Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Michiganders Unite! It's Primary Day

Iowa (check).
New Hampshire (check).

Wave good bye again to the novelty of retail politics for another four years as the campaign shifts from the up close and personal politics of Iowa and New Hampshire to practicing new techniques in the lead up to the twenty-two state blitz on February 5.

Today that blitz begins with the voters in Michigan. Well, half of the partisans in the Great Lakes State will be participating in the state's 2008 presidential primary as the GOP candidates battle for another pre-Super Tuesday prize. On the Democratic side, national party sanctions have done well at keeping the candidates away. Most don't even appear on the ballot. During the period that the constitutionality of the distribution of primary voter rolls was being questioned, thus threatening the state's primary, efforts were made to change ballot access rules to prevent candidates from keeping their names off the ballot (Does this sound like democracy?). Stalling Democrats in the Michigan legislature prevented this measure from taking immediate effect meaning that only Hillary Clinton, Chris Dodd, Mike Gravel and Dennis Kucinich appeared on the ballot. This fight and the broader one between the state and the national party set the groundwork for today's non-contest for no Democratic delegates in Michigan.

The major candidates on the Democratic side (and Dennis Kucinich who by court order won the right to appear, though MSNBC is appealing) are in Nevada gearing up for tonight's debate (live on MSNBC @ 9pm--I'll have a link for the online version when it is made available.) ahead of Saturday's caucus in the state.

Some Nevadans are irritated with the timing and others with location. Who doesn't want to caucus on Saturday morning in a casino?

The GOP seems content to fight it out in Michigan today and skip Nevada on Saturday in favor of the South Carolina caucus on the same day. Those who win South Carolina (since 1980 when the primary system hit the state) win the Republican nomination. Nevada's loss is South Carolina's gain.

First thing's first though: Michigan. Real Clear Politics' average of the six most recent Michigan polls has Romney with a slight edge over McCain (who won in there in 2000) with Huckabee running third about ten points back. So we may be witnessing something of a replay in New Hampshire at least as far as the major players are concerned. Should the results play out similarly, Romney will be on the ropes. However, should he win today's primary that jumbles this race even further making Giuliani's "wait until Florida and Super Tuesday" strategy look like pure genius. You can't discount luck in politics.

You may have heard that Obama and Clinton have been sparring over racial issues. I'm still trying to figure out if not having an event this week gives that story more steam. Neither side has appeared too positive which Edwards must be loving. He got a boost in Nevada early this week with some poll numbers that have him (27%), Obama (32) and Clinton (30) within five points of each other. This is the only poll from the state since December (see RCP). Interesting news heading toward the weekend contest there. Tonight's debate will certainly have some say in how things play out.

Finally, it looks like the presidential race has been fairly newsworthy so far. Last week during the New Hampshire primary, the race accounted for 49% of the news according to the Project of Excellence in Journalism. Sadly this blog wasn't a major part of that (Thank you very much SPSA conference.).

As always I'll be online tonight tracking the results and the debate if anyone is interested in discussing matters ahead of tomorrow's live discussion group meeting.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

McCain is the choice of New Hampshire Republicans again

Well, that didn't take long. Less than two hours after the polls closed the race has already been called for McCain on the GOP side (8:30pm). The real surprise is that with 15% of the precincts reporting Clinton leads Obama 40-36 with Edwards a distant third. Early numbers indicate that New Hampshire women are going with Clinton in a reverse from what happened in Iowa last Thursday (see 8:32pm post in above link).

UPDATE: The numbers on the Democratic side largely held up as the precincts continued to come in.
Clinton 39%
Obama 36
Edwards 17
So Clinton won a "shocking" comeback victory and the polls fooled us all.

New Hampshire Turnout. Who has the Advantage?

Much like I did last Thursday for the Iowa caucuses, I would like to think out loud about the effect turnout might play in today's New Hampshire primaries. There aren't any specific numbers being floated around today by either the candidates or the pundits like there were in the lead up to the caucuses in Iowa last week. However, on a general level, higher turnout is going to help the candidate with the most momentum, more often than not. This is clearer on the Democratic side than it is on the Republican side. There Huckabee is the momentum candidate, but the polls have shown what many thought coming out of Iowa: that Huckabee wouldn't necessarily play well in New Hampshire. It is less clear how this affects the race between McCain and Romney.

For Democrats, Obama qualifies as the candidate with momentum. This has been reflected in his rising poll numbers both in New Hampshire and nationally since Iowa. But today there have been reports already about long lines waiting to vote and requests to the Secretary of State for more Democratic ballots. This is a pretty clear indication that Obama could be in for a big night tonight when the results begin coming in.

Polls close at 7 pm.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Iowa Implications from Paul Gurian

Early New Hampshire polls indicate that Obama has moved up 5-10% in New Hampshire while Clinton has slipped a bit. Clinton’s perception as “inevitable” and “unbeatable” has been shaken. However, Clinton still has a substantial following and a strong organization. Frontrunners often lose Iowa but go on to win New Hampshire and the nomination.
Obama got a boost in Iowa. He showed that he’s truly competitive with Clinton and that he can win among white voters. By defeating Edwards, he took a big step toward becoming the alternative to Clinton. Democrats who don’t like Clinton have been divided among several candidates; they may now rally around Obama.
Edwards survived but did not improve his position. He needs to either win or come in a close second in New Hampshire to remain viable.

Romney lost ground in Iowa. If he loses New Hampshire, he’s in serious trouble.
Huckabee got a big boost from the Iowa results. He needs to follow up this victory with a strong showing in New Hampshire or Michigan and a win in South Carolina. New Hampshire is not friendly territory. Huckabee may get a boost from his victory in Iowa but probably not enough to defeat either Romney or McCain there.
McCain benefitted from the Iowa results. McCain needs to win New Hampshire and his main opponent there, Mitt Romney, did poorly in Iowa. That will likely help McCain in New Hampshire. Early New Hampshire polls show McCain with a slight lead over Romney in New Hampshire, with Huckabee a distant third.
Giuliani’s hope is that no one candidate will emerge from the early contests with momentum. Giuliani is pinning his hopes on Florida and Super Tuesday. So he was probably pleased to see Romney fail to win Iowa. However, that increases the likelihood of McCain winning New Hampshire and gaining momentum.
Fred Thompson survived Iowa, but he’s running last in New Hampshire and is not especially strong anywhere else.

Independents in New Hampshire
New Hampshire has an “open” primary. Since there are a lot of independents in New Hampshire, those voters can make a difference. This year, New Hampshire independents seem to like Obama and McCain.

An average of New Hampshire polls taken January 4-5 show McCain with 33%, Romney with 28%, Huckabee with 11%, and Giuliani with 10%. Among Democrats, Obama has 35%, Clinton 30%, and Edwards 20%. If the results match the polls, Edwards, Romney and Thompson could be on their way out. South Carolina looms large for both parties.

--Paul Gurian

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Indiana Shifts Focus to 2012

Stuck on a first Tuesday in May date again for the 2008 cycle, Indiana is among the first to begin thinking about moving its presidential primary for 2012 (Granted, many of the states that moved for the 2008 cycle moved permanently as opposed to the temporary move the NY legislature used in the 1990s.). State Rep. Suzanne Crouch (R-Evansville) has said recently that she plans on introducing a bill during the general assembly's 2009 session to move the state's primaries (all of them) to an earlier date.

I found it odd that Rep. Crouch would wait until next year when momentum may no longer be behind moving the primary. The assembly does meet every year unlike some states out west (eg: Oregon), which meet only every other year. So that wasn't the issue.

As the above article indicates several measures moving the primary have been proposed in the past only to fail. The difference this time seems to be that Rep. Crouch is advocating moving not only the presidential primary but the state and local primaries as well. Not to toot my own horn, but my own research has found that this is a major obstacle to a state frontloading its presidential primary. States that hold those two sets of primaries together are confronted with either moving everything or with creating an entirely new election for the presidential primary. Both cost money and states in this position are often hesitant or unwilling to make the jump.

So when we talk about frontloading, we are often talking about a state's ability to actually make the move. Those states with separate presidential and state/local primaries have a much easier job than those states where laws exist wedding the two primary types together. Indiana falls into this category. Once a state shows the willingness to move though, subsequent moves are all the easier to push through later (if need be). Maryland is a good example here. The state requires their primaries during a presidential election year to all be held at the same time. The state had already made the move to hold its presidential (and all others) on the traditional Super Tuesday (the first Tuesday in March) and when Super Tuesday moved up a month to the first Tuesday in February, the Maryland legislature had little trouble in inching its primaries up to maintain its position. Though, I should note that the legislature opted to move the primaries to the week after Super Tuesday (the second Tuesday in February).

Romney wins in Wyoming

The nomination fight left Iowa Thursday and headed, for the most part, to New Hampshire in anticipation of Tuesday's primary there. However, the GOP took a small detour to Wyoming today, for a caucus there. Mind you, this detour did not include any immediate attention from any of the Republican candidates, but it did include a caucus that distributed twelve delegates to this summer's GOP convention in Minneapolis. Small peanuts, sure. But a win's a win and Mitt Romney can now lay claim to a win in Wyoming's county conventions; wrapping up eight of the twelve delegates at stake.

What impact does that have on New Hampshire for Tuesday? Given that you really have to dig to find any news of this and the fact that visits from the candidates were limited at best, I doubt much affect will be felt.

The results:
Romney: 8 delegates
Thompson: 3
Hunter: 1

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Huckabee takes Iowa...Obama too.

The New Yorks Times blog The Caucus is reporting that Romney has conceded and that's with just fifteen percent of the precincts reporting as of 8:05pm (IA time). On to South Carolina for Huckabee and Romney heads to New Hampshire to try and hold off McCain for the next few days.

For the Dems, it is a tight race. Obama tops the list and Edwards is literally a handful of votes ahead of Clinton with 50% of the precincts in.

UPDATE: Things are still tight on the Democratic side. Obama seems to be pulling away but as of 8:30pm Edwards led Clinton by just three votes. Obama is doing better than expected in conservative area; areas considered to be Edwards' strongholds.

UPDATE: The New York Times is calling the Democratic race for Obama. With 84% of precincts reporting (8:41pm), Obama led with 37% of the vote. Edwards still holds an extremely slim edge over Clinton (just four votes). Let the spin begin from those two camps. The way I read it, a third place finish is a third place finish for Clinton. It will be interesting to see how they play that as the race shifts to New Hampshire.

UPDATE: At 9pm with 92% of the precincts in, Obama-37, Edwards-30 and Clinton-30. Edwards holds a nine vote lead over Clinton.

Iowa Turnout. Who has the advantage?

There are a couple of numbers floating around today concerning turnout in tonight's Iowa caucuses and the expectations for who will come out victorious there. The thinking from within the campaigns and among outside observers is that high turnout is good for Obama and Huckabee. The Fix over at The Washington Post has cited the 200,000 caucus-goers as the line of demarcation for Obama. If the number tops that figure the advantage goes to the senator from Illinois according to his campaign (see here and here for more). As The Fix points out though, that is based on the idea that the growth in caucus participation is weighted toward Obama when in fact the distribution between the top three Democrats could be more even. The second choice voters are still important in Iowa as well. If their candidates don't reach fifteen percent, who do they back? Some polls seem to indicate Edwards and others Obama (The Edwards link is a little dated, but NBC reported as recently as Sunday night (Dec. 30) that Edwards led for the second choice folks.). Now, if the new caucus participants go for Obama and the supporters of the "non-viable" candidates align behind Edwards, will Hillary sink to third?

On the Republican side, 80,000 is the mark for Romney and Huckabee. The Romney camp has stated that anything over that number of caucus-goers could spell trouble for the former Massachusetts governor. Under that scenario, Huckabee's grassroots rise would likely bring enough new voters to the caucus to provide him with a victory.

2008 Iowa Caucuses Online

Let's get the 2008 primary season underway with complete access: You can watch C-SPAN's coverage of the Iowa caucuses online tonight here. As of 10:15am (Jan. 3) both links (C-SPAN for the Dems and C-SPAN2 for the GOP) were working.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Happy New Year! It's a Presidential Election Year!

Here we are a day away from the official kickoff of the presidential primary season (Sorry caucuses, but research shows that you take a backseat to primaries--see Gurian. Ah, shameful namedropping.) and things are still up in the air in both parties. It's the beginning for the American electorate (or at least for those that care to show up for the primaries) and the beginning of the end for all but the most viable candidates with the exception of perhaps Dennis Kucinich and Alan Keyes. So what's been happening on the trail since the last update?

1) Paul sent this over today (via the latest Pew Research Poll):
McCain Rebounds In National Poll; Clinton Holds Big Lead
January 2, 2008 10:25 AM
Pew Research Poll

Rudy Giuliani's once solid lead among Republicans nationwide has vanished,
and John McCain -- whose campaign was regarded as dead in the water this
summer -- is back on top with the GOP leaders. McCain has 22 percent support
among Republicans, followed by Giuliani at 20 percent and Mike Huckabee at 17
percent. Mitt Romney follows at 12 percent with Fred Thompson at 9 percent.
The survey was conducted Dec. 19-30 and has a 5 percent margin of error.

Giuliani was counting on the 21 states that vote Feb. 5, but the poll indicates he
is in a virtual tie with McCain in those states.

On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton maintains her large national lead over
Barack Obama, 46 percent to 26 percent, with John Edwards at 14 percent.

So the national polls indicate McCain is a factor again in the race for the GOP nomination and Hillary is running away with things on the Democratic side. And while the US has the closest thing it has ever had to a national primary day with this year's February 5 Super Tuesday, these nominations still play out on the state level with Iowa and New Hampshire still going first.

2) Let's deal with the Republicans first:
Mitt Romney at one time or another had fairly comfortable leads in both Iowa and New Hampshire. But Mike Huckabee and John McCain have challenged those leads in Iowa and New Hampshire respectively. With McCain basically writing Iowa off to focus on New Hampshire, the two-pronged attack on Romney in both early states is causing the former Massachusetts governor to split time between both states instead of going it one at a time. Here's the deal though. Romney and Huckabee are in essentially the same position as the top three Democrats in Iowa: neck and neck. That one could go either way. In New Hampshire though, McCain is going to rely on independents to once again deliver a victory in the Granite state. However, the LA Times is reporting that Obama could be siphoning off some of that independent support from McCain in the state (I apologize for the link to an Obama supporter blog, but the LA Times has already password protected that article For those that want to read the article from the source, a link is included and registration for the paper's site is just a click away.).

3) Which brings us to the Democrats:
Still locked in a three-way tie in Iowa, Clinton, Obama and Edwards continue to make last minute pitches to potential caucus goers. The thing that is going unnoticed again (as it did in the 2004 Iowa Democratic caucus) is the second choice voters. Now, the rules of the caucuses stipulate that supporters of candidates receiving less than fifteen percent can move to those other candidates in the upper tier. NBC Nightly News on Sunday (December 31) reported that Edwards was becoming the favorite second choice of those not already aligned with any of the top three candidates. The Edwards camp is also playing up the results of a poll that reallocates based on second choice votes (Edwards enjoys a 41-34-25 edge over Clinton and Obama respectively.). These second choice folks were the same ones that catapulted Edwards to his surprising second place finish in the state in 2004 and that bloc is still one to keep our eyes on tomorrow night.
UPDATE: Kucinich has urged his Iowa supporters to back Obama in the event that he does not reach the necessary fifteen percent.

4) If you haven't already and like to reminisce about campaigns past, be sure to check out CQ's review of presidential nomination campaigns since 1912. It's a nice eight part read.

5) Paul mentioned it before in an earlier email, but let me mention it also: C-SPAN is offering live coverage of the Iowa caucuses again this year. Here's the link. If I find that it will be simulcast online I'll send around that link as well. If they aren't covering it online (and I'm sure Paul will tape it), I'm going to try and DVR it through my media player and briefly post a "pirated" version on either this blog or my website tomorrow night at the conclusion of the coverage. I'll need to check on the space capacity of both first. But I'll find a way to get it up there for the group. Also, I'll be online tomorrow night to post and discuss the results, so come on by at your leisure to talk about all things Campaign '08.