From the Post Politics Hour
Every weekday at 11 AM, nembers of the Washington Post's political team take your questions. Today, Dan Balz chatted with readers about last night's GOP debate, the Louisiana governor's race and more. Here are a few exerpts.
New York: Hey, Dan: In looking at the Republican field, I could see Romney carrying Iowa, New Hampshire and maybe South Carolina (with Bob Jones III's recent endorsement). I then see Giuliani doing very well in various delegate-rich states like New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, maybe even California. I also see McCain possibly having some strength out West and Huckabee grabbing a few Southern states. Is it possible that we're looking at a brokered convention? If no candidate gets enough delegates to sew up the nomination by March, what do the candidates do for the remaining five or six months until the convention?
Dan Balz: I suspect that, if Gov. Romney were to carry Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina (I don't know whether you would give him Michigan under those circumstances) that he would be tough to beat in the states that come after that. There is some chance for an extended battle for the nomination, but that is less likely of one of the candidates gets on a roll early.
What you are seeing now is real competition in New Hampshire among Romney, Mayor Giuliani and Sen. McCain, all of whom see it as a critical test. At the same time, Gov. Huckabee may surprise people in Iowa. A strong second there would give him some bragging rights as well.
As a Republican strategist told me last week, there are scenarios for several of the candidates that would give them the nomination -- and most of them are still plausible.
Troy, New York: I saw on the news that Mike Huckabee did very well in the straw poll of values voters on-site for the event (better than 50 percent). Do you think they will coalesce around him as a candidate?
Dan Balz: Gov. Huckabee had a very good day at the Values Voters summit in Washington on Saturday. I attended the Saturday morning session, when both Huckabee and Mayor Giuliani spoke. Giuliani spoke as an outsider addressing a slightly hostile nation. Huckabee spoke as a member of the family, and it clearly paid off when the straw poll results came in. He did get just over 50 percent of the votes cast by those in attendance. A poll that included online votes produced a razor-thin victory for Mitt Romney over Huckabee, but I believe those results are more suspect.
The tougher question to answer is whether social and religious conservatives will coalesce around Huckabee. I think many still have doubts about his potential to win the nomination, even if they agree with him on many issues. Republicans are very focused on winning and are measuring candidates not just by how much they agree with them but by their potential strength in a general election.
Having said that, Huckabee continues to make himself a factor in the race and as noted earlier he could embarrass some better known candidates in Iowa.
Washington: Hi, Mr. Balz! Thanks for chatting today, it's a real treat. What's going on down in the bayou? I've just seen small AP-type stories on the new Republican governor of Louisiana. Is his election out of that crowded field a bellwether for things in that state? Is it a result of Katrina fatigue? Do you think his election will affect the 2008 presidential race in any appreciable way? That just seemed like an interesting story and surprised me a bit. Thanks!
Dan Balz: Governor-elect Jindal is a very attractive candidate with a resume that would be impressive for anyone, let alone someone who is as young as he is. I dont think there are significant 2008 implications in his election, other than to remind Democrats that they'll probably have a hard time winning Louisiana. Louisiana politics are always more home grown than in some other states -- what a rich political culture down there -- and with Katrina even more so right now.
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