Hamilton, Madison, and Jay

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Location: Mesa, Arizona, United States

Who are we? We're a married couple who has a passion for politics and current events. That's what this site is about. If you read us, you know what we stand for.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Novak Predicts Iowa

Hugh Hewitt calls our attention to it. It is difficult to not see the logic in his assessment:

Here are our analyses of the races as they stand now and the most likely outcomes:

Republicans: This is a two-way contest between former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee. The battle for third place is among former Sen. Fred Thompson (Tenn.), Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), and Rep. Ron Paul (Tex.). Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani is not even spending this week in Iowa. Instead, he is campaigning in New Hampshire.

Ever since finishing second in the Iowa straw poll last August, Huckabee steadily climbed here in Iowa, aided by his evangelical pedigree, his sincerity and the fresh-face factor, and less critical press coverage than any other candidate. Polls of likely Republican caucus-goers consistently showed Huckabee ahead throughout December, but more recent surveys are a mixed bag, showing slippage by Huckabee.

Polling the caucuses is notoriously difficult, because caucusing, unlike voting in a primary, can take all night. Turnout is a bigger commitment, and it's harder to predict. While pollsters try to correct for this, the room for error is huge.

Romney is close or leading in the post-Christmas polls. This is probably good enough for him. He has a much bigger team in Iowa and much more money to spend than do Huckabee and the other Republican candidates. Romney's campaign should be better than Huckabee's at getting its supporters to their caucuses.

Huckabee, however, has two potential caucus-night advantages. First, he enjoys more enthusiastic support than does Romney, who, for many Iowa Republicans, is just the most electable or the most acceptable of the top-tier candidates. Huckabee, by contrast, has a strong core of dedicated voters who share his religious views. Huckabee has recently come under a steady barrage of criticism by economic conservatives and a constant drubbing by Romney's well-financed campaign.

Two weeks ago,
we wrote that Thompson was the "X-Factor." Most Iowa Republicans hadn't given him much thought as of mid-December, but he has spent the last two-and-a-half weeks in the Hawkeye State. Post-Christmas polls do not show a big spike, but he does seem to poll even with McCain for third place. A decent third-place finish for either of these men would be a boost going into New Hampshire.

Ron Paul could make a splash, as well. He's in fifth place in most polls, but his supporters are unmatched in enthusiasm and dedication. A third-place finish for Paul is not out of the question.

The most likely outcome appears to be:

1st Place: Mitt Romney

2nd Place: Mike Huckabee
3rd Place: Fred Thompson
4th Place: John McCain

On the Democrat side, both Mr. Novak and Mr. Carney (both created this prognostication) see a third place finish for Senator Clinton:

The similarities between Obama 2008 and Howard Dean in 2004 are real and could show themselves Thursday night. Obama is the new, fresh face in the race with youthful, enthusiastic, and idealistic supporters. For Dean, that same formula translated into caucus-day bust. Will the same happen to Obama?

Obama leads in most polls, and significantly in some. His negatives are much lower than Clinton's, and his positives are higher than Edwards'. He has as much money as Clinton and the edge in enthusiasm. However, his campaign team in Iowa is the least experienced of the top three. He could flame out like Dean, but all considered, he has to be viewed as the favorite.

Hillary's organization may be the strongest, but her negatives are the highest. Her hardball tactics against Obama will hurt her. For the Democrats, who have a viability threshold of at least 15% in each precinct, second choice matters, and that is where Hillary's negatives will hurt her. She doesn't appear to be the second choice for very many voters at all.

Edwards has run in Iowa before and done well. His second-place finish in 2004, however, was in a weaker Democratic field. His negatives are low, however, and many polls have shown him as the most popular second choice among supporters of the second-tier candidates. In polls, he is right on Hillary's heels, and it is likely he will pass her in the caucuses.

The second-tier candidates -- Sen. Joe Biden (Del.), Sen. Chris Dodd (Conn.), and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson -- will struggle to reach the 15% viability threshold in many districts, with the top three garnering 85% among them in most areas. Of the three second-tier Democrats, Richardson has the best chance of even registering in the final results.

The Democratic field looks to shake out this way:

1st Place: Barack Obama
2nd Place: John Edwards
3rd Place: Hillary Clinton
4th Place: Bill Richardson

We know a lot of people will disagree with their assessment, but it rings true for Iowa. Governor Romney is pulling back into the lead, according to polls, though we disavowed many of the polls because we saw them being based on immediate actions rather than thoughtful reflection of the candidates. Governor Huckabee's splash is over as he continues to take it on the chin from fiscal-minded, security-minded conservatives. To be blunt, the man is simply too naive on the single most important subject for us.

Mr. Thompson's recent bump shows that he could possibly surge in front of Senator McCain, which would make us quite happy. Senator McCain is a good man, but he is not someone we want to see in the white House. We do not think he has the skills necessary to start the job off right, and his temper is still quite evident. Granted there has not been a 2000 blowup like the one that quashed his aspirations then, but a fourth place finish may cause that. Worse yet, while we are not fond of Ron Paul, Mr. Novak is correct about his supporters. They very well might be the determining factor in his in a possible fourth place finish.

The Democrat side is a no brainer. Senator Clinton has taken hit after hit after hit since the October 30th debate. Her steady drop in the polls can be directly correlated to that simply gaffe, and it further illustrates that the issue of immigration is still a very nasty sore spot with the nation. She did not recover from that, and the discovery of
"plants" at her campaign stops, and even in the debate. Her negative numbers have been an albatross from the very beginning, and the only reason she is continuing on is because of her simple desire to be back in the White House; the most powerful woman in the world.

Mr. Edwards and Senator Obama have done a decent job plugging away at her, but it is their charisma -- their very appearances -- is that which is driving the support. They are everything that Senator Clinton is not. They are warm, she is cold. They are engaging, she is not forthcoming. The only surprise in the prediction is Governor Richardson. He has a great deal of his own problems that we do not think Iowa voters have discovered. (We suggest a "tip-of-the-iceberg" examination of these two sites to see what he really stands for.) Personally, we think the better choice would be Senator Biden coming in fourth, but he has not surged out of the bottom tier, so it is highly unlikely that he could get there.

As I said, we can see the logic in the predictions. We have more to disagree with in terms of the Republican predictions than we do the Democrats. Yes, we believe Governor Romney will win Iowa, but beyond that we are simply not sure. Granted, we do not give the nomination to whoever "shows" or "places."



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