Well, after what has seemingly been the most interminable pre-election campaign in the history of the human race, we are within striking distance of the beginning of the beginning of the end of the beginning. January 3rd is the Iowa Caucus, and January 8th is the New Hampshire Primary. With the races in both states for both parties some of the tightest in my lifetime, I figure its about time for the learned minds of The W to chime in with their guesses about how the two states will shake out.
My personal hunch is that Iowa ends up something like: Obama 34 Edwards 31 Clinton 28
Huckabee 36 Romney 33 McCain 18
In Iowa I think the second choice ballots will end up pushing Edwards up past Clinton, and Obama past both of them. I sense most people have made up their minds on Hilary, and many less voters who are currently supporting a second-tier candidate (Dodd, Biden, Kucinich, Richardson) will be shifting to Hilary when their candidate becomes inviable. As for the GOP side I'm just feeling like Huckabee has put in the work in Iowa and is going to reap the rewards, as enough of the values voters who are still tossing the coin between Huckabee and Romney will end up going for the Baptist over the Mormon.
For New Hampshire I'm guessing: Obama 33 Clinton 31 Edwards 20
McCain 32 Romney 31 Giuliani 17
Obama will get a bounce out of Iowa, and Hilary has a strong machine in NH from back in Bill's days. Edwards will remain in the game, but likely begin to get nudged out of the spotlight as the Dem race narrows to two people, with some of the second-tier names dropping out soon after. On the GOP side the love affair between McCain and NH continues as he edges out Romney. Giuliani registers in 3rd place, keeping him in the game as his strategy of doing well in the huge states as opposed to the small first states gets tested. Huckabee may get some bounce from Iowa, but likely not enough to jump into the top 3, as his campaign looks to South Carolina to make their next stand. Thompson looks like the big loser at this point, unable to crack top 3 in either state and having trouble justifying why he should get support.
I would be very surprised if it ended up being anything other than Hilary vs Giuliani. Even with all this home stretch drama in the last few months, I think each party sees those two as the most "electable" and therefore, best candidates.
I may be going out on a limb here but I think that Joe Biden will do better than expected in Iowa (finishing in the top three). The assassination of Bhutto just emphasizes the need for the next President to be intelligent with regards to foreign policy.
NH GOP: McCain Guiliani Romney Huckabee Paul Thompson
Winners and Losers:
After these two, Edwards, Huckabee, and McCain are in beter shape, Clinton and Romney are in worse shape, Guiliani and Obama are about the same. Ron Paul gets a little boost, but not enough to vault him into top-tier status. Fred Thompson is done. The horse race continues to Super Tuesday when it'll sort itself out a little better.
Between me and grimis posting here it's like 2003 all over again!
Man's most valuable trait is a judicious sense of what not to believe. - Euripides