Iowa and beyond

Congrats to Barack Obama and Mike Huckabee on their decisive wins last night.  Interestingly, I correctly predicted the order of the top three Democrats, but failed to predict how my own church community would turn out (60% of GOP caucus goers described themselves as “born again” or “Evangelical”) and how solidly they would support Huckabee (Without this group, Huckabee finished a distant third behind Romney and McCain).

Here’s what I think happens next:

1.  Barack Obama is tied for first or leading in New Hampshire.  On the strength of his victory in Iowa, coupled with voters who previously supported other candidates, and with the strong independent presence in the state, he beats Hillary Clinton here and beats her good.  Clinton has a strong lead in Michigan at the moment, which as we speak is evaporating.  Though she has 100% name ID among primary Democratic voters, her numbers in MI are below 50%.  Jesse Jackson won Michigan in 1988, and after wins in IA and NH, Obama should win here as well.  The contest then moves to South Carolina, where 50% of the primary electorate is black.  Clinton is a candidate whose nomination is based on inevitability and is thus illusory, and if she loses the first four states, or three out of the first four, she will be mortally wounded (though I can see her fighting to the last state).

2.  Edwards is broke and will get smashed in New Hampshire (he finished fourth here after a much more impressive 2004 Iowa Caucus finish).  Obama has won the sub-primary to be the anti-Hillary, and Edwards’ residual support will start to abandon him even before his upcoming departure from the race.

3.  What is Fred Thompson’s argument now?  That he won third by less than 300 votes out of 100,000 votes cast against a guy (McCain) who was barely trying?  That he is completely out of money, but can withstand a single digit finish in New Hampshire?  That he can hang on until South Carolina, where he will win because, when he deigns to go out and meet voters, he sounds like them?  This guy was in way over his head and seems eager to leave the race.  If he does get out, expect him to endorse his friend John McCain (who he supported in 2000 and actually raised money for THIS cycle).

4.  John McCain had a great night.  He finished under 300 votes out of third in a state where nothing was expected of him (he got 5% of the vote in 2000, 13% last night).  His only significant contender in the New Hampshire primary, Mitt Romney, lost the caucuses by 9 points last night.  Although the independents that made up the bulk of his 2000 margin over Bush will likely desert him for Obama, remember that McCain actually won among Republicans in that election, only by a smaller margin.  Once McCain wins New Hampshire (and proves his viability), I am predicting that Republican primary voters will coalesce behind him.  Romney is too calculating, having switched positions on abortion, guns, gay rights, and immigration, so calculating that he refused to pardon a war hero so that he could join the police force (his crime was shooting someone with a BB gun when he was 13; the “victim” favors the pardon).  Even if voters are past all of that, some refuse to help legitimize a religion they see as a cult.  Rudy Giuliani is and always has been wrong on abortion, wrong on guns, wrong on immigration, and wrong on marriage.  His three marriages, flagrant adultery and estrangement from his children are not what people are looking for.  Mike Huckabee’s record of tax increases in Arkansas make him a non-starter for many (because they were achieved with overwhelming popular support and with Republican votes in the legislature, and because he has signed the “no taxes” pledge, this doesn’t matter to me).  Huckabee granted clemency to over a thousand criminals, substituting his judgment for that of prosecutors, judges, and juries, and ignoring the wishes of victim’s families.  Many of them lost little time in re-offending.  Huckabee also ignores the benefits of free trade, another nail in his coffin with free market Republicans, and has no demonstrable foreign policy skills in the midst of a global war on terrorism.  Despite people’s reservations with McCain, and I acknowledge there are many, he’s always been pro-life, has unequaled experience on national security and international relations, was against profligate government spending before it was cool, and he is a strong general election candidate.  He won in Michigan in 2000, and can do so again after a strong New Hampshire finish.  Huckabee looks strong in South Carolina right now, but his star may dim after severe beatings in New Hampshire and Michigan.  If McCain wins NH, MI, and SC, I expect him to run the table.

As always, I want to hear what you think.


Comments

  1. kralmajales says

    Publius,

    Excellent analysis. You are right about Obama and about Fred. That was exactly what I was thinking about Fred. He doesn’t survive NH. I don’t know if McCain will win NH or not, but he will be close enough to make the argument that he is back and on a roll. On Romney, people will ask why he didn’t do better after all the money spent (a second poor showing to poorly funded candidates)…and why he didn’t do better being from a neighboring state where people commute to Boston. It will hurt him badly.

    I agree with most everything you said until the latter part of your analysis about Huckabee. To be critically, it sounded like a campaign message against Huckabee from you and I suspect it will be what McCain and the establishment say. Don’t forget though, Huckabee will have the most conservative and most religious conservative voters of all waiting for him in S.C. Greenville-Spartanburg might be the most religious conservative place in America. Huckabee is far far different from Pat Robertson when he won in Iowa. Huckabee has pizazz, has real executive experience, and carries a positive, compassionate conservative message. I agree with you that this will be the battle ground for McCain v. Huckabee.

    Last, dont forget Nevada. It will get some attention and I expect McCain to do well there.

  2. Publius,

    This is the first rational commentary I’ve heard about Fred from the AZConBlogSphere in a long time. I’ve never understood his appeal: “He’s a conservative on the teevee!” is what every discussion I’ve read about him boils down to.

    Looks like my joy about McCain being finished was prematur… although if it’s Obama vs. McCain in the general, I like the lefty odds.

  3. Publius-

    Your analysis of the Dem race is spot on, but I am not yet convinced that Romney is done for the GOP. He may well lose New Hampshire to McCain, but South Carolina and Michigan hold better prospects for him. There is still suspicion of McCain in SC (despite the Lindsey Graham endorsement) and Michigan is where Romney’s dad was governor. I am not saying Romney wins those states for certain, but if he can finish second in them and do so strongly, he has the money to go the distance.

    Conservatives run the GOP and they are not about to just give in to John McCain, who many of them detest and distrust. Romney is their best chance to stop him and that will become more clear with each passing day. What Romney needs to do is couple his reminders about McCain’s apostasy on immigration and tax cuts with more compelling reasons to vote FOR him. Romney is starting to come across as too negative and that, alongside the flip-flopping, is not a good way for people to view you.

    This will be a three-man race at least up to Tsunami Tuesday because Huckabee is not going away. It is wrong to attribute his win last night solely to support from evangelicals. His appeal is also based in his strong stump presence and sincerity. He needs to finish a strong third in New Hampshire and I think he will do so. If he should somehow finish second and put Romney in third, that COULD end Romney’s bid, but would conservatives then get behind Huckabee???

    Giuliani’s strategy of ignoring the early states will prove to be a huge miscalculation, along with the personal foibles and liberal positions you cited. Thompson’s campaign is a yawnfest and Paul, despite his ability to raise money, will never go anywhere with the GOP because of his stance on Iraq. In his heart, he is, was and always will be a Liberatarian.

  4. kralmajales

    I actually really like Huckabee, and wish I could support him. His skepticism of free trade (which may play well in protectionist South Carolina), lack of foreign policy experience (or any demonstrable knowledge thereof), and record of misusing his clemency powers wasn’t meant to be campaign rhetoric, but the honest to goodness reasons why I can’t support him in the primaries. His record on taxes is a huge issue for some, although I’ve explained why it doesn’t trouble me.

    In 2000, George W. Bush had all the money and support in the world. He won Iowa, lost New Hampshire and Michigan, but put John McCain to bed in South Carolina. Bush, like Huckabee, was a Southern governor and at the time had people convinced that he was an Evangelical. Huckabee here is Bush without the money or establishment support. Without Bush’s 2000 money or support, McCain would have bested him in South Carolina, and I predict he’ll do the same to Huckabee.

    Additionally, remember that South Carolina has traditionally been the firewall for the Republican establishment candidate. W. Bush, Dole, and Bush pere stopped their opponents here, and the latter two cannot be said to be more like Huckabee than McCain.

  5. Kralmajales says

    I agree with you Publius, that SC has been the firewall for the establishment. No question. But that establishment is very very fractured right now and we have to see where it migrates and strengthens after Iowa. I “think” it will migrate to McCain…but so many conservatives still find him to be a traitor of sorts. I think McCain has all along set up SC as a potential place to rebound, so I agree with you overall. All that said, I think Huckabee will be very formidable there…he will really appeal to southern GOP voters, which are very conservative and I am not so sure that he wont get some support from some of the establishment types…despite taxes.

    Rex, I really think Romney is done. I don’t think he can win SC. I think Mormonism will not play there (is one thing) but I also think that he will look far too broken by then. Even if he wins NH, it is still a state he was expected to win (like Tsongas). If he loses there, even if close, he can’t possibly win in SC.

  6. nightcrawler says

    The clock ticks towards midnight as Huckabee’s Cinderella limo ride is about to turn into a big pumpkin. Certainly he is a likable fellow who appeals to the midwestern populist mindset. The question is will his rural evangelical message play to the big urban markets ? I believe the answer is no. Clearly his success comes at Romney’s expense. This is not helpful to the GOP cause overall.

  7. Kral-

    Are you saying the majority in the GOP is ready to just roll over and give their nomination to McCain, who they have trashed continually? I just don’t buy it. Given that, who can take him on over the long haul other than Romney?

  8. Kralmajales says

    I think Romney is too wounded from this, really. Guiliani still lurks and I think Huckabee has a lot more steam going for him than most expect.

    The think the split will be those who trashed McCain, which were primarily social conservatives, going to Huckabee. I think the other side would be McCain getting backed by business types and moderates who start to feel like their party is being pulled aways from him. He still has the highest ID, is conservative on economics (and on most social issues) and he is a decorated war hero who seems to have gotten it right on the Iraq war. He took a hard position, he speaks from the heart, and he doesn’t pander mindlessly like Romney.

    IF McCain does well in NH…even 2nd…I think he will have a lot of steam in South Carolina…and Nevada, which no one is mentioning.

    As for what happens next, I think your question resounds. Will the GOP go for McCain given his negatives? If they don’t, it is a big big possibility for Huckabee…and the split of the GOP will be on. If they do, what will social conservatives who have rallied do?

  9. Kralmajales says

    Oh…to answer your question…I think Huckabee is the only one who can take on McCain. I think he will get a lot of momentum IF he wins in SC…and he is getting a lot of money today, you can bet. Social conservatives have been quite tested for a candidate thus far, Romney panders but isn’t genuine, Fred just doesn’t have it, Guiliani is a liberal, which leaves who? Huckabee has shown he is a winner and will get social conservative support after today.

    Then its a matter of who is there to match him. As I have said all along, McCain is very very conservative when you look closely at him. Toughest on Iraq, anti-abortion (for longer than any other than Huckabee), anti-gay rights, supports lower taxes and doesn’t pander. If people don’t like Huckabee, they very well might find him.

  10. Good analysis, I think the party is getting more and more unified than you people are giving us credit for:

    1) Hillary Clinton
    2) minority in House and Senate
    3) surge in Iraq, good economy despite the unemployment, housing and credit crunch

  11. McCain’s biggest problem is the fact that he is not a conservative.
    Campaign Finance Reform as put forth by McCain/Feingold is
    unconstitutional. How many conservatives are going to vote for
    someone who helped write an immigration reform bill with Ted
    Kennedy. Not I. McCain also voted against banning taxpayer
    funding for destructive embryonic experimentation. Don’t forget his age and his health. He also has a volatile temperament. There
    is a hard core that will not vote for McCain and they don’t all live
    in Arizona

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