Monday, December 03, 2007

What It All Means

The Huckabee surge . . . the flurry of new polls . . . just a month to go before Iowa.

Here's a quick-take on what it all means:

Both frontrunners -- Hillary & Rudy -- have seen their national numbers fall over the last month. Of the two, Rudy's seem more troubling for his candidacy. That's because the Republican race remains much more fluid than the Democratic race, where there are 2 main contenders. The smart people remind us it's very hard to poll Iowa. Don't fall into the trap of believing Obama is the new man to beat in Iowa. If anything, it's probably still a virtual tie. The latest PEW poll has Clinton back up 31-26%. There's still more pressure on him to win than her. Oh, and Marc Ambinder reminds us that if the Iowa caucuses were held tonight, based on organization alone, John Edwards would win.

The national media is discovering this week what we knew back in April. That Huckabee is a likable, credible conservative candidate who would become a contender at some point. (Ok, so maybe I wouldn't of bet on him leading Iowa this soon but . . .) Huckabee is everywhere. Hardball. The cover of USA Today. Nightline. But now the hits will come hard and fast. Has he peaked too early? My guess is that Huckabee, with his wit and charm, will be able to weather the attacks that will come. He's already proving he's turned his Iowa candidacy into a national one. USA Today and Rasmussen both have him 2nd in national Republican polls. I can't imagine him doing that well in New Hampshire (based on the state's poor history of supporting southern candidates), so South Carolina could be the place he makes his stand. One more tidbit about Huckabee in Iowa: he's confident. How do I know? His schedule shows he'll spend less time there over the next few weeks, and more time in New Hampshire and South Carolina.

The only candidate who doesn't HAVE to win Iowa is Hillary Clinton. But Mitt Romney is now trying to convince you otherwise. The guy has spent $7 million dollars in Iowa to Huckabee's estimated $300,000 and now he's telling The Washington Post a "top-three" finish would suit him just fine. He's the tortoise to Huckabee's hare? Wow. And a top-two finish in New Hampshire? Romney has looked at his sagging numbers and is starting to lower expectations. Don't buy that he doesn't need to win Iowa. He does, and based on organization alone, he still should. You think his upcoming speech on his faith has anything to do with hearing the footsteps?

1 comment:

Matt said...

Good analysis Dave. I figured Rudy would fall back to earth as we get closer to actually casting votes, but I didn't think his landing would be this hard. A great deal will change in the next 30 days, but right now, Rudy wouldn't win a single early primary and a possible make-or-break showdown with Mike Huckabee of all people in Florida would be all that stood in between him and the door.

Huckabee continues to be the story on the GOP side. He's risen 17% in one month in Iowa! Now, he carries the onus as Iowa "front-runner" and he's square in the crosshairs of Romney. Speaking of Romney, what amazes me is how much money and time he's poured into Iowa relative to the percentage of the vote he's getting. He should be burying Huckabee and the rest of the field by at least 10% there.

Dave's right, Romney has to win Iowa. The "Post" quote is an effort to try to manage expectations and prepare for a 2nd place finish to Huckabee. Romney's nightmare is coming to life: an on fire Huckabee in Iowa and a surging McCain in NH. The way Romney has set this thing up, he has to win one of the two or he's gone.

With 30 days to go before Iowa, the GOP comes down to Rudy, Romney, and Huckabee. McCain has a slim chance if he can either win or place a close 2nd in NH. The question for me as a Republican is this: which two does it come down to? Huckabee and Romney, Rudy and Romney, or Huckabee and Rudy? If Romney goes 0 for 2 in Iowa and NH, we have our answer. When does Rudy have to break through? Florida? And does Huckabee have to win a 2nd state like SC or Florida in order to remain viable? fun, but not clear. But it's beginning to clarify a bit.