With the Iowa caucuses hours away, here’s my guesses as to how the primaries will play out. Although these are simply guesses tinted by my own biases and unsupportable by empirical evidence, I’ll resist the urge to label these “conventional wisdom”. Since I’m the same guy who called “bullshit” on a poll predicting a Kerry win in Iowa four years ago, take the following with a grain of salt.
On the Democratic side, I think Edwards is gonna take Iowa in an upset. The first round of caucusing may resemble the polls we’ve seen, but I think Edwards is going to be a much more attractive second pick candidate than Clinton or Obama. I can’t imagine Hillary would be a popular second round pick. People already know a lot about her and have made up their minds before caucusing. Of the top three, I think her support is as solid as it’s gonna get. Obama, on the other hand, is a much more charismatic presence on the campaign trail, but I doubt that his caucus-going supporters will be able to impress undecideds with platitudes about “hope” and “change”.
Another thing working in Edwards favor is that Iowa has been framed as a two-person race for a while between Clinton and Obama. The caucuses four years ago were also a two way race between Dean (who placed a distant third) and Gephardt (who dropped out that night). If this year plays out the same way, Edwards could sneak up the middle as a choice that combines some of the most appealing qualities of the top two. While he hasn’t been around Washington as long as Clinton, his role in the 2004 campaign gives him a one-up in the “experience” area against Obama (whose last election was against a candidate nobody expected to win). On the other hand, when it comes to Obama’s “Audacity of Hope” campaign-style, Edwards campaign is every bit as status-quo shattering and would provide just as great a contrast with the Clinton campaign.
If Edwards does win in Iowa, I think it’ll mark the beginning of the end for Obama. For one, it would give the press a new storyline about the Obama campaign being a well-funded hype machine that couldn’t translate its enthusiasm into votes (like Dean in ’04). Moreover, it’ll give the Edwards campaign a breath of fresh air and go a long way towards establishing him as the “not-Hillary candidate” (though I could easily see the same working in reverse if Obama beats Edwards).
On the Republican side, I think Ron Paul is going to win because he’s the only candidate that cares about the constitution and freedom. Also, his supporters rented him a blimp.
Okay, let’s try this again…
On the Republican side, I think Huckabee is going to probably win Iowa by default. More important than Huckabee winning, though, is that I think Mitt Romney is going to get crushed. Not just because he’s a transparent phony who’s trying to buy the election (which caucus-goers will resent), but he really sucks at pandering to his base. He’s terrible at it. For example, check out how he slammed Huckabee earlier today :
Mitt Romney, who is spending the final day before the caucuses jetting around Iowa, is hitting rival Mike Huckabee for abandoning the Hawkeye State on caucus eve to make an appearance on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno.
“Well, frankly my focus is on the caucuses here in Iowa. I think Mike is more concerned about the caucus in Los Angeles,” Romney told voters at Bettendorf Middle School.
Any decent Republican strategist would see Huckabee’s caucus-eve trip as a golden opportunity to bash Hollywood and kiss Iowans asses by referring to their neck of the woods as the “real America”, but the best Romney could come up with was some clumsy statement about “the caucus in Los Angeles”. Huh??
Another thing working against Romney is that he’s a Mormon. Although most conservative voters would have a hard time admitting to a pollster that they think the LDS church is a weird (I prefer to think of it as a fanfic version of Christianity), I think a lot of Iowans who might otherwise vote for Mitt will find convenient reasons not to support him. While his flip-flopping may be the official reason for his fall, I think old-fashioned religious bigotry will be his undoing. Since he decided to make his faith a selling point in the campaign, his downfall will be hilarious to watch. Live by the cross, die by the cross.
The other big news on the GOP side will be McCain having a surprisingly strong showing in Iowa that will position him to win New Hampshire and turn the GOP primary into a two-man race with Huckabee. Giuliani’s irrelevance in the early primaries will leave him virtually shut out of the press coverage aside from the occasional “Where are they now?” piece. Like the Dems four years ago, Republicans are in an “anyone but ____” mode and will ultimately go with the candidate they think has the strongest chance of beating the Democrats. That’s why I think “Maverick” McCain is going to beat Huckabee because the corporate whores who own the GOP won’t allow the nominee to be some hick who might raise taxes.
…then again, I could be wrong.