What Does N.H. Mean If Obama, McCain Win
The polls indicate the results will be decisive, putting at this point Obama ahead of Sen. Hillary Clinton by about ten points and McCain ahead of former Gov. Mitt Romney by about six. Actually, the Democratic result may be even more one-sided because support for the other Democratic reformer, former Sen. John Edwards, seems to be fading as his chances to win diminish, and because Hillary is not coming across very attractively. Both factors, plus his building charisma and momentum, mean more support for Obama.
All you have to do is look at television pictures of both Obama and Clinton campaigning or being interviewed to know why New Hampshire voters will prefer Obama. Clinton is coming off like Andrew Rosenthal, editorial page editor of the New York Times, shrill and hectoring. Obama is coming off as calm and assured. It's too bad for the Clintons, but Obama is simply a better presidential candidate.
So what happens on the Democratic side after New Hampshire? It now appears that Clinton will soldier on, trying to reorganize and reorient her campaign. But the contested primaries between now and the 23-state Super Tuesday primaries of Feb. 5 are almost certainly going to help Obama and not Clinton. He should do well in both South Carolina Jan. 26, where there is a very large black vote now enthused about his candidacy, and Florida Jan. 29. An interesting test will also be the Jan. 19 Nevada caucuses. This will be the first state where there is a substantial Latino population, although Latino turnout at the caucuses may be small. Michigan votes Jan. 15, but most of the Democrats have been avoiding that state, because they feel the primary was set early against their wishes.
By the time we get to Feb. 5, Obama will be better established than he is today, and, I suspect, Clinton will be still taxed trying to change her campaign appeal. The Obama phenomenon is real. As more people appreciate that he has a real chance to become president, the national polls are going to change, more establishment politicians and more cash will come Obama's way, and Hillary's problems will only be compounded. It is conceivable she will continue to sink like a rock. She certainly will if her husband, former President Bill Clinton, continues to be something of a loose cannon on the stump.
The Feb. 5 main battleground is apt to be California, which, with 441 delegates, is the biggest prize before the Democratic convention. But there will be a broad battle in other states too, and, of course, New York, a machine state, should be Clinton's, although, there too, the black vote might shift, and Obama may be able to show strength. New York has arcane election rules which may impede his efforts there. California will get most of the attention, because it has the most influence at the Democratic convention and, by far, the greatest number of electoral votes in November.
I notice this morning that George Skelton, the L.A. Times California political columnist and an astute observer, rates Obama's chances in California as good, because, he points out, Californians like new people.
I took a flyer and said last Friday I thought Clinton was through. By and large, I'll stick with that overall judgment for now. We'll see.
On the Republican side, the situation seems to me more clouded than it is on the Democratic. The next test will be South Carolina Jan. 19. (The dates of the party primaries in South Carolina are a week apart).
If McCain does win in New Hampshire, he is going to have to face former Gov. Mike Huckabee and former Sen. Fred Thompson in a state, South Carolina, which McCain lost to George W. Bush in 2000. It is a state where evangelical Christians are numerous, unlike New Hampshire, and despite some efforts he has made to make himself less anathema to these people, McCain still has trouble with them. However, McCain may have other support in South Carolina. Still, we will be better able to measure Huckabee's staying power in this state, where McCain at this point looks far from a sure thing.
Besides South Carolina, there are also Republican caucuses in Nevada, Louisiana and Hawaii before we get to the Florida primary Jan. 29, the next big Republican test. Let's assume that Huckabee will do well in Louisiana, and that McCain may stand a good chance in Nevada and Hawaii.
Florida is going to be the acid test for the presently floundering campaign of former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani. If he's going to prove to have staying power in the GOP race, he's probably going to have to win there, because he will not have made a strong showing anywhere before he gets there.
Giuliani has already been working Florida, where there are many New York retirees, hard. But Huckabee, McCain and Thompson may all have standing there too. That is going to be an interesting contest.
I assume that if Romney loses in New Hampshire, the second state where originally he was supposed to win, that he will fade as a candidate, and he may even decide to quit the race. He, like Hillary, has not come across as a very good candidate thus far. He, like her, has acquired a reputation for artificiality, and he, even more than her, seems to have flip-flopped a great deal.
The biggest question after New Hampshire and, before we get to Feb. 5, is whether the GOP establishment, worried by Huckabee, will come around in a major way to support McCain. This is probably one of the great unknowns of 2008. McCain has had a bare bones campaign since early last year, when he dropped in the polls, and had to reorganize. Whether he can come back now in both financing and organization in a way that will make him the front runner is a serious question. Some conservatives, like the New York Times' new columnist, Bill Kristol, this morning are already arguing that Huckabee, with his charm and humor, might be the strongest Republican contender in the fall.
McCain is maybe too honest for his own good. His statement in New Hampshire over the weekend that the U.S. may have to be in Iraq for 100 years, is not, to say the least, very politic.
But many people like McCain, even if they do not agree with him on Iraq or many other issues. A poll taken this past week in New Hampshire found that 81% of the voters there had a favorable impression of McCain, while only 13% had a negative impression. No other candidate on the Republican scene can compare with those numbers.
This has already been a most interesting year. It could well be that other surprises, besides Obama's emergence, are ahead.
Labels: Presidential campaigning