Friday, December 28, 2007

But Can He Win?

For those of you who might be offended, the subject of this does not ignore Hillary, we all know she can win. The question many primary voters have to answer is “I like this guy, but I don’t want to waste my vote – can he actually win this, or should I go to my second choice?” I am going to attempt to answer this, based on polling data and my own spectacularly fallible ability to read the political entrails.

The “Not Really” Tier

Joe Biden: In a better political world, Biden would be battling for the lead in the polls, as he is far more qualified than those at the top. He is also far more experienced than the candidate in his party running on her experience. But he has little personal popularity and his unchanging poll numbers mean he has no chance. This is an indictment of our political system.

Chris Dodd: See Joe Biden, in spades.

Bill Richardson: No, but he has a great chance of being the VP nominee. He, Biden, and Dodd, would make a much stronger top tier than the one we have, but that’s the way things go.

Dennis Kucinich: Yeah, right. Won’t win but will keep cluttering up the race until the end.

Duncan Hunter: Will stick around until the first votes are counted or until his campaign funds run out.

Ron Paul: No, but he is on a mission and his supporters are marginally insane. Look for him to get a shocking number of votes in either Iowa or New Hampshire. Also look for the media to totally ignore the votes he does get.

Fred Thompson: His campaign never caught fire. While his polling numbers have put him in range of the others, he really doesn’t seem to have any sort of momentum or personal drive to get him over the top.

The Contenders - Democrats

Hillary Clinton: Hell yeah. Still the favorite to get the nomination, and still a marginal favorite to become President. The unfortunate assassination of Benazir Bhutto may actually help her...or at least the mainstream media thinks it will, and since they are on her side anyway, they will keep repeating it until the public believes it. Make no mistake, she is who the MSM wants to be President and they will do whatever they can.

Barack Obama: Yes, he can. But if his people aren’t troubled by his national poll numbers, they are fooling themselves. Has money and a national organization, but something may be missing here and a defeat in Iowa could be disastrous, depending on how big.

John Edwards: Yes, but he has to get the nomination and that’s the hard part. A win in Iowa (which I think is at least as likely as anything) and the race turns upside down. The MSM has done everything it can to marginalize him (haircuts? he’s late to rallies?) in an attempt to get a Clinton-Obama showdown, but they can’t ignore actual results. It’s not easy, but at some point Dems may focus on the big picture – he is easily the most electable Democrat.

The Contenders – Republicans

Mitt Romney – Is he the establishment candidate? Does turmoil in Pakistan hurt him (and Huckabee)? Has to be considered a genuine contender, but his plans have gone awry. It was a simple plan : win Iowa, win New Hampshire, narrow the race to himself and Rudy, then roll. Well, what if he loses Iowa and NH? They then head to South Carolina, far less hospitable for him. Has money, has organization, but without momentum, that Mormon thing could prove fatal. Even if he gets the nomination, not a great bet in November.

Rudy Giuliani – Was the leader, may still be the leader, but with everyone under 20%, leadership means little. The sleaze is starting to pile up, and much of his strength in the race comes from his electability, which, while a bit better than Mitt’s, is just not closing the deal. Failures in Iowa and New Hampshire could put him in a difficult position.

John McCain – Rudy’s worst nightmare. The single most likely winner in November, more and more of the GOP establishment are starting to realize that. His resurgent poll numbers reflect the softening of Rudy’s support base. A good third in Iowa followed by a win in NH could make him the top candidate. If Hillary seems to be the Democrats nominee, look for many to rally around the most likely winner – which is him. Will beat any Democrat except Edwards in November.

Mike Huckabee – Included in this group because he can get the nomination. He won’t get elected President. His lack of international experience, his insane tax policy, his extreme religious views, and the many weird things he has said, will overcome his likeability and crush his candidacy should he be the nominee.

No Trouble With The Nomination

Michael Bloomberg – He wants to run, a lot. But he’s not stupid and won’t spend the money without a real chance. A race where Huckabee is the GOP nominee gives him that chance. Not sure whether he would prefer Clinton or Obama on the Dems side, but against Hillary he gets the independents and maybe a third of the GOP, who would be scared by Huckabee. We’re a ways from him making his decision, and if the GOP can’t make a decision and it goes until the convention, that might kill his chances. Absolutely won’t run against McCain or Edwards.

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Thursday, December 20, 2007

Numbers and Notes: The Comeback Kid?

The Republican race has taken some bizarre turns in recent weeks, none more bizarre than this week’s. First was the Huckabee surge – fueled by religion and heavy doses of it, the “Christian Leader (his characterization, not mine)” surged to the lead not just in Iowa but in South Carolina, with the national lead within reach. Then, when the rocks were lifted and some unpleasant worms crawled out (pardoning rapists and condoning dog-killing by his son), suddenly Rev. Huck was not all that hot. Meanwhile Mitt “I am too a Christian” Romney started to build a little momentum nationally, while losing it in Iowa and New Hampshire. Rudy was undone by the Judith Nathan hidden security charges scandal, which combined a doubleheader of no-no’s for the GOP – infidelity and misuse of funds (either-or is the traditional GOP stance on those two). The Giuliani campaign is taking on water at an ungodly rate and could be on the verge of sinking. Fred Thompson has successfully put everyone to sleep and his numbers have drifted down.
And then there’s John McCain, who was supposed to have driven off in the old “Straight Talk Express” by now. He is closing in on Romney in New Hampshire and amazingly, while he isn’t even campaigning in Iowa, his numbers there (according to Rasmussen) have doubled since the Register endorsement. This is an incredible move up, but as with all Iowa poll numbers, it’s hard to know whether it translates into actual caucus-goers, or whether people were searching for a name that didn’t repulse them when they were asked, but don’t really have enough enthusiasm to leave their homes for. According to Rasmussen, he’s closed to within 4 points of Mitt in NH, thought to be safe for Romney. The endorsements have clearly helped him, as Republicans are confused and anyone with a firm opinion, even Joe Lieberman, may be listened to. A key to NH may be the Democrats in Iowa, as many independent voters in NH are planning on voting in the Democratic primary, but may switch if it looks like the Dems are done. Look for McCain to have his Hillary ’08 cap on while watching returns on January 3rd.
Oddly, while Romney seems extremely vulnerable at this point, his path to the nomination is the clearest of all. He’s made some peace with the religious right – “If you get down on your knees and pray, you’ll have a friend in the White House” was as clear a signal as he could give – and the business GOP would be thrilled with him. The path was simple, win Iowa (or finish a close second to Huckabee), romp in NH, eliminating Thompson and McCain, watch Rudy founder in SC against Huckabee, then turn to February 5th basically head-to-head with an underfunded and disorganized Huckabee campaign. It still could happen, but he could just as easily lose Iowa to Huckabee, then lose NH to McCain, SC to Huckabee, and then find himself going into the big states without a win and with the “can a Mormon win this?” question being the key topic of discussion.
The other question would be “if not Romney, then who?” The key again may be the Democratic nomination. If it’s Hillary, the GOP may turn to the most likely winner, who, according to polls, is no longer Rudy, it’s McCain. They would have to swallow his immigration stance, and his opposition to torture (and we can assume his strong opposition to torturing illegal aliens, also not popular among the faithful), yet he is strongly anti-abortion and pro-war and that puts him ahead of Rudy that way.
Or this could just boil down to who loves Jesus more and illegal immigrants and “Islamofascists” less – hard to say what these people are thinking.
As Elizabeth Edwards said: “Republicans scare me.”

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Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Numbers and Notes -- Useless Polling Edition

(With apologies to Meredith Wilson)

We’ve got trouble, right here in River City
With a capitol T and that rhymes with P and that stands for Polls.
We’ve got trouble, right here in River City
Reporting nonsense that’ll suck your brains like a big lack hole.

And soon your kids’ll be using words
Not good words like “tax policy” or “health care reform”
But words like “momentum” (gasp)
Or “trend lines” (gasp)
Or “margin of error” (TROUBLE)

You ever hear of FDR talking about “trend lines”?
Ever hear Ike talk about “margin of error”?
I should say not.
My friends, useless numbers are the devil’s tools.

We’re two weeks from the Iowa caucuses and over the last three days there have been three polls released in which a)each of the candidates has been first b)each has been second and c)each has been third. The media breathlessly announce the numbers like they came down on tablets from Mt. Sinai, often because they themselves sponsored the polls. And the poll they sponsored is the one treated as holy writ, debated like it really means something. In fact, they mean next to nothing. No, I’m not saying Joe Biden or Bill Richardson is going to win Iowa or come close, but the top three are not truly distinguishable by polls. Personally, I think Edwards organization (he’s organized in all 99 counties of Iowa) and experience (his people have done this before) will end up winning the day, especially in terms of delegates. Still, that’s something of a guess, and if you told me he would win the delegates and lose the popular vote to Obama, I wouldn’t dispute that.
The one thing I am hoping for is that the Hawkeyes see clearly enough to punish the Clinton campaign for the filth they have spewn. Usually, dirty tactics wait for when a candidate is in trouble, but the Clintonites see no point in waiting. Besides the silliness over Obama’s kindergarten essays – and rest assured, the Clintonites see that as probitive – they also hinted at his selling coke. That’s the way they play the game, attack first, apologize later, but leave the attack out there. I can’t prove that the John Edwards’ pregnant mistress story came from the Clinton campaign, but it has Clinton conduit Matt Drudge’s fingerprints on it and on Thanksgiving, I was wearing my Edwards button and a Clinton campaign person asked me if I would still support him when stories about his mistress hit the media in a couple of weeks. Now the Enquirer broke the story before that, so he may have gotten it from there, or it just may have been a plan they had. Of course if Edwards did have a mistress – and that would give him a Clinton connection and the kind of experience Hillary is familiar with – this would be huge. It would also have been investigated by a better source than the Enquirer by this time and confirmed by them.
We have two weeks to go, until then, the Dems will battle for every voter and the Republicans will battle for Jesus – more about them later.

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Real Leadership Does Exist

A while back I said nice things about Chris Dodd based on his debate performances, which I thought were excellent, especially since he was generally given less time than the frontrunners. This week he showed another reason to be impressed, as he led the prospective filibuster which derailed the pernicious FISA bill. This bill, which, with the help of my own Senator, Dianne Feinstein, got out of committee with a Republican-sponsored provision exempting the telcos from liability for their aiding the Bush regime in its spying on Americans. This craven capitulation was reinforced on the floor, when the Majority Leader, the relatively useless Harry Reid, was unable or unwilling to get it out of the bill. Now a real Leader would have counted heads and said “I have enough to sustain a filibuster, now get that crap out of there”. Unfortunately, Reid is a pretty lame Leader and was about to get it passed.
At least, he was about to get it passed until Chris Dodd got wind of it and returned from Iowa to lead a filibuster against it. Rather than risk the fight, Reid has postponed consideration of the bill. The other Senators campaigning for President supported Dodd, but had Reid forced the issue, they weren’t there to vote. Only Dodd was there, only Dodd took the lead, and for that, all Americans owe him a debt of gratitude, All it takes for tyrants to triumph (and Bush and his sycophants truly fit that description) is for good men (and women) to do nothing. Chris Dodd did something, and while he may not win in Iowa – okay, he may not get 1% in Iowa – he comes out of this with a lot more of my respect than the others get.
There is talk among the progressive wing of the party about getting Dodd to challenge Reid for the Leadership in the next Senate. I think this is a wonderful idea, as his campaign has given him both the exposure and the following to be the strong Majority Leader the party and the country needs. Whatever party the next President is from, I want the legislative branch to stand up to him (or her) when needed. Run, Chris, run.