech, then follow that up with barely showing up for debates and getting 1% in New Hampshire. How demoralizing must it be to work for that campaign? Giulini is also done. He is fourth in his vaunted Florida, he isn't coming back. Ron Paul should lay low from now on and save up his war chest for that independent bid that his supporters crave. Clearly, his GOP candidate colleagues have no respect for him. In the debates, he is laughed off the stage by them, even when the audience roars in response to his answers.

Now on to who is still alive: Romney, McCain and Huckabee. Assuming McCain gets some big money and a shot of adrenaline in time for Michigan, it will be a two way race. If McCain is as ready to ride off into the sunset as his New Hamsphire speech (and my friend) indicate, then Romney walks away with his first big victory by a big margin. I don't see Huckabee being competitive there.

However, Huckabee should win South Carolina and Florida easily, which means second place will be important for McCain and Romney. So far, Romney is the only candidate that has gotten two second place spots in the top contests (and his Wyoming win). Huckabee and McCain have both received a win over Romney and a distant third.

So call me in a couple weeks and I might be able to tell you who will win on the GOP side. Bottom line, this is a very different race from 2004 and even 2000. I would say the closest examples would be 1976 and 1980, for Republicans and Democrats, respectively.

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