Well, I don’t know about you, but I cannot remember crazier primary race than the one going on right now. I for one figured that by the time Iowa rolled around it would be down to a two man race, three at the most. I thought Huckabee would still be in, but not “in”. I thought McCain would stay dead. I thought Giuliani would be making a push in New Hampshire and in second in Iowa. And I thought Romney would still be dominating Iowa. About the only two things that turned out the way I thought was that Fred Thompson would fade and that Romney would come back to the pack in New Hampshire.
Well, now that I have sufficiently demonstrated how inept I am (although in my defense I did nail the predictions-including the margin of victory-at the Ames straw poll, and everyone was completely off on their predictions, so I am not alone). Allow me to give a quick run down of the current state of the race and make some predictions that are sure to be wrong. First the candidates:
1. Mitt Romney. I rank Mitt #1 because he has the most paths to the nomination. He could lose IA, win NH, win MI. He could win IA, lose NH, win MI. He could lose both IA and NH, win WY and MI. Or he could win IA. Two things I tend to strongly believe, however, First, if he wins IA, he wins the nomination. Second if he loses IA, Michigan is a MUST win.
All this being said, Mitt is still a wild card even if he loses MI. He has the money and organization to compete in later states. But I wouldn’t give him much of a shot.
2. John McCain. I can’t believe I am ranking him second. But this is what I see. I think a solid 3rd place finish for him in Iowa will be treated by the media as a win; much like Huckabee’s second in straw poll. If he wins NH, he will have a good shot at MI. Voters know him, for good and bad, and that will prove to be a positive thing for him. They also know that he is considered the most electable, and in a group of candidates that no one can decide on, it may come down to who can actually win.
Additionally, McCain has two scenarios for the nomination. If he wins NH, he will be in a good spot. But he could lose the first two and still win the nod, here’s how: A solid 3rd in IA (with Huck winning), propels him to a close 2nd place loss to Mitt in NH, say 1-3 point loss. The media will rave about the resurgent McCain. This “mo” leads him to a win in Michigan and on to the nomination. I think this scenario is HIGHLY unlikely, but it is plausible.
3. Mike Huckabee. Mike has only one scenario: Win IOWA. A win in Iowa may be enough to keep him afloat into South Carolina. A win there and he could sweep the southern states, including Florida. If he does this, he could be the guy. He is leading nationally now and leads in a lot of states. But that lead is contigent on Iowa.
However, Iowa is going to be a tough victory. He has to contend with Mitt’s superior organization, which some pontificators argue gives Mitt an additional 5% to the current polls. If Mitt draws closer, say within 3-4 points, a victory for Huck will be very difficult. Not only that, but Huckabee has become the most divisive candidate in the party. A win in Iowa will only strengthen the voices of opposition, it will be difficult to win SC without winning or placing in NH, WY, or MI and while facing a barrage of attacks from many conservatives.
It should be noted that McCain and Huckabee’s rankings are almost interchangeable.
4. Rudy Giuliani. His collapse has been astounding and incredibly quiet. The most news he has received in December is about a hospital stay. Rudy has gone all in in Florida. A loss there and he is done. He may still pull a few states out on Feb 5th, but one of those won’t be California.
The problem Rudy has in Florida is that he is flailing there also. Huckabee is surging and Mitt is right there as well. I just don’t see Rudy being able to hang on in Florida after placing 3rd or worse in the first 6 contests.
This being said, Rudy has the most room for improvement, check back in a month and don’t be surprised if he is up to 2nd.
5. Ron Paul. That’s right, not Fred. Why? Neither is going to win a state, but with Ron’s grassroots support and huge financial advantage, don’t be surprised if he pulls out 4th in Iowa and 3rd in New Hampshire. Ultimately, it doesn’t mean anything, except that he is in a better position than Fred. At least Ron has the money for an independent run in ’08.
6. Fred Thompson. Has there been a more disappointing candidate in the race? While he may have some good ideas, they certainly aren’t his (at least that’s my perception). Fred feels like a complete puppet to me. His wife wants victory more than him. He was coaxed into the race by a bunch of GOPers who saw him as a shoe in because he talks slow, has an accent, and is an actor.
The only shot Fred has is with a third place finish in Iowa and he needs to pray that the media plays that up. But even so, if there are only two tickets out of New Hampshire, he won’t have one of them.
So here are my state by state predictions through Jan 19th:
Iowa: 1. Huckabee (as of today) 2. Mitt 3. McCain 4. Fred 5. Paul 6. Rudy
WY: 1. Mitt 2. Huck 3. McCain 4. Paul 5. Fred 6. Rudy
NH: 1. Mitt 2. McCain 3. Rudy 4. Huck 5. Paul 6. Fred
MI: 1. Mitt 2. McCain 3. Huck 4. Rudy 5. Paul 6. Fred
SC: 1. Huck 2. Mitt 3. Fred 4. McCain 5. Rudy 6. Paul
NV: 1. Mitt 2. McCain 3. Rudy 4. Huck 5. Paul 6. Fred
And if it plays out like that:
FL: 1. Mitt 2. Huck 3. Rudy 4. McCain
And Mitt is your nominee.
P.S. This outlook will probably change tomorrow.