Taking Stock: Day After Thanksgiving Edition
I'm thrilled to have the honor of blogging on this Friday when everyone is shopping and no one is online, because having an audience -- having these irritating things called "readers" -- is inhibitory to those of us for whom the placing of letters and words in a certain order is not just a craft but an art. This is No Constraints Friday! Right out of the box let me suggest that, during the next GOP debate, Ron Paul should wear antennae on his head like Ray Walston in "My Favorite Martian."
Also, an apology is in order: Recently, pretending to be an astute observer, I said that Dennis Kucinich is the candidate most likely to be secretly a member of the X-Men. That is incorrect, and stupid. Clearly the member of the X-Men is his awesomely powerful wife, Elizabeth, who can turn invisible, rip you to shreds with knives that shoot from her fingertips, and control the weather. THAT is an astute observation.
Now let's review the big news of the week:
The Huckabee boomlet seemed to have become a full-fledged boom. Could he be the Jimmy Carter of 2008? You know: Obscure southern governor, evangelical, nice smile, kind of refreshing and likeable, emerging from the corn stubble of Iowa to take the nation by storm? Who knows. But in a year when there was never a whole lot of dynamism in the polls, when months and months of campaigning didn't seem to rearrange the order of things despite the most fervent wishes of the press corps, Huckabee has emerged.
That's what you want to do in a primary campaign if you're a political nobody: Emerge. And then pray you're not crushed like a bug by the Establishment.
The informal, strangely durable (and extra-Constitutional) primary process that gives Iowa and New Hampshire disproportionate power is set up precisely to make Huckabees plausible. If you started with, say, Florida, or California, only Romney and Giuliani, among the Republicans, would have a good shot at winning. For the Democrats it'd be Clinton and Obama. No one else would be able to afford the TV campaign. But the small states, in our prevailing theory, give the little guys a shot. Giuliani may test that presumption with his Feb. 5 strategy. And it could be that Huckabee is peaking too early. Spot the idle speculation! (Like that guy William Goldman said about Hollywood: No one knows anything.)
Then there's Romney. He's at the top of the poll in Iowa. He's leading in New Hampshire, too. But he's never gotten the breathless news coverage for "emerging" -- because from the get-go he had more money than anyone else. That's your basic affluence penalty.
Romney's other problem: the softness issue. The Post/ABC poll shows that, although he's leading in Iowa, much of his support is "soft," meaning that some of his supporters are apparently willing to change their minds as quickly as Romney switched his position on abortion.
No self-respecting presidential candidate wants "soft" anywhere near his name. That word can get stuck on you the way "lazy" sticks to Fred Thompson like the scent of a polecat.
John McCain, despite having only two or three actual supporters in Iowa, can presumably claim that there's nothing soft about his support. No sirree: His little band of followers will not flinch as he, in turn, follows bin Laden to the gates of Hell.
All of this is made more confusing by the fact that Iowa doesn't have a normal election, but rather has some kind of weird Norman Rockwell town-meeting popularity-contest thing in which there is great strategic advantage in being the second choice of lots of voters. (You understand this concept, right? Supporters of non-viable candidates have to find a new place to park themselves?) And this is where Hillary Clinton has a major problem: She's not the second choice of very many people. She's a binary choice: Yes or Never.
If you've read this far, please post good recipes for turkey chili. Thank you.
November 23, 2007; 10:52 AM ET
Categories: A_Blog , Joel's Two Cents
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