Thursday, January 03, 2008

Happy Caucus Day

Political nerds from around the world will take their seats in front of their TVs tonight at 9 p.m. Atlantic time to watch the beginning of what could be the most exciting U.S. election in history.

For the first time since 1928, neither a president or vice-president is seeking the nomination of his party and the race is wide open. We will almost certainly see a long, competitive race on the Republican side and could well see one on the Democratic side as well.

Tonight, in Iowa, any of three Democrats could easily win and any of two Republicans. Just five days from now, we'll see another race in New Hampshire where there will be a competitive race for the Republicans and, depending on how things go tonight, most likely one for the Democrats.

Four weeks ago today, I made some predictions for Iowa and I have posted a scorecard on the right side of the site which I'll update tonight or tomorrow morning. A number of the predictions I made at the time (a win by Edwards and Romney) were contrary to the then conventional wisdom but do seem more likely now; though anything remains possible. I am still confident in all of my predictions except that I expect McCain will do better than sixth on the Republican side, though I do not think he will claim third place as a number of folks are now predicting.

Have fun watching, I know I will.


I've been blathering on about my support of Joe Biden since last January. I have predicted him to finish with a "solid" fourth place in Iowa. For months now Biden has been slowly rising from the lower tier to what I call the middle tier. The lower tier - Chris Dodd, Dennis Kucinich and Mike Gravel - tend to be within the margin of error of 0%. The upper tier - Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards - tend to be in the double digits. I think that there is also a middle tier - consisting of Biden and Bill Richardson - who, though longshots, at least have a measure of support that cannot be written off as polling error. In Iowa, Richardson leads Biden barely in a poll average, while he leads Biden by a larger margin in New Hampshire and Biden leads nationally. However, I predict Biden will beat Richardson in Iowa by a substantial margin.

A few weeks ago, I wrote, tongue-in-cheek, that Biden could win Iowa. Though that was not a very serious projection, I do think he will emerge tonight closer to the top tier than to the bottom. Why? Biden and Richardson may well have their support bunched together in a state-wide average, but my read is that Biden has pockets of strong support while Richardson has thin support spread across the state.

In the Iowa caucus, Democrats will gather in 1784 different meetings to vote. In each meeting if a candidate gets 15% of the vote, he gets 15% of the delegates to the county convention (the measure used when results are tabulated tonight). However, if he gets 14%, he gets 0 delegates. This is called viability. In a given meeting, if a candidate doesn't have 15% support, his supporters have to make a second choice. So, I suspect there will be a lot of meetings where Richardson will get 5-10% and no delegates, while Biden will get only 2 or 3% in some meetings and 20% in others, thus giving him more delegates. Think of it the context of the Canadian election in 1993. The PCs beat the Reform Party in the popular vote, but because Reform's support was concentrated, they got 26 times as many seats.

An interesting thing I observed from Ben Smith on New Year's Day is that a post-Iowa debate will likely only include the top four finishers from Iowa. If that means a Clinton-Obama-Edwards-Biden debate, things could turn out quite well for Biden. As I wrote over on Ben's blog:
Interesting. This WMUR debate could prove to be huge for Biden. Presuming he places fourth in NH Iowa (typo correction) and Richardson doesn't meet the 5% threshold (not sure on this one?) it could make him a player. It is widely agreed that Biden is the best debater in the field but he usually is lumped with the also-rans in terms of time alottment and post-debate coverage. If the debate only consists of he and the "big three" and he cleans their clocks I don't think it would be unreasonable to imagine him surging to third which would make him THE story coming out of NH would it not?
A third place showing in New Hampshire by Biden could set him up to win the Nevada Caucus which could set him up to win the South Carolina primary. I know, I know, an unlikely scenario, but I've gotta hold out hope.


Here are number ranges from my gut today routed in my earlier predicitions...

Edwards 29-35%
Clinton 28-31%
Obama 16-21%
Biden 7-11%
Richardson 4-7%
Dodd 1-3%
Kucinich 0-2%
Gravel 0-1%

Romney 30-35%
Huckabee 20-24%
Thompson 12-16%
Giuliani 9-13%
Paul 7-11%
McCain 11-15%
Hunter 0-2%


NB taxpayer said...

Excellent analysis!! We seem to be on the very same wave length here except for McCain. Btw, I attribute that to the fact that you have made great arguements over the last six monyths which I have bought into. lol

As for Ron Paul, I think he could be the "new" talk of the Republican side after tonight's results (much like Biden or Richardson). Whether that talk is good or bad is still up in the air though.

Anyway, I headed out to buy some munchies for the big dance. Enjoy.

Anonymous said...

Obama will do better, second place or very close third at least. He may even finish first.

Anonymous said... -- Interesting commentary, he seems to like Obama alot, and Edwards too for that matter.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, this is the correct link:

Anonymous said...

Obama and Huckabee won. Bye Bye Joe Biden. On this one your prediction did not go well.

nbpolitico said...

Indeed, I certainly missed the mark in a lot of regards, though I am glad I got you to buy in NBT!!!!

See my new post with my thoughts and revised NH predictions. I think it is over for Clinton.

Watch for an Obama-McCain general election.

nbt said...

I'm still not sold on Obama yet. (although he kicked Hillary's ass in delivering a riveting speech as a oppose to what almost resembled a concession speech from her late last night).

Three things here on the democratic side. The pundits were claiming last night that "going neg" didn't work for either side. I disagree. The one thing I did notice about Obama's campaign was that they did a fantastic job of hitting back when being smeared and R&t F*&Ked by both Clinton and Edwards.

However, now that they are sitting on top, they will be subject to serious "false allegations" and "smears" going into tuesday's vote. In other words, they better watch their backs and knees because the Clinton's play serious hardball. So essentially, if they are able to sustain the attacks and hit back harder like they did in Iowa, this may end up being the defining moment of this campaign as Clinton has a tough sell in the southern states against a black opponent. In other words, if she loses NH, how will she be able to convince African Americans to stop an Obama campaign?? Short answer: she can't.

Secondly, I think it was interesting that Hillary came second and even third amongst certain female demographics. This was a constituency that she was hoping to carry. Funny thing that, I guess there really is some truth to the "Flora Syndrome". lol Although, if I were Hillary, I would swallow my pride and send out my husband in NH to gain the women's vote as they seem to love him.

Finally, Edwards failure to raise money could come back to bite him. IMO, he is sitting perfectly in the middle as Hillary will have her sites and attacks on Obama, thus weakening his bid and allowing for an opportunity for another "change" candidate to emerge out of NH. That candidate could have been Edwards. And that would have been huge since they would be going into states where he is popular, including South Carolina where he would have a good shot at many southern white voters.

Unfortunately, I think he may have invested too many resources in Iowa to accomplish that. If he doesn't beat Hillary in NH, he's done.