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.
ONE MORE THOUGHT:
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 inA 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.
NHIowa (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?
Here are number ranges from my gut today routed in my earlier predicitions...