The fun has just started. Political junkies like myself eagerly awaited the kickoff to the 2008 Presidential elections. And what a kickoff it was.
Forgive me for gloating a bit. Hillary’s third-place finish made me smile inside, but she’s far from done. Obama will need to take the momentum and prove that he is the “real deal” in New Hampshire and South Carolina. The Hellcat won’t roll over; however her new stated strategy of going negative and playing up the “experience” card is an all-or-nothing gamble. Dems see Obama as an agent of change. That’s why he snagged 38% in Iowa. Hill’s message of “experience” makes it seem as if though she is running as an incumbent. The question is – how will that play with voters who may be seeking change?
Don’t count out John “girly-boy” Edwards (is this guy touchy-feely or what?). Edwards has a chance if he can make a decent showing in New Hampshire. Then it is up to South Carolina to decide his fate. Edwards is virtually a favorite son (being from NC). But will that translate into votes?
It’s all about the big “mo.” If Hill loses all three of these intial contests, you can probably consider her “toast.” I almost hate to see that. I think she is the GOP’s best shot. She would be an easy pick for the general, but we may never know as things look now.
What about the GOP?
Huckabee’s win was almost anit-climatic after he seized the lead in polls over 2 weeks ago. It has to be an embarrasment for Mitt who spent so much time and money in the Hawkeye state. Nevertheless, 40% of self-described evangelicals turned out for Huck compared to 19% for Romney. That was significant.
Huck will need to have a decent showing in New Hampshire before going on to South Carolina. He and Thompson are both hoping that the ‘Southern” thing will play to their advantage. Huckabee is an unknown quantity right now. My bet is that he is the “Howard Dean” of the GOP this year. He may prove me wrong.
Fred and McCain rounded things out in Iowa. I believe that the 3rd place finish is enough to keep Thompson in it for awhile. His bet is on South Carolina. How he does there may determine his fate despite the fact that (in my opinion), he is the most conservative of the viable bunch.
McCain may mean the end of Romney if he takes New Hamphire. The voters there seem to have an affinity for the grumpy senator. He is banking on NH to keep the “Straight Talk Express” rolling. A wave of newspaper endorsements in Iowa, Boston and Michigan have given him new hope. It’s unclear how much stock GOP voters put into such endorsements, but it might cause enough independents to come McCain’s way.
And Giuliani? Rudy is banking on Florida (and maybe Michigan). Though he has not emphasized Iowa or New Hampshire, I personally feel that a horrid showing in the Granite State will hurt him. He is from the Northeast. If voters from this Northeast state soundly reject him, what does that say? He has placed all his eggs in the basket of Florida (maybe Michigan) and the major Feb 5th states. His strategy is a gamble that might not pay off.
I’m not a professional commentator. All of this might seem fairly obvious to the well-read. I am, however, a major political enthusiast. This is my game. Iowa is not a king-maker. The winners of Iowa don’t necessarily go on to win the gold. But Iowa is a good indicator of who “won’t” make it. Right now, it’s still a toss-up among many candidates (Biden and Dodd aside).
I’m not going to make any predictions at this point. New Hamphire might give us all a clearer picture of the eventual nominees. At this point Hill, Obama, Edwards, Mitt, Rudy, Huck, McCain and Fred are all still in the picture. I’ll be anxious to see how things stand a few days from now. This might be a more exciting race than I had imagined.