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Wednesday, December 19, 2007
Predictions for Iowa and New Hampshire

As everyone disappears for the Christmas and New Year's holidays, I wanted to get my predictions for the first two contests, Iowa and New Hampshire, out there.


Iowa, as we know, has attracted a lot of attention this election cycle because a crowded field on both sides, as well as several major names being in play, makes the state's caucuses a must-win for some of the lesser known candidates, and a headache for candidates with higher numbers. One of the most important things to note for Iowa is the vote-switching that takes place as the some caucus-goers settle on their second choices whereas other try to create momentum for their primary (no-pun intended) choices. The pressures begin as soon as the caucus-attendees arrive in the parking lot to witness which delegates seem enthusiastic about their candidates and which delegates will probably have to defect to other groups once their candidate's "support" is revealed.

Due to the voting effects of these literal lateral social and networking pressures, as well as the immense importance attributed to the first and second place winners, two strategies will collide head to head that night, neither of which is mutually: the politics of charisma and the politics of mobilization. The politics of charisma shores up the enthusiasm of the delegates for a particular candidate and provides ample social capital to tip support toward a particular candidate. The politics of mobilization turns out a sympathetic demographic and prays that initial support is strong enough to prevent massive defection to another candidate.

On the Democratic side, Edwards and Obama have mastered charisma, and poured a lot of resources into mobilization. Clinton, while less charismatic, has designed a buddy-system turnout method, which should withstand early pressures for defection, and enlisted several popular locals: Magic Johnson, Bill Clinton, and former Governor Tom Vilsack.

On the Republic side, former Governor Huckabee has a lock on the politics of charisma--though monetary constraints have prevented him from investing into organized mobilization strategies--and former Governor Mitt Romney, through investment, has created a mobilization effect. Rudy Giuliani has only half-committed to the state. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) has focused mostly on New Hampshire, but has received crucial endorsement nods as well as a lot of press from the surge.

As such, I predict (in this order) for Democrats: Edwards, Clinton, Obama, and for Republicans, Huckabee, Romney, and McCain.

I think that caucus trading between the enthusiasm of Edwards supporters and Obama supporters will weaken them both, and that, more importantly, Clinton, through the buddy system has inoculated many of her supporters from defection through the buddy-system (a source of mobilization as well as monitoring). Moreover, Edwards supporters are pissed that their candidate has been ignored in the press and will be prepared to court and collect any soft support. The nod from the Des Moines Register will improve Clinton's image for long enough after Christmas to have her fold in at least Gov. Bill Richardson's support and potentially Sen. Joe Biden's as well. (Generally, people support those candidates for experience and wonkishness rather than charisma.) I think that Dodd's and Kuchinich's appeal is more left-leaning and will disperse, roughly evenly, to Obama and Edwards.

As for the Republicans, I think that Romney machine has created a floor beyond which he cannot fall, and that enthusiasm for Huckabee is at an all-time high. Moreover, Huckabee can count on religious networks to mobilize communities for him, and to prevent defection by having them pre-organized along social ties of monitoring and enforcement. Giuliani's lackluster campaigning will force his supporters into the arms of a candidate is tough on security, John McCain, who also recently received the nod of the Des Moines Register as well. McCain will probably absorb a lot of other support, particularly from Thompson, as a candidate who can stop both Huckabee and Romney from becoming the nominee of the Republican party.

New Hampshire

In New Hampshire, the battle is for independents. However, without Iowa sending them a strong signal about which race is more dynamic, the Independents will probably divide their support among Republican and Democratic candidates, hurting those candidates who have most courted the Independent vote, Senators Obama and McCain, to overcome any weakness they have within their own parties. Moreover, the Clinton machine is furiously organizing the people of the New Hampshire, even the Obama's performance has his numerical support rising.

Without the independents voting mostly for Obama, or seeing a renewed interest in McCain in the wake of a good Iowa finish, I predict the following results for New Hampshire. For the Democrats, Clinton (narrow), Obama, and Edwards. (This is really going to put South Carolina in play.) For the Republicans, John McCain, Ron Paul, and a Mitt Romney/Huckabee tie.

McCain is very popular among New Hampshire Republicans now, a good showing in Iowa, as well as the recent endorsements of the New Hampshire papers and his team's focus on New Hampshire will probably swing the state for him. (Moreover, a resurgent McCain will reabsorb the Thompson off-shoot that emerged when the McCain team ran out of money and the Giuliani security hawks.) Ron Paul's money and the libertarian diaspora within New Hampshire's Republicans will create a solid finish for Ron Paul, giving him some much needed media space. Ron Paul's grassroots campaign is the most sophisticated of all the Republicans, and will greatly appeal to the small-government types who live in New Hampshire. Mitt Romney, again, due to money and time, will probably have a floor that will not evaporate, but Huckabee is going to have a run of the press for at least seven days after his Iowa victory, and growing numbers in South Carolina that will improve his image of electability.

Clinton will scoop out a narrow turn-out victory and descend on South Carolina as the friend of blacks and a the Democratic-comeback kid. (She will emphasize that she was the front-runner, whether the attacks, and campaign equally hard to win the affects of South Carolina. Most of her generals, however, will go to the Southwest and California as she wins the non-primary primaries in Florida.) Obama-mania will not have subsided in the wake of a non-Iowa victory, and, more importantly, Edwards will have to step up attacks on him, giving him more press time. Edwards, unfortunately, will not be able out maneuver either the Obama or Clinton grassroots campaigns, and, sadly, is not the fascination of the press (who like the idea of a Clinton-Obama fight). Edwards, too, will have to run to South Carolina and effectively cede the Southwest to Clinton.

The following people will have to leave after New Hampshire and Iowa: Joe Biden, Chris Dodd, Fred Thompson, and Rudy Giuliani. Fred will probably endorse McCain as will Rudy to stop Romney and Hucakbee. Bill Richardson won't leave until Clinton has dusted off his campaign in the Southwest. I'm not sure when Dennis Kucinich will drop out.