Who Will Win: One Man's (Semi-Educated) Guess
By Joel Achenbach
You've probably seen that New Yorker cartoon of a dog telling another dog that he used to blog, but has given it up and returned to pointless, incessant barking. Today I'm going to make a prediction about who will win Iowa and New Hampshire, but please understand that I am not exactly Nostradamus (much less Chris Cillizza) when it comes to political prognostication. I'm always wrong. This is just barking. (For more barking, see the Achenblog.)
I've thought for a year that Clinton has been running a solid campaign and has hit her marks. But Clinton may have a little bit of what might be called the Chris Dodd Problem: A campaign without a grand theme at the core that goes beyond personal biography and experience. She's got tons of policy ideas, but they take a while to detail. She'd be the first woman president, but that's been a secondary element of her message. She's running on battle-hardened competence. But if voters want a candidate who embodies a big idea -- for example, "change" -- they're more likely to turn to Obama or Edwards, both of whom seem to be peaking at the right moment.
I saw Edwards three times recently in New Hampshire and Iowa (see my Outlook piece that ran the other day), and he's definitely on his game as he tries to tap into voter outrage on the Left (see Gene Robinson's excellent column). Edwards is a formidable campaigner with great energy and stamina. He may come off as a little slick to some observers - too much of a trial lawyer.
The Democratic race will almost surely boil down to Hillary vs. Somebody. These races always become two-person contests fairly quickly. That means Obama has to beat Edwards in Iowa and vice versa. Whatever happens Thursday, that's the key thing to watch: Obama vs. Edwards.
The Republican race remains incomprehensible. Mitt Romney may yet win the Phil Gramm Most Expensive Delegate Award, given in honor of the well-funding Republican who, as I dimly recall, spent millions for a single delegate to the 1996 Republican convention (I could check but surely someone in the comments section can set me right).
Because Giuliani and McCain are practically skipping Iowa, the results won't be very clarifying. It's highly likely that, after Iowans vote, 5 mainstream Republicans will still be campaigning full bore. Plus you have Ron Paul, the wild card, who will likely be running for something until at least November. For the Republicans, people may be going to an awful lot of trouble in Iowa just to get Duncan Hunter to go home.
Had the election in Iowa been held two weeks ago, Huckabee probably would have won easily, but his campaign has gone off the rails. There's a difference between "unconventional" and "daffy." He may have made a fatal error in hiring Ed Rollins, not just because Rollins is a pugilist, but because Rollins has an uncontrollable compulsion to tell reporters how the sausage is made. He did it yet again after the pulled-attack-ad caper, telling The Post's Sridhar Pappu precisely how the fiasco came about ("What I have to do is make sure that my anger with a guy like Romney, whose teeth I want to knock out, doesn't get in the way of my thought process").
Go back to 1993 and hear Rollins explain how he funneled thousands of dollars to depress the black vote in the New Jersey gubernatorial race. From the New York Times, Nov. 10, 1993:
"We went into black churches and we basically said to ministers who had endorsed Florio, 'Do you have a special project?' And they said, "We've already endorsed Florio," Mr. Rollins said. "We said, 'That's fine. Don't get up on the pulpit Sunday and say it's your moral obligation that you go on Tuesday to vote for Jim Florio.' " Mr. Rollins said the campaign used a more direct approach to persuade some Democratic political workers to stay home on Election Day. "We said to some of their key workers, 'How much have they paid you to do your normal duty?' " he said. "Well, we'll match it. Go home, sit and watch television."
I'm guessing that Huckabee will still win in Iowa but will tank in New Hampshire.
McCain has surged in New Hampshire and has to win. The problem is that Romney governed the neighboring state. The most populous part of New Hampshire, as I noted in my story yesterday, is essentially a suburb of Boston. Romney LIVES part of the year in New Hampshire, I'm told (he has a house there).
Now I'm tired of barking and need to get to work. So here are my predictions for the results in Iowa and New Hampshire. [Ed note: Joel concedes this is pure and utter conjecture.]
New Hampshire, Democrats:
New Hampshire, Republicans:
Web Politics Editor
January 2, 2008; 11:24 AM ET
Categories: Joel's Two Cents
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