No real time to write a long post about this, but here are my predictions for Iowa and beyond:
- Barack wins Iowa, with 30%+ of the vote. Edwards comes in second, with 20-25%. Hillary comes in third.
- Barack wins NH, Hillary comes in second.
- Barack wins SC, Edwards comes in second.
- Going into Super Tuesday, Barack has the momentum and the money.
- In the final weeks ahead of the caucus, I see Bill as a liability for Hillary’s campaign. As her campaign struggles to find its footing against Obama, Bill is clearly inserting himself into the process more and more. That will cause friction inside her campaign – and it will call into question how in control of this campaign Hillary is. We’re already seeing reports of rifts within her campaign – and Bill taking a more public (and uncontrolled) role will only bring those rifts to the fore. Look for more media coverage of disagreement within Hillary’s inner circle about whether they should continue to listen to Mark Penn (her pollster) or not, and if not, how much free reign they give to Bill. And if by a minor miracle she wins in Iowa, does she really want the narrative out of Iowa to be that Bill saved her campaign? I’d argue that that would be almost as fatal as a big loss in Iowa – she needs to be her own person, and appear to be in complete control. But is there any controlling Bill, especially when he points out to all of her staff that he’s the only one to have run a successful Democratic run for the presidency in the last 30 years?
- A third place finish in Iowa, particularly if she’s more than 10 points behind Barack, will be a terrible blow to Hillary. Her entire campaign has been run as if she was an incumbent – and if she can’t win in Iowa (and in fact gets beaten soundly) it’ll shatter the whole “electability” argument she’s worked hard to build.
- Trend-wise, a win in Iowa gives Barack enough of a boost that he could take NH comfortably as well. Back-to-back losses for Hillary would be disastrous (see point above).
- I think it’s going to be hard for Hillary to move the needle in these last few weeks. Everyone knows her, they have a pretty firm idea of who she is, and going negative at this point (see this week’s attack on Obama’s drug use as exhibit #1) runs a huge risk of backfiring on her.
- Only wild card in Iowa, as far as I can tell: Michael Whouley. Who? This guy.. The guy who single-handedly handed Iowa to Kerry in 2004. So don’t count Hillary out… no doubt her ground game will be impressive: it’s just that all the ground game in the world won’t help if your candidate can’t actually deliver the momentum. And right now that all seems to be going Barack’s way.
On the Republican side, I honestly have no idea. Given the Wayne Dumond situation (Huckabee personally intervened in the case of a convicted rapist and murderer, encouraging the Arkansas parole board to parole him early; less than a year later, he raped and murdered another woman), I can’t imagine that Huckabee survives to the nomination. But I also can’t see any of the others surviving either. At this point, I’m standing by my prediction from more than 3 years ago: Hillary Clinton will not be our party’s nominee (check out this comment!). That nominee will be Barack Obama. And I don’t see a Republican who can beat him right now.
Update: I drafted this this morning, and today’s news makes my predictions seem ever-so-slightly less bold: three polls have Barack leading with over 30% of the vote in Iowa, Hillary’s starting to lower expectations for Iowa, and the Clinton camp is trying unsuccessfully to figure out how to plant seeds of doubt in Obama. We’re definitely in the end game now, and Christmas break is going to be all kinds of exciting. (Yeah, I’m a junkie. I admit it openly.)