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?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

After outspending Huckabee by an outrageous margin, your man Mitt found that the voters of Iowa, in the end, could not be bought. Nor could they be fooled by a man who oozes insincerity from every pore.
After all the wasted money, and after all the weeks of relentless Huckabee bashing by people like you, your man doesn’t simply get beaten, he gets hammered, crushed. It was like a fight between the schoolyard bully and a 98 pound weakling that ends with the bully suffering a hellacious beat down. Of course the flaw in that analogy is that it is really Romney who is the weakling—a moral weakling, that is. After 7 years of Bush, Americans are used to being lied to and taken for fools. But it seems that they can’t stomach smarmy insincerity; given that this is the stock in trade of the Romney candidacy, therein lies the problem for the plastic man from Massachusetts.
You Romney folks are right about at least one thing, however. Huckabee is indeed a flawed candidate; if nominated it’s hard for me to believe that he has a chance in hell of winning the general election. Most Americans are far too open minded for the over-the-top super-Christianity that seemed to play well with the self-styled moralists in Iowa. But in your frantic search for Huckabee’s flaws as a candidate, the thing that you folks continue to ignore is Romney’s obvious flaws as a human. The ethical and moral lapses, combined with his peculiar penchant for just plain lying, all the while portraying himself as the wholesome candidate of truth, justice and the American way…well in the end even the Republicans who continue to deny themselves the truth about the Bush Administration could not be fooled by Mitt.
So now it’s on to New Hampshire where Mitt is already backpedaling furiously in an attempt to lower expectations. What’s clear, however, is that if the people of New Hampshire see Romney as clearly as Iowans did, all your frantic attempts to discredit Huckabee and McCain will be fruitless. It’s about Mitt now; people don’t trust him, they don’t believe him, they don’t like him. No amount of Huckabee and McCain bashing by the frantic legions of Romney supporters will obscure these simple facts…Mitt’s moral and ethical dwarfism will, in the end, doom him. Evidence, it seems, that primary voters are not as stupid as you and Mitt take them for. The system works!

Have a nice day


10:44 AM  
Blogger Marc said...

So... you're casting your vote for Romney then?

2:37 PM  
Blogger Tommy said...

Phil, you're a real straight shooter; I respect your opinion and appreciate your passion. Generalities are easy to make, but would you mind providing some specific examples of Romney's "moral and ethical dwarfism?"

12:22 PM  
Blogger Marc said...

Phil's a straight-shooter? More like a troll. He subsequently posted a vindictive rant slandering Romney after Saturday night's debate (Given that it more than crossed the line, it seems Dave Kennedy deleted it however). I'm all about a good discussion of the weakness of each particular candidates policy positions or even character (as well as their debate performance), but I think those sort of exchanges should be done fairly without resorting to sweeping personal attacks that can't be substantiated and add no value. The politics of personal destruction should not be tolerated.

12:41 PM  

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