On Thursday, I posted my prediction for the Iowa Caucus. Today, we are four weeks away from New Hampshire so I will try to do the same there, though it is more difficult to do so because the results will depend a lot on Iowa.
On the Republican side, I think it is a bit easier to predict. Back in September, I predicted something that was viewed as very unlikely then and is still considered unlikely: John McCain will win the Republican nomination for president. I still believe that that will be the case. The road map for doing so is a bit different than I mused at the time, however.
In September I said that McCain would finish first or second in Iowa. I presently have predicted that he will finish sixth. My earlier prediction was grounded in my view that Thompson would fizzle (which he did), that Giuliani has a ceiling around 15% (which he seems to have) and that Romney would slip (which he has). Thus, I assumed McCain would be able to pick up ground from all of these areas and become competitive with Romney. I failed to predict the rise of Mike Huckabee, however, which throws any shot for McCain out the window. Notwithstanding that, a loss for Romney, or a hollow victory over a surging Huckabee (which I've predicted) will wound Romney severely and still allow McCain to win New Hampshire.
So my prediction for New Hampshire would be: McCain, Romney, Huckabee, Giuliani, Paul, Thompson. I suspect Hunter, and possibly Tancredo, will withdraw the night of the Iowa Caucus and if they don't their numbers will be in the 1% range anyway. Huckabee and Giuliani will finish very close to each other and I consider them within the margin of error of my prediction so it could go: McCain, Romney, Giuliani, Huckabee, Paul, Thompson. This all depends on how much press momentum Huckabee gets out of his Iowa strength. Ordinarily I would think a lot, but based on the expectation that he will do well there a month out, he will not get as big of a bump. I think the Republican results in New Hampshire, like in Iowa, will mirror the breakdown of the Democrats from 2004. In that instance, Kerry beat Dean, but they were relatively close, and Clark, Edwards and Lieberman were clumped together in, essentially, a tie for third. I see Giuliani, Huckabee and Paul all in the 8-15% range with McCain near 40 and Romney in the 20s.
On the Democratic side, if my Iowa prediction holds, I believe Obama will suffer a complete meltdown. A third place finish in Iowa would be a disaster for him. Unlike Howard Dean, who governed a neighbouring state for over a decade and began his campaign with a focus on New Hampshire while virtually ignoring Iowa, Obama has no New Hampshire roots and has always played both here and in Iowa. Clinton, I think, could sustain a second place finish to Edwards in Iowa and still win New Hampshire. I would presume that a fifth place finish for Richardson would cause him to withdraw, and Dodd has all but said he is betting the farm on Iowa where he will get 1 or 2%, so I suspect he's out too.
So my prediction for the Democrats, relying highly on the results in Iowa going as I've projected, would be: Clinton, Edwards, Obama, Biden, Gravel, Kucinich. Depending on the strength of Obama's meltdown and if Joe Biden's fourth place finish in Iowa is strong, i.e. competitive with Obama, he could surge and place second or more likely third in New Hampshire and, in turn, be very competitive in Nevada where last year's Senate candidate (Jack Carter, son of Jimmy) is backing him, which would, in turn, make him competitive in South Carolina as the most moderate Democrat in the race. That is mostly wishful thinking on my part considering my affection for Biden as a candidate, but worth considering.