Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Thoughts About Florida

There are a lot of things that one might point to in trying to explain Mitt Romney's loss in Florida yesterday, including, perhaps, the fact that he really seemed to find his voice on economic issues a little too late to continue surging in Florida, some savvy campaigning by John McCain (including some pretty low-ball (and somewhat hypocritical) tactics by McCain's camp this past week), the late-coming Crist and Martinez endorsements, as well as lingering doubts among some about Romney's authenticity. The big disappointment for a lot of Romney supporters seems to be that this loss comes at a time when Romney truly appeared to be coming into his own on the sorts of economic issues that really define who he is. Romney now faces a pretty tough map on Super Tuesday. There are a slew of winner-take-all states that seem safely in McCain's corner now. At this point, what approach to next week's primaries gives Romney the best chance? He's a sure bet in a few states (e.g., Utah and Idaho), but where else should he choose to lay his chips?

One side-note about Florida. It appears as though Romney's hard line on immigration has really hampered his support among Republican Hispanics, with both candidates who are on record for a pathway to citizenship besting him by large margins yesterday:
The Hispanic numbers were even more striking for McCain: 51 percent of Hispanics backed him, with 15 percent supporting Mitt Romney, who came in a close second statewide, and 25 percent for Rudy Giuliani.
Would it have made a difference had Romney not taken such a hard line? Would any potential support he may have gained been canceled out (or more) by other conservative voters who might have supported another candidate as a result? What other competitive candidate could have benefited? Assuming Romney still finds a way to win the candidacy, does this lack of Hispanic support hurt him in a general election?

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The Governator?

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The New Comeback Kid...

Romney scores a coup in Michigan, winning by an impressive 80,000 vote margin. Big question is... how much of a bump does this give him in Nevada and South Carolina, where he's trailed several candidates in recent polls? South Carolina may be a long-shot for Romney, but he has a natural base in Nevada, which has a significant Mormon population. Regardless of how he fares in those states, this win keeps Romney viable for Florida and Tsunami Tuesday. At a time when several other campaigns are rumored to be cash-strapped, is this where his fundraising prowess and personal wealth will help make the difference for him? One thing is for sure, Mitt's win means there will be no coronation of John McCain (or any other candidate) any time soon. This race is wide open.

Monday, January 07, 2008

New Hampshire Predictions

Since no one has gone out on a limb posted any predictions (as requested by my last post), I thought I might. Before Romney's strong performance at last night's Fox Forum, I would have said McCain had a clear leg up, but now I'm doubly unsure. McCain clearly had momentum coming into this weekend and, in my view, Saturday nights debate did nothing really to blunt it (even if McCain might have come off as petty to some with his several personal shots at Mitt).

Last night's debate, however, gave Romney a much needed shot in the arm. He did very, very well and was helped even more by the fact that Chris Wallace seemed to needle the other candidates on past statements and positions, McCain and Huckabee in particular, a little more than he did Romney. I think Republicans in New Hampshire will tend to think Romney came out on top in his tax and immigration exchanges with both Huckabee and McCain. And while McCain did less to hurt himself than Huckabee (whose answers sometimes bordered on incomprehensible), any support Huckabee loses would seem to indirectly hurt McCain.

The question is whether this was too little too late. How many people in New Hampshire saw his performance and how much play can it really get in one day? Romney can't like the fact that it was on cable television the night after a double-header debate on network television (a debate which was re-aired by CNN opposite last night's Fox Forum no less). Plus, it almost seems like the slew of polls yesterday showing McCain on top of Romney have drowned out discussion of the debate some.

So... on to my prediction. I'm REALLY unsure, but in my gut I still think McCain may edge out Romney by a percentage point or two. The closer it is, however, the better for Romney because it will allow him to hang on for a win in Michigan. The big development from last night's debate, in my mind, is that it gave Romney's candidacy renewed life even in the face of a possible New Hampshire loss. A bad performance at last night's debate could have finished Romney off, instead, he gets more longevity.

Who disagrees with me here? Was Romney's performance last night and McCain's failure to truly shine in either of the debates good enough to give him the bounce he needs to win tomorrow? Or does Romney need to find a way to somehow remain competitive in the face of another bruising loss?

[Update: I'm feeling less and less sure about my prediction... this Obama'mania may end up costing McCain the primary. His most likely voters may be drawn to vote in the big attraction. And Mitt's not taking this lying down... he seems to have been everywhere today. It's a complete toss-up in my mind.]

Friday, January 04, 2008

Thoughts on Iowa and New Hampshire

With Mitt Romney's surprisingly large defeat in the Iowa Caucus now in the rearview mirror, what lies ahead for him in New Hampshire? I think it's a must win primary for Romney. If he loses to John McCain in four days, he may choose to continue on in the race, but I think any real shot he had at winning disappears. That said, there are some big questions hovering over the New Hampshire primary.

Since Mike Huckabee relied largely on Iowa's significant evangelical base for his caucus victory, I think its impact on his campaign in New Hampshire is unclear. Huckabee doesn't have a realistic shot at taking New Hampshire, so the best case scenario for him is simply a strong showing. Given how weak he's polled here over the past year, the only place he has to go is up. The $64,000 question is how much traction his Iowa win gives him. Does he steal the few evangelical votes that there are to be had in New Hampshire from Romney? Does he win over any fence-sitters?

One thing Huckabee's win almost certainly does is make the recently tightened race between McCain and Romney there even tighter. McCain's fourth place showing in Iowa doesn't really give him the momentum that a strong third-place showing would have, but with Romney losing by so much to Huckabee, I don't think it matters. Romney's loss in Iowa after investing the significant resources he did there has the potential to raise doubts that push wayward Romney supporters to McCain.

To win out New Hampshire, Romney has to find a way to prevent any hemorrhaging from his Iowa defeat. He needs to stop Huckabee from stealing any votes (since Huckabee is more likely to steal votes from Romney supporters than those backing McCain) and he needs to try and stop McCain's surge in New Hampshire by reminding voters there why they've preferred him over McCain for most of this past year. Not an easy task when it appears that the negative advertisements and mailings Romney has employed over the past few weeks seem to have actually hurt him in Iowa and, possibly, New Hampshire. Romney needs to go negative without appearing to attack, a tough balancing act that he's struggled with at times. The good news for Romney is that if he tops McCain, it's likely the death kneel of McCain's candidacy, especially if he tops him by a significant margin.

The big wild card in all of this is McCain's most natural New Hampshire constituency, independents. He can't afford to lose indies who would otherwise vote for him but who choose to vote for Barack Obama in the Democratic Primary. In that sense, McCain and Obama are each other's own worst enemy in New Hampshire. In retrospect, the Iowa caucus results haven't settled much of anything except to underscore the fact that we still have a wide-open GOP race on our hands. With that said, what are everyone's predictions?