Friday, January 04, 2008

A Few Thoughts on Romney, McCain, and Huckabee, and the Upcoming New Hampshire Primary

In the wake of yesterday's Iowa caucus results, I posted some of my thoughts on the race for the GOP nomination over at a Romney blog that I occasionally contribute to. Since few of you likely scour the political blogosphere for these sorts of posts, I thought I'd cross-post it here :
With Mitt Romney's surprisingly large defeat in the Iowa Caucus now in the rearview mirror, what lies ahead for him in New Hampshire? I think it's a must win primary for Romney. If he loses to John McCain in four days, he may choose to continue on in the race, but I think any real shot he had at winning disappears. That said, there are some big questions hovering over the New Hampshire primary.

Since Mike Huckabee relied largely on Iowa's significant evangelical base for his caucus victory, I think its impact on his campaign in New Hampshire is unclear. Huckabee doesn't have a realistic shot at taking New Hampshire, so the best case scenario for him is simply a strong showing. Given how weak he's polled here over the past year, the only place he has to go is up. The $64,000 question is how much traction his Iowa win gives him. Does he steal the few evangelical votes that there are to be had in New Hampshire from Romney? Does he win over any fence-sitters?

One thing Huckabee's win almost certainly does is make the recently tightened race between McCain and Romney there even tighter. McCain's fourth place showing in Iowa doesn't really give him the momentum that a strong third-place showing would have, but with Romney losing by so much to Huckabee, I don't think it matters. Romney's loss in Iowa after investing the significant resources he did there has the potential to raise doubts that push wayward Romney supporters to McCain.

To win out New Hampshire, Romney has to find a way to prevent any hemorrhaging from his Iowa defeat. He needs to stop Huckabee from stealing any votes (since Huckabee is more likely to steal votes from Romney supporters than those backing McCain) and he needs to try and stop McCain's surge in New Hampshire by reminding voters there why they've preferred him over McCain for most of this past year. Not an easy task when it appears that the negative advertisements and mailings Romney has employed over the past few weeks seem to have actually hurt him in Iowa and, possibly, New Hampshire. Romney needs to go negative without appearing to attack, a tough balancing act that he's struggled with at times. The good news for Romney is that if he tops McCain, it's likely the death kneel of McCain's candidacy, especially if he tops him by a significant margin.

The big wild card in all of this is McCain's most natural New Hampshire constituency, independents. He can't afford to lose indies who would otherwise vote for him but who choose to vote for Barack Obama in the Democratic Primary. In that sense, McCain and Obama are each other's own worst enemy in New Hampshire. In retrospect, the Iowa caucus results haven't settled much of anything except to underscore the fact that we still have a wide-open GOP race on our hands. With that said, what are everyone's predictions?
[Update: After Sunday night's debate performance by Mitt, I revise my assessment... A decently close New Hampshire loss does not kill Romney's candidacy. I think McCain and Huckabee fell somewhat flat last night and Romney breathed a bit of new life into his campaign by doing well when sparring them... plus, the conservative base really seems wary of McCain and looks almost desperate to coalesce around someone else.]

11 comments:

buddens said...

Forget the independents in NH voting for Obama -- I see more lawn signs here for Ron Paul than you would believe! We'll see though. I'm just happy because I finally live in a state that actually has some political pull in a primary election!

Huck Finn said...

I think Romney can lose NH, SC and Florida and still have a chance as long as he wins Michigan. Call me crazy but here is the scenario; Grumpy Old Man wins NH, Huckabee wins SC, G.O.M. wins Florida, losing FL would kill 9/11's presidential viability and suddenly On super tuesday people will be forced to choose between the Grumpy Old Man and Huckabee, I think a lot of people will be looking for a third choice and I think Romney can beat out 9/11 hands down because he will at least have been in the top two or three spots in all of the early states. I know this is wishful thinking but I think not impossible.

Marc, Does this mean you are going to be voting republican? I think it was Churchill that said "if you are not liberal when you are young you have no heart but if you are not conservative when you are old you have no brain." I probably butchered that quote and I'm not even sure it was Churchill that said it but it's a good one.

Marc said...

Buddens - Touche... McCain has both Paul-ites and Obama-ites to worry about stealing his possible votes.

Huck - Were Romney to win Michigan, it would keep him alive. But if he loses New Hampshire, Romney has a tough row to hoe in Michigan. I don't think it likely he'd win there. As for who I'm supporting, alas I must say my allegiances lie with Mr. Obama. Hope I didn't disappoint.

Huck Finn said...

I think you are definately on the winning side. I can't see anyone beating Obama, if he can bring out the young vote like he did in Iowa the game is over for the GOP.

Marc said...

I think Obama's got the inside track to the Democratic nod. It'll be interesting see how the GOP race wraps up. Romney's got the money to stay in it for the long haul, but a loss in New Hampshire lights up McCain and Huckabee's campaigns. My gut tells me McCain will take Michigan and then Nevada, while Huckabee stays alive to fight in South Carolina. Florida will then be interesting... I think Giuliani will have a tough time revving his campaign's engine by that time, but he may stay viable enough to contend for some of the more liberal states on February 5th.

Romney's problem if he loses New Hampshire is that the pundits and media will pen his obituary. True, they were touting McCain's obituary last summer, but he had six months to resurrect. Pushing back the sweeping sentiment that his campaign is finished if he loses will be tough to do in a week.

Tara said...

I don't know but it is about time you blogged!

Marc said...

Huck - After last night's debate performance by Mitt, I revise my assessment... A close New Hampshire loss does not kill Romney. I think he extended his life by doing well at the Fox Forum and he will have a decent shot at Michigan even if he narrowly loses.

JaNae said...

oh marc say it aint so-Obama? You know just becuase Oprah likes him doesn't mean you have to ;)
Well I guess Obama is better than Clinton- ahhhh!! It will be the second coming if she wins, she's so smug tonight I can't stand her! If I was voting dem I'd vote Obama also.
But what's with NH? McCain? You've got to be kidding me I can't believe he's running as Rep. let alone reps voting for him. And Huckabee I think is a snikety snake. Showing his attack ads to just the press- yeah he's so holier than thou.
I still don't know who I'll vote for, my dad's a big ron paul supporter and is trying to sway me but I don't know Romney is the prettiest.
(can you tell i'm a girl)

JaNae said...

Oh by the way I just saw your comment on mine about me homeschooling - I can't tell what your opinion is. But it's people like Obama (teaching sex ed to kindergarten-come on) that scare me enough to keep my kids home. I'd rather put them in private school but a cops salary doesn't pay those kind of bills. that's why I was so disappointed when school vouchers fell through in Utah. I'm an overly protective parent so public school is out of the question.
It's fun & we both learn a lot.

Marc said...

Janae - I don't mind McCain so much. Not sure why you're bewildered that he's running as a Repub... I'd say he's reliably conservative on most issues. Even on issues where he's parted ways with the party establishment (like on the Bush tax cuts), he had a conservative reason for doing so (fiscal discipline - he feared runaway deficits in wartime). As for Obama, I'm a pretty big fan. He's a thoughtful candidate who, to me, seems intent on bringing the country together. By the way, you bought into the conservative distortion on that sex-ed bit. In context, Obama said he was for "age-appropriate" sex-ed, which he explained for elementary school kids would mean something along the lines of telling students where others shouldn't touch them. Hope I don't burst your bubble by breaking it to you that Mitt Romney once said he was for "age-appropriate" sex ed.

All that aside, I'd find it interesting to hear about your experience in homeschooling the kiddos. Seems like an enormous amount of work, but would be really neat too, at least while they were younger. (I've always kind of thought that kids need to start going to junior high or high school to really socially adjust... you disagree?).

JaNae said...

Marc, while trying to burst the bubble with Mitt I still haven't decided completely on who I'll vote for and nothing would surprise me about any of the candidates past views. It's a good thing I have you to help light my political path. And maybe I'm a sucker for underdogs because I'm leaning towards Giuliani. My mind changes daily.
About homeschool, right now it's not too much work seeing as how I'm doing preschool with my 3 yr old and kindergarten with my 6 yr old. It'll get more challenging but hopefully I'm up for it. It's amazing how much they soak up when you spend one on one time with them. My son already knows 95% of the states and where they are located. And now when he hears a states name he gets excited and runs to his map (if it's near) to look at it. We started learning the states because he became interested when I was showing him where we were moving. So I've bought a bunch of different things on the united states and what's exciting if you think about it you choose one subject & you use that as a starting point to tie in other subjects; math history art etc. When they are excited to learn about something then that's when they are the most teachable (I'll need to brush up on my grammar) speaking of social interaction, yes I agree it's extremely necessary. I had cousins that homeschooled and that's a whole other comment. I'm going to put my minis in as many sports activities as I can and I figure being lds they get tons of interaction with kids that way. My ideal situation would be when they are jr high- highschool age they will still homeschool but be able to take a few classes of their choosing & of course seminary - I was able to do that my ninth grade year when I was homeschooled I took french and orchestra and Seminary. And it worked out great. Sorry for the novel!