January 07, 2008
Presidential Race Q&A: New Hampshire is voting edition

Have you been smitten by Obama-mania yet?

Heh. No. But the media has, as have Democratic leaning voters. Barack Obama's campaign is now a virtually unstoppable tide, vulnerable only to a truly massive gaffe or scandal of his own commission.

So I take it he's going to crush Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire?

Likely by double digits, easy. By Saturday it was clear Obama had harnessed the news of his decisive (and surprisingly large) Iowa win into real, sustained momentum. Team Clinton is at a loss to figure out how to slow him down. Their usual array of vicious attacks, made famous in the '90's, just won't fly against the Audacity of Hope. My only trepidation in calling for an Obama blowout is that there is a real bandwagon effect in the pundit class right now: the herd is all starting to say the same thing. I get concerned because the herd can be tragically wrong, but all the dynamics of the race point to a smashing Obama victory, probably larger than the current poll margin.

Is Clinton done after New Hampshire?

Technically, no. Realistically, close to it since her candidacy was so predicated on inevitability.

The race will have a big of a pause compared to the Republican race, however. The Democrats' contest in Michigan on the 15th is an oddball. Obama and Edwards aren't even on the ballot thanks to the peculiar machinations of the DNC trying to punish the state for jumping earlier on the calendar (Obama and Edwards supporters are being urged to vote "non-committed"). Clinton is on the ballot and it's an open primary, but as things currently stand the DNC has stripped Michigan of delegates for the Democratic Convention. Long story short, Michigan may not get much attention on the Democratic side.

Then it's on to the Nevada caucuses on the 19th where Obama and John Edwards are probably strongest. Then comes South Carolina on January 26th (a week after the Republican contest in the Palmetto State). That's probably Clinton's last stand, even if she lingers on through February 5th after a potential South Carolina loss. John Edwards might end up staying in the race longer than her.

How could Clinton's campaign go from inevitable front-runner to spiraling out of control?

Books could be written on that topic. The common, alleged starting point of the collapse will be the drivers' license debate question from Tim Russert she now so infamously fumbled. But it's a lot more complex than that. Either way, if the now expected blowout in New Hampshire unfolds her campaign is almost certain to head into a fatal tailspin, with a lot of blood being spilled before it's complete.

So what about the Republicans in New Hampshire? Is John McCain really on the comeback trail?

Yes, disturbingly so. The Granite State primary is a true dog fight right now between he and Mitt Romney. If McCain wins New Hampshire he's the favorite to win Michigan's open primary, and thus the probable candidate to emerge as the anti-Huckabee alternative down the stretch. On top of that, the media coverage of "John McCain the Maverick is back!" is likely to be nauseating (though helpful to McCain's candidacy). Books could also be written about that if it all unfolds. It would objectively be one of the great political comebacks of all time.

Is McCain really going to win New Hampshire again?

Eh...if you put a gun to my head I'd say, "yes." That said, Mitt Romney has had a exceptionally strong last couple days in a tight race, some polls have it very, very close, and McCain has a real problem with Obama's rise since they're competing for the same independent voters who form a plurality in New Hampshire's open primary.

You mean the same independents who gave McCain his victory over Bush in 2000?

Yes, though McCain actually narrowly won Republicans too on his way to that huge win. His overwhelming success with independents gave him his crushing margin to make the victory complete. Here's the dilemma this year: McCain won independents by large margins in 2000 as those voters bailed on a sinking Bill Bradley and opted into the Republican contest on Election Day. If the reverse happens now, with New Hampshire's increasingly left-leaning independents flocking to Obama-mania, then McCain is going to be weakened. Just like Evangelical turnout in Iowa, however, no one really knows until Election Day what voters are going to do.

Current polls have McCain up with a modest but significant lead. If, however, independents tilt as heavily to one side like they did in 2000 it's likely to throw off many a pollster's sampling for the Republican race (just like the surge of Evangelicals did to methodology of many of the last surveys in Iowa). All bets are off if that happens.

You mean Romney could still win?

"Could," not will. McCain's still the slight favorite until we see otherwise. The other wildcard is many polls still have high numbers of voters who could still shift, even in the last 24 hours - like upwards of 30%. That environment makes predictions brutally difficult absent Obama-like leads and momentum since voters are at their most unpredictable when deciding this late before casting their ballots.

What if Romney wins tomorrow?

Then he becomes the favorite in Michigan. He'll get a really nice wave of press for coming back against McCain, especially after the tough loss in Iowa. Bluntly, whoever wins New Hampshire has the inside track toward (though no guarantee of) becoming the anti-Huckabee alternative around whom many Republicans will coalesce.

So what happens to Romney if he loses? Is he done?

No. He'll stay in through Michigan for what amounts to a last stand. Technically he would have a delegate lead after a second place showing in New Hampshire given his victory over the weekend in Wyoming and his second place showing in Iowa. But, the press coverage will be damning, mostly because he will have not met the expectations in Iowa and New Hampshire that built up over 2007.

He'll have every right to stay in under those circumstances, especially since neither Mike Huckabee or McCain are poster children for the Republican coalition. But it would take a near miracle for him to actually win the nomination at that point.

Yet another variable is if McCain and Romney finish in a virtual tie tomorrow night, which is not too far-fetched. If that happens, it will be a rapid war between the campaigns to spin the press for an advantage in the immediate newscycle - that and it would mean the Republican race would remain intensely chaotic.

You keep saying the "anti-Huckabee." Why?

Because it's inevitable. Huckabee has now been branded as the Christian candidate, not the conservative candidate. The way the Iowa campaign unfolded in the closing weeks - including the messaging of Huckabee's own campaign - and the way the results were reported did much to entrench that perception. Huckabee is currently riding the wave of Evangelical support we've talked about, but he hasn't enlarged that base within a base and will have difficulty changing that trend at this point. His less-than-stellar performances at the two policy-heavy debates over the weekend only served to underscore that point. It's only a matter of time before someone becomes the conservative alternative to Huckabee, especially in South Carolina, which will be a massive Republican showdown on January 19th.

So how will Huckabee do in New Hampshire?

Probably 3rd, riding a very small bounce out of Iowa. There is no reason to expect anything more given New Hampshire's much more secular electorate.

Anything else to keep on eye on tomorrow night?

Yes. Giuliani is likely to finish 4th, at best. If he finishes farther back, behind Ron Paul again, he's in for some pathetic press coverage.

You mean Ron Paul isn't going to win?

Um, no. All the sign waving and "Ron Paul! Ron Paul!" chants in the world aren't going to change that.

Posted by Eric Earling at January 07, 2008 10:30 PM | Email This
Comments
1. The good people of New Hampshire will recognize that Ron Paul is a "top tier" patriot... http://truthalert.net/Republican%20Presidential%20Candidate%20Rankings.htm

Posted by: Mike on January 7, 2008 10:26 PM
2. I predict a strong third place for Ron Paul. The real question is who will do worse... Thompson or Guiliani?

Posted by: Travis Pahl on January 7, 2008 10:32 PM
3. Oh and maybe the sign waving and chanting will not help but I bet his strong stance against torture and the war will help him. Oh and his call for the GOP to return to a fiscally conservative policies will certainly help too. Oh and we can not forget his strong reliance on the constitution as his guide seems to be favored by many New Hampsters.

Posted by: Travis Pahl on January 7, 2008 10:34 PM
4. 1. Huffington has a video of Ron Paul supporters chasing Sean Hannity out of a restaurant:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2008/01/07/crowd-of-irate-ron-paul-f_n_80352.html

Any one posting anything critical of Paul gets slimed. I think Paul is in it not to win, but to accumulate cash for post-campaign purposes.

2. There is still a lot of campaign to go and the Clintons are masters of sleaze, so I'm waiting to see what they throw.

3. Posters here have said that it might be a brokered republican convention and as an outsider I expect Huckabee to be the vice president and wither Mc Cain or Romney to be the choice.

Posted by: WVH on January 7, 2008 10:38 PM
5. Giuliani is still riding high in delegate rich states. If Romney loses, then McCain and Giuliani will be in the driver's seat. A brokered convention will end with McCain or Rudy as the nominee with Huckabee the VP. If Romney wins the nomination you won't see any of the other candidates as the VP nominee.

If Romney beats out McCain in NH and Thompson continues then you may see something real funny, Romney sucking up to Huckabee for the SC voters, even Michigan. That would end McCain and it will by Romney vs. Rudy on Super Tuesday and Rudy still will end up with most of the delegates that day.

Posted by: Doug on January 7, 2008 10:55 PM
6. I just hope that pathetic mormon moron flip flopper is out after New Hampshire.

I still want to know if that Graham couple would be alive today if he had not appointed a liberal activist judge that let a convicted killer go free.

Posted by: JL on January 7, 2008 11:03 PM
7. Huckabust can't come soon enough. The MSM is doing all it can to prop up Huck. That's all anyone needs to know to stay away from his candidacy.

Posted by: Jeff B. on January 7, 2008 11:16 PM
8. I don't think the lamestream media has anything to do with this one. Just like JFK chose LBJ because he needed the South, Huckabee will get serious consideration because of the evangelical connection. These people don't have to like each other, JFK and LBJ hated each other. Both parties have to put together coalitions.

Posted by: WVH on January 7, 2008 11:21 PM
9. Well, incorrectly predicting a "strong third place" is better then idiotically predicting a "second place, behind Huckabee."

Posted by: Hinton on January 7, 2008 11:38 PM
10. I suggest you read an article that Michael Medved wrote recently about the demographics of the evangelical caucus votes in Iowa:

http://michaelmedved.townhall.com/blog/g/75f7897d-1fb4-4a2f-9177-32b8ee72fe17

Huckabee actually only received 46% of the "evangelical vote".

He's got a broader base than you'd like to think, Eric.

Posted by: Cydney on January 8, 2008 12:14 AM
11. While ignoring NH and Iowa and losing all momentum, Giuliani may come back if the Iowa and NH primaryies have different winners. It kind of opens things up. For Giuliani, the best for him is if the stronger candidate, Romney, loses.

And isn't it sad that the goal of these also-rans and tag team of Huckabee and McCain is to destroy one of the two best presidential candidates we have had for over a decade?

Posted by: swatter on January 8, 2008 06:56 AM
12. For my post of the day, what I have to say is:

1. Ron Paul will not finish any higher than 4th (Sorry Travis and Bruce G.). Romney has the Republican core vote, McCain the Republican leaning independent, and Huckabee the social conservative. The anti-war vote (transplanted Mass. residents) will be voting Democrat.

2. On the Democratic side, Obama will win (possibly by double digits, but barely), but the real race will be for second. If Edwards makes it close to HRC then Hillary is in real trouble.

3. On the Republican side, I think it will be really close between Romney and McCain. I will admit Romney looked good, even under attack at the debate. He still has big issues with regards to his flip-flops, but it will set up Michigan as the next Republican battle-ground.

Go McCain. Go Obama.

Cheers to all.

Posted by: tc on January 8, 2008 07:13 AM
13. Cydney -

With all due respect, I read the same exit polls Medved is using and I don't share his conclusions, which I view as a highly selective reading of the results. I agree with him that "anti-Mormon bigotry" wasn't the issue. But the simple fact is that Huckabee's base is the Evangelical community and he has been branded as such. Moreover, their dramatically elevated turnout in the caucuses is what gave Huckabee his victory. If Evangelcial turnout hadn't been 50% higher as a proportion of Republican caucus-goers than 2000 it would have been a very different looking race.

All that works fine in Iowa and Huckabee deserves credit for inspiring a notable segment of the Republican base. Yet, that segment is not as powerful in other states compared to Iowa. Obviously, he has a chance to prove otherwise given that of all the R's, he's the most likely to stay in deep into the contest no matter how the next few states unfold. But now that he has that brand, it makes it more difficult for him to do that.

Posted by: Eric Earling on January 8, 2008 07:22 AM
14. tc, I agree with your assessment regarding Obama winning by possibly double digits and that the race between McCain and Romney will be very close--Romney helped himself in both debates over the weekend.

For Doug--apparently Dorothy Rabinowitz at the Wall Street Journal agrees with my analysis on the independents in NH--although because of the WSJ's position on illegal immigration, they are very obviously backing McCain.

Here is what Rabinowitz said on the issue:
"What happens in New Hampshire, today, likely decides Mr. McCain's fate in these primaries. And in this battle for survival, there can be no underestimating the intelligent and determined Mitt Romney, or the number and force of his attack ads. There can be no underestimating either the part independent voters play if many of their votes go (in addition to the ones delivered to Mr. Obama) to Ron Paul, magnet for libertarians."

Posted by: Bill H on January 8, 2008 07:49 AM
15. I wonder whether the long-term effect of Ron Paul's candidacy will be to strengthen the Republican Party, or the Libertarian Party?

If Ron Paul does not win the nomination, as seems likely, will either organization be able to harness the supporters he has assembled?

What would the Republicans have to do in order to add this voting block to their big tent? How would the Libertarians bring them in to the party?

Or will they all just melt back in to the apathetic masses?

Posted by: Bruce Guthrie on January 8, 2008 07:49 AM
16. Don't count Clinton out yet.

But Obama is much less bad than Hillary.

Posted by: Bruce Guthrie on January 8, 2008 07:52 AM
17. Eric, I agree with you. I read Medved's article and he seems to be disproving his own argument. Now normally I respect Medved--I think he is brilliant--but in this case it is almost nonsensical.

In the first paragraph he says "Conventional wisdom says that he swept to victory based on overwhelming support from Evangelicals, but conventional wisdom is flat-out wrong."?

But then he says "Massaging the numbers another way ---Huckabee got 46% of the Evangelical vote, only 14% of non-Evangelical"

So his support among Evangelicals is more than 3 times his support among non-Evangelicals. How does this refute his first statement that "Conventional wisdom says that he swept to victory based on overwhelming support from Evangelicals, but conventional wisdom is flat-out wrong."

It doesn't make sense to me, Eric...

Posted by: Bill H on January 8, 2008 08:02 AM
18. I usually don't agree with Bruce or quote Ann Coulter, but like Coulter, I won't believe Billary is out until I see the bodies.

Posted by: WVH on January 8, 2008 08:05 AM
19. Bruce G says "But Obama is much less bad than Hillary."

I agree with you there, Bruce! Even though I disagree with most of Obama's positions, and even though I think it would be easier to beat Hillary than Obama, I would still rather Obama win the D nomination than Hillary. I just think Obama is socialist and wrong. I think Hillary is a socialist and dangerous.

Posted by: Bill H on January 8, 2008 08:06 AM
20. Bill, that's like saying you'd prefer to be executed by hanging rather than the electric chair.

Posted by: TB on January 8, 2008 08:15 AM
21. TB--touche!

Posted by: Bill H on January 8, 2008 08:21 AM
22. Eric, let's say the evangelists didn't have a 50% increase in turnout, in that case, according to the exit poll, evangelicals would have half of the electorate and non-evangelicals the other half. After doing the math (remember Romney had 19% of the evangelical vote) the outcome would have been:

Huckabee 30%
Romney 26%
McCain 14%
Thompson 14%
Paul 10.5%
Guiliani 4%

The exit poll had a gap of 1.5% where it didn't show who took the vote.

Posted by: Doug on January 8, 2008 08:32 AM
23. I'm still not really sure how Obama and Clinton are different.

Posted by: Andrew Brown on January 8, 2008 09:03 AM
24. Speaking of Billary, after seeing clips of her "almost" tearful hopes and aspirations for our great country, it made me kinda wonder if there's going to be a swimsuit competition?

Posted by: katomar on January 8, 2008 09:32 AM
25. Doug, my understanding was that the 50% increase in Evangelical means that it represented 60% of turnout rather than 40% of turnout. If so that would exactly switch the breakout from 60/40 Evangelicals to 60/40 NON-Evangelicals. In that case, here is what the difference would have been for each candidate:

Huckabee.....-6.4%
Romney.......+2.8%
Thompson....+1.2%
McCain.........+1.6%
Paul.............+0.2%
Giuliani........+0.8%

This difference between Romney and Huckabee of 9.2% is just about the total difference in the final numbers of 9.18%. So Romney and Huckabee would have basically tied without the 50% increase in the Evangelical vote...

Posted by: Bill H on January 8, 2008 09:41 AM
26. Bill H,

Let's go through the math together:

If there were 60 evangelists that turned out and 40 non-evangelists then that would be the makeup of the percentages.

Now, from Eric's post on #13, the evangelical turnout was 50% more than expected, therefore instead of 60 evangelists turning out, there was only 40. Hence 50% of the electorate.

It is an important sidenote that the exit polls' number of 60/40 was on whether one was "a born-again Christian" or "evangelical". Many evangelicals probably wouldn't consider that whole 60% to count as evangelicals.

Posted by: Doug on January 8, 2008 09:49 AM
27. Bill H.

I see where you are coming from now.

Posted by: Doug on January 8, 2008 09:54 AM
28. Doug, I'm not sure that I'm right, I had just heard somewhere that the Evangelical SHARE of the vote went from 40% to 60% (i.e. a 50% increase in SHARE). If there was simply a 50% increase in NUMBER, then you are correct in that that would make the split 50/50. Not sure which is correct?

Posted by: Bill H on January 8, 2008 09:59 AM
29. Apples and Oranges.

The polling in 2000 for the Iowa caucus asked for people to identify themselves if they considered themselves the 'Religious Right'. Compare that to the question this time asking them to identify whether they are a born again or evangelical Christian.

Comparing 'evangelical' turnout based on those polls really is not accurate.

Posted by: Doug on January 8, 2008 10:03 AM
30. I guess regardless of how they are defined, the interesting thing to me is that "Born-Again or Evangelical Christian" went 46% to Huckabee and 19% to Romney, while the non-"Born-Again or Evangelical Christian" went 14% to Huckabee and 33% to Romney.

Those are big differences regardless of how they are defined. And that really plays into Huckabee's much lower support in New Hampshire vs Iowa.

Posted by: Bill H on January 8, 2008 10:12 AM
31. One website prior to the caucuses estimate that evangelical Christians made up 30-50% of the Iowa Republican Caucus goers. This could mean that evangelicals turned out in force or that even non-evangelical Christians might still say they are 'born again Christians' rather than saying they were not. I do say that thinking about this, the poll question really didn't end up spreading accurate light on the matter, just some general.

Posted by: Doug on January 8, 2008 10:13 AM
32. If NBC asks the same question in NH exit polling, it will be interesting. I'm guessing 50/50. Take the 95%+ of the U.S. that considers themselves Christian, then ask this: Are you a born-again or Evangelical Christian. People aren't going to be too hyped up to say they aren't Christian, so they may say yes anyhow. It's the new, are you Caucasian question, or are you Native American. Did you see how the govt. has changed that question. They must have gotten wise that since I was born here I considered myself Native American. Now they changed it to are you Native American Indian.

Posted by: Doug on January 8, 2008 10:19 AM
33. In 2000 the Religious Right - was basically a political statement. If you identified with that, you weren't identifying your Religion, you were saying you were anti-abortion, etc. Now they want to compare 2008 turnout to that when now they were asking for their religion, not their politics.

It's really a bad comparison for the news to say the evangelical voters turned out in larger numbers. They really don't know.

Posted by: Doug on January 8, 2008 10:23 AM
34. Angry White Man
by James Kirchick, The New Republic
The bigoted past of Ron Paul.
Post Date Tuesday, January 08, 2008


Ron Paul Bigotry Revolution
by Daniel Koffler, Pajamas Media
January 8, 2008 11:03 AM

I'm not sure if I'm more sad for this pathetic little man or for the supporters he duped.

Posted by: Ragnar Danneskjold on January 8, 2008 11:44 AM
35. I have been called liar, bonehead, lonely old maid and threatened. I feel vindicated that the truth is finally coming out in the MSM.

Posted by: WVH on January 8, 2008 11:51 AM
36. anyone who still favors Ron Paul better listen to Medved's show right now. Paul actually thought the '93 Twin Towers explosion was an Israeli plot. And there's more silliness where that came from.

(I'm not a fan of any of the candidates, btw)

Posted by: Michele on January 8, 2008 12:18 PM
37. New Hampshire and Iowa - Who Cares?

Why should the results in NH and IA be given any serious consideration?

Iowa:
Population ~3 million (ranks 30th in US)
Registered voters ~2.1 million
Caucus attendance 350K (17% of reg. voters)

New Hampshire:
Population ~1.3 million (ranks 41st in US)
Registered voters 850K

Per the Census Bureau, there were 215 million registered voters (RV) in the US in 2004. So, NH RV constitute 0.40% of US RV. And caucus results should always be taken with a grain of salt, as the caucus process is very susceptible to manipulation.

Considering the tiny fraction of US RV represented by NH and IA, why should the contests in these two states have any significance at all, much less decide who is a viable candidate going forward?

Seriously, why the rush to judgement?

Posted by: ewaggin on January 8, 2008 12:57 PM
38. I'm still not really sure how Obama and Clinton are different.

Obama is taller.

Posted by: RBW on January 8, 2008 02:10 PM
39. And, Obama's prettier... :)

Posted by: katomar` on January 8, 2008 02:27 PM
40. ..but they're both commies

Posted by: Misty on January 8, 2008 02:57 PM
41. Doug & Bill H -

Bill has down what I was saying. Long story short, Evangelical turnout was 37% of Republican caucus-goers in 2000. Most pollster were modeling a 40% Evangelical turnout for this year's election. It turned out to be 60% of Republican caucus-goers. Thus, my citation of a 50% increase (actually, it was a bit above 50% based on those numbers but I think you get my point).

I'll probably have more on that point later this week.

Posted by: Eric Earling on January 8, 2008 07:03 PM
42. Eric, the pollsters were wrong. The 37-38% "evangelical turnout" they refer to in 2000 wasn't from a poll question asking if they were evangelical or born-again. That poll question asked if they were a member of the Religious Right. Most definitely there was no way the news networks can compare the 60% identified as born-again or evangelical Christian this year to the entrance polls in 2000 when the question asked if they were a member of the Religious Right.

Posted by: Doug on January 8, 2008 10:04 PM
43. I never thought Obama would win by a lot, if at all.

But this is one reason I don't make predictions, because I don't want to look this foolish. Double digits, Eric, really? :-)

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