Saturday, January 5, 2008

Through a glass, murkily

There is one essential rule about political impressions: wait until the day after -- the dust will clear, and the picture will be totally different.

So when Malcolm encountered Belfast Gonzo, at 4.24 a.m. GMT yesterday, setting the agenda for Slugger O'Toole, he expected something to be adrift:
BAD news for Hillary Clinton, coming third in the Democratic caucus in Iowa.
Admittedly, Gonzo was operating from early results (quoting the Democrat split at 37-27-24): which substantially underestimated both the Edwards and Clinton figures. The BBC gives the final figures as 37.6-29.7-29.5. The New York Times, as "gray" and lady-like as ever, equates those figures to the share of the delegates to the State convention, which will decide the Iowa representation at the National Convention: Obama 940, Edwards 744, Clinton 737, with 46 still to play for.

It does not take much "spin" to make the whole thing look rosier for Hillary.

When Malcolm looks further, the same impression persists.

The Democratic caucuses in Iowa are "open". The effect of this deserved the Washington Post's comment:
Obama's victory in the first official vote of 2008 came from a big influx of first-time caucusgoers and significant support from independents. Nearly six in 10 Democratic participants said they had not caucused before, and that group preferred Obama by double-digit margins over Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York and former senator John Edwards of North Carolina. Although Clinton ran about even with Obama among Democrats, Obama outpaced both of his main rivals among independents, who made up 20 percent of voters and broke 41 percent for Obama, 23 percent for Edwards and 17 percent for Clinton.

Elsewhere, the Post indicates that Clinton raised more cash in Iowa than any other candidate.

On the Democratic side, then, Iowa merely short-listed the prime candidates down to three. It makes New Hampshire, next Tuesday, highly significant. So, if, and only if Hillary stumbles there, her candidature is seriously in trouble. Reuters reports Zogby's latest poll:
Clinton, a New York senator and former first lady, led Illinois Sen. Obama 32 percent to 26 percent among likely voters in the state's Democratic primary. Former Sen. John Edwards, the runner-up in Iowa, was at 20 percent, and no other Democrat was in double digits.

Of course, there should be a further bounce for Obama not yet registering there.

On the other side of the aisle, things are no clearer. Huckabee wiped everyone else's clock. Malcolm recalls that he was an also-ran under the back end of the year. Now:
With 93 percent of precincts reporting, Huckabee had won 34 percent of the delegates awarded, Romney held 25 percent, and former senator Fred D. Thompson (Tenn.) and Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) were tied for third, with about 13 percent each.

Huckabee's problems start here:
Huckabee enters New Hampshire with little money and little time to mount an adequate come-from-behind surge. And tradition pulls against him. George H. W. Bush in 1980, Bob Dole in 1988 and 1996 and George W. Bush in 2000 -- all are Iowa caucus winners who lost their New Hampshire primaries.

What does intrigue is the complexion of the Republican semi-closed caucus, to whom Huckabee specifically framed his appeal:
Sixty percent of Republican caucusgoers described themselves as evangelicals, according to entrance polls. Those voters went for Huckabee over Romney by more than 2 to 1.

The Economist's on-line up-date confirms much of this:
Mrs Clinton's third-place finish is deeply disappointing for her, even though she retains lots of money, strong organisation and a well-recognised name and can expect to improve her performance. She has quickly turned to New Hampshire, where polls have shown her tying with (or leading) Mr Obama, and then on to South Carolina. Mr Edwards’s future looks cloudier, given the gap with Mr Obama. The Democrats appear to be heading for a two-horse race, which either can win.

The [Republican] winner who stayed away from Iowa was Mr McCain. He came in fourth, but just a few hundred votes behind Mr Thompson, a former senator, despite barely visiting the state. Recent newspaper endorsements and media coverage have revived the Arizona senator's fortunes. He now looks like he can move past Mr Romney in New Hampshire and perhaps win the state, which abuts Mr Romney's Massachusetts.

One last thought: 230,000 Democrats turned out on a cold Iowan night: in 2000 it was just 59,000. That's down to Howard Dean nationally, but particularly Obama's local squad: so let's hear it for Paul Tewes, Steve Hildebrand and Mitch Stewart. It looks as if the Democratic surge, which delivered in the 2006 mid-terms, is still racing: if so, the Republicans are definitely dans le merde, all the way to November.

The above appeared previously on Malcolm's experiment with Wordpress. Sphere: Related Content

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