Friday, December 21, 2007

Counter-Predictions for TPM

This is the body of a letter I sent to the TPM regarding their predictions for the Iowa/New Hampshire and beyond: "How We See it":
In general, I believe that your prediction of the potential nominees is on the mark. Two caveats, one for each prediction:

1. Democrats - I don't think you can rule out Obama even if Hillary gets #1 in Iowa and New Hampshire for two reasons:

(a) Obama has a lot of money- that gives him the ability to fight loud for a long time (unlike Edwards in '04 who kept running after it was clear that Kerry had clinched it, but it was largely a futile gesture).

(b) Hillary's negatives are pretty high. I think that Kerry was able to lock up the nom in '04 because most Democrats accepted the expertise of the early primary voters, assuming that since all the non-screaming candidates (e.g. Kerry, Edwards, Clark) were all major unknowns that they felt "if the early voters accepted one of them then, OK, let's just take that one." I heard this from my parents who accepted at face value Kerry's front-running status (and the false-positive crossover appeal of his military record) even though I, as a political junkie, felt that he was the kiss of death.

I don't think there'll be a front-runner repeat of 04 with Hillary because we KNOW that woman very very well. Even if she wins the first three contests (IA, NH, SC), I assume that all that will do is force Edwards to leave the race. Edwards is so far splitting the anti-Hillary vote, and if he drops he'll leave a loud Obama to provide a valid alternative contrast to Hillary. And when the field clears between these two well-funded choices, I think that Obama will get much more popular.

I think a model for Hillary vs. Obama could be 1984's Mondale vs. Hart -- if Mondale had more money, was more hated, and actually had no governing experience and if Hart was smarter, had more substance, and a lot more money. I was only 12 at that election, but in looking at the data I'm impressed at how many states Hart managed to win.

2. Republicans - Huckabee is not going to be easy to eliminate.

To consolidate a blog post I wrote on this, I think that Romney's support is very soft. He is the default candidate because all the other candidates are sick jokes and because Mitt's got looks, money, and clean living. But he's also a laughable phony. What scares me about Huckabee is that even though he has very little money and little staff, he is a very impressive Evangelical poster child and that gives him a built-in power base. Four words: "Passion of the Christ" - that movie made money because of the massive outpouring of Evangelicals who were probably not compelled by Madison Avenue but because thousands of them heard about it in church every Sunday. I think this power-base and free communication network can explain Huck's explosive rise in Iowa and South Carolina and also how he's tied with Giuliani nationally. Add real money and a real staff to Huckabee and I think he'll be a Goldwater on Christ.

While Huck has a dark side (a temper, the gifts in office, his compulsion to cover up and lie) and a dumb side (much of his policy ideas), I would posit that the scandals won't bother Evangelicals. Why? Three more words: "George Dubya Bush." How many scandals did Dubya accrue? His dark side is darker than Huck and his dumb side deeper. But the Evangelicals gave him a pass because (a) he was Born Again, and (b) every time he committed a sin against The Lord or against The Human Race, he'd just accept Jesus again and he'd be as right as rain. And if the Evangelicals accepted that with the Bush, then they'll be even more generous with Huckabee. Because while Bush is reborn, Huck is a freakin' preacher!

For example, Huck's biggest scandal (so far) is freeing Dumond, yet I believe the Evangelicals will just look at it as an act of Christian charity and move on. Seriously. And I don't think the Evangelicals will care that he's got liberal-ish views about spending government money to help the poor because that also fits into the preacher paradigm.

The only way I think Huck is knocked out is if somehow the fervid support he'll get from the Evangelical base is statistically too small to offset the GOP's anti-Evangelical voters. Given the stripping away of almost every group from the GOP over this scorched earth years of Bush-Cheney, I don't think there's enough anti-Evangelicals to stop Huck.
2009 Update: Hey, these predictions held up pretty well. Yay me.

Backpost finished 2009-12-14.

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