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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.]

Iowa, Democrats:
1. Obama
2. Edwards
3. Clinton
4. Richardson

Iowa Republicans:
1. Huckabee
2. Romney
3. Thompson
4. McCain
5. Giuliani

New Hampshire, Democrats:

New Hampshire, Republicans:
1. McCain
2. Romney
3. Huckabee
4. Giuliani

By Web Politics Editor  |  January 2, 2008; 11:24 AM ET
Categories:  Joel's Two Cents  
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Next: Huckabee's Big Test


Democrats: New Hampshire Primary - Prediction Time!

Who do you predict will win the Democratic New Hampshire Primary?
Republican: New Hampshire Primary - Prediction Time!

Who do you predict will win the Republican New Hampshire Primary?


Posted by: PollM | January 5, 2008 12:00 PM | Report abuse

Joel Achenbach:
HEY MORON! You forgot Ron Paul you idiot! You're such a retard you're gonna be schooled big time!

Posted by: tekgoogle4 | January 2, 2008 7:41 PM | Report abuse

I fully expect Ron Paul to be in the top 4 in Iowa and the top 3 in NH.

Mike Huckabee is a modern day Elmer Gantry. He may not be a womanizer like Gantry, but he is definitely a charlatan. If he is such a front-runner, why is it that none of the spell checker systems have bothered to add him to their "dictionary"?

Posted by: vstrang | January 2, 2008 7:22 PM | Report abuse

I guess I don't really "care" but Joel was the one who predicted Richardson would come in fourth, so I threw my two cents in on that.

Posted by: JakeD | January 2, 2008 7:04 PM | Report abuse

Jake D.,

Here on planet Earth, every single poll has always had Biden so low in every state that he has no prayer whatsoever of breaking into the top 3. Biden hardly even pretends to be running for President. Look at how very few campaign appearances he actually makes aside from showing up at the debates. He's a single digit washout.

As for analyzing whether Biden or Richardson beat each other, who cares? I mean, you might as well speculate about which ant is going to reach the cookie crumb first. Both of them flopped in this race a long time ago. They're just hanging around in hopes of being someone's VP pick (dream on).

Posted by: JacksonLanders | January 2, 2008 2:57 PM | Report abuse

I am hoping you are right. The country needs Obama in 08. No more dynastic monarchies--we are a democracy and a Republic. No matter Bush-Cheney light and Nixon tricks and smears. No more nepotism and adultery in the White House. No more voting one's ambitions and getting our sons and daughters killed in Iraq, not apologizing, no remorse, and a smiling package under the Christmas tree to bring our troops home! Hillary is not only so 1990s, that is all she is--devious, calculating, cold, a Czarina prepared to rule with an unforgiving fist.

Posted by: shirleylim | January 2, 2008 2:39 PM | Report abuse

If all goes as you predict for republicans, It will be a three person (Giuliani, McCain, Huckabee) race real soon. Rommney needs to have one of those states to remain a contender

Posted by: HokiePaul | January 2, 2008 1:57 PM | Report abuse

Iowa scenario is plausible except for Thompson. Ron Paul will be running in 2012, but he's not going anwhere. NH will be interesting due to the Independent vote which, until Mc Cain caught fire, would have been much higher on the Democratic side.

Bottom line is nothing is settled in Iowa, New Hampshire or anywhere else. I will say this, that if Obama get 35% of the Iowa vote with Edwards second at 30%, Clinton's in deep trouble. Expect that it will be much closer, but this scenario is possible.

I know most of Southern NH well from Keene to the Seacoast. Can't say the name, but one publisher of a nationally syndicated magazine in that state is hosting an Obama event this weekend. It's been noticed by the locals in two counties, but not the press. Granting that NH voters use their heads, but when this guy sticks his head above the fray, the neighbors will listen. That's the NH way! Hang on, it's going to be an interesting week.

Posted by: Smokescreen | January 2, 2008 1:48 PM | Report abuse

You forget Ron Paul! Where will he end up in your MSM opinion?

Protest Rupert Murdoch's Exclusion of Ron Paul At Fox News Forum

Contact info for Rupert & Fox News personnel can be found at Let Rupert and his Neocon buddies know what you think of Fox "Not broadcasting in the public interest". We also have link to national protest against Fox News Scheduled for January 3, 2008.

Posted by: ronholland | January 2, 2008 1:39 PM | Report abuse

I'm a Dem supporting Obama, but I was just out in Iowa -- Ron Paul will come in at least fourth.

Posted by: cmss1 | January 2, 2008 1:04 PM | Report abuse

Good points, jonkeeling.

Posted by: JakeD | January 2, 2008 12:50 PM | Report abuse

There's no way I can say this in a way that isn't off-putting, but it's clear that you're not following this too closely if you think Ron Paul won't crack the top 5 in Iowa.

Posted by: csen | January 2, 2008 12:47 PM | Report abuse

If Huckabee wins, you predict he'll tank in NH? Wow. Really going out on a limb on that one.

Huckabee hasn't had the vast resources(read: personal wealth) of Romney to allow him to compete in both states. His lack of visibility in NH has turned the voters off there. But at the end of the day, so what?

If Huckabee pulls off the miraculous and defeats the Romney machine in Iowa he will have major momentum heading into Michigan and South Carolina. He already is polling at the same level as Romney in both of those states. Momentum alone will make it increasingly difficult for Romney to stop Huckabee.

This is doubly so if Romney loses to McCain in NH. If that happens, it's Huckabee vs. McCain for the nomination.

Posted by: jonkeeling | January 2, 2008 12:32 PM | Report abuse

I think the barking dog has over-rated Richardson & Thompson. Iowa Dems will be 1.O,2.E,3.C,4.B. Iowa Repubs will be 1.H,2.R,3.M. For NH, the dog is remarkably prescient.

Posted by: bsimon | January 2, 2008 12:31 PM | Report abuse

Not bad predictions, although I think Biden is going to do better than Richardson -- maybe even break into the top three -- IF Huckabee wins big in Iowa, I doubt he will come in third in New Hampshire.

Posted by: JakeD | January 2, 2008 12:20 PM | Report abuse

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