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FixCam: Week in Preview

What a political week we've got in store. Three key states -- Michigan tomorrow, then South Carolina and Nevada on Saturday -- will hold primaries or caucuses in the next five days. Which candidates wind up winning could give us some sense of where the nomination fights are headed -- or simply add to the jumble in which we currently find ourselves.

Here a quick look at all three states (much, MUCH more to come later this week on The Fix):

* Michigan (Jan. 15, GOP primary): When Mitt Romney placed second to John McCain last week in New Hampshire, the assumption was that McCain's momentum would carry the day in Michigan one week later. But after an initial McCain bounce, polling suggests that it is Romney who could well enter primary day as the favorite. Romney has used a two-prong attack to fight his way back to contention in Michigan -- a strong emphasis on his "native son" appeal and the "Washington is broken" message that his campaign unveiled in the wake of his Iowa caucus loss. Romney NEEDS this win badly. McCain can survive either way, although a win cements him as the race's frontrunner.

* Nevada (Jan. 19, Democratic caucus): Predictions are precarious in any political race (see New Hampshire) but even more so in the Silver State's caucuses. Nevada has never hosted a presidential caucus before, and trying to decipher who will vote is a total guessing game. Adding to the uncertainty is the almost complete lack of polling in the race -- the last survey was conducted by Mason-Dixon more than a month ago. We've written before about how difficult it is to poll a caucus state like Iowa. But imagine how much more difficult it is to poll a caucus state without any voting history to rely on? Given the last week in politics and the high number of unknowns in this state, prognostication is impossible.

* South Carolina (Jan. 19, Republican primary): With just five days between Michigan and South Carolina, what happens in the Wolverine State is almost certain to impact what happens in the first-in-the-South primary. Remember the history of South Carolina: It is where McCain's momentum was stopped in 2000 by an all-out effort for George W. Bush. McCain went on to win Michigan after his South Carolina loss, but his candidacy ended -- for all intents and purposes -- in the Palmetto State. It would be somewhat fitting then if McCain could take a major step toward clinching the nomination with a win in South Carolina eight years later. Unlike in 2000, McCain is almost certain to be the establishment pick in South Carolina, especially with Romney de-emphasizing the state and the Columbia State newspaper backing him. McCain's main rival is Mike Huckabee, whose strong support in the evangelical community should keep him competitive in the state.

By Chris Cillizza  |  January 14, 2008; 9:00 AM ET
Categories:  FixCam  
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