So, the Democratic Nomination has just become a race. Count me as a little surprised. I'd spent the last few weeks coming to terms with Howard Dean as my candidate, and now my two favored candidates have turned up the heat.
Its looking like John Kerry will win Iowa. Not only that, but he's going to win with 15% more support than he was polling. This is huge for a campaign which was looking dead in the water, like, a week ago. What's more, the second place finish is going to John Edwards, who came from even further back and also had 15% more support than he was polling. (In fairness, though, the caucus system is not a primary, so polling is not an accurate way to measure predicted results). I'm really stunned at how this turned out. Word is, Edwards did a media blitz in Iowa and really changed a lot of minds. Kerry has always been in a strong position, and the buzz has it that some good ads articulating his position on keep middle class tax cuts while rollbacking cuts on the wealthy positioned him well to capitalize on Dean's fade. He's actually found a very effective way to be a Democratic anti-tax candidate. I'm amazed by its simplicity and obviousness. The points have been made before, sure, but never so forthrightly and emphatically. The message could destroy the Republican anti-tax advantage, too, since it exposes their weakness by focusing on corporate loopholes. As he said in his acceptance speech tonight, the tax code has added tens of thousands of pages in loopholes, but you can bet the average American doesn't have a page for them.
Dean not only didn't win and didn't finish second, but he wasn't even a close third. That's got to scare him. Even more disappointing, though, was Dick Gephardt. Not long ago, he was thought to be the only person who could keep Dean down in Iowa. Even then, a Gephardt victory wouldn't have meant much since he put all his chips into winning Iowa and wasn't fooling anyway into thinking he was a viable candidate. He's now a VERY distant fourth and strongly considering dropping out of the race. Actually, before I even finished this, Gephardt HAS dropped out.
Graham and Mosley-Braun called it quits before votes were cast (not counting the pretend primary in Washington, DC). Kucinich and Sharpton won't survive New Hampshire, in all likelyhood. Lieberman will probably quit then, too. Which means we'll have a much more compact 5 person race
If not 4. Kerry's strong showing is a major blow to Wes Clark's campaign. His strong polling in New Hampshire could disappear. If he falls back to single digits, he could easily drop out, too.
But what about after New Hampshire? The Super Seven primaries come on February 3. Lieberman and Sharpton might survive NH, but this will be their final test. The primaries in South Carolina, Arizona, North Dakota, Missouri, Delaware, New Mexico, and Oklahoma could be the biggest thinning out period for the field. Dean still has a big lead in organization and money, so it will take a major blow in New Hampshire to really shake him leading into the Super Seven. Indeed, because he's lead NH for so long, he doesn't need to win it so much, anymore. Just look at W. in 2000. He was beaten badly in NH, but shrugged it off by destroying McCain in South Carolina. At least check, here is how those states are going...
Delaware (15 delagates) Dean has a strong lead in the last poll, with Clark polling strong and Sharpton running third. Kerry and Edwards are pretty far back, and unlikely to pull ahead. Lieberman is putting a lot into Delaware, something Steve Forbes did in 2000. It might win him the primary, but it'll be a hollow victory that will just delay the inevitable.
Missouri (74) Gephardt, obviously, has a huge lead here, so this race will change dramatically. Given Kerry's big lead in Iowa, he'd have to be an early favorite now.
SC (45) With Edwards big bounce, he should do well here. Dean had been gaining steam, but should be vulnerable now. Sharpton and Clark are also polling well, here, though, so it's anyone's race. If Edwards doesn't win, though, his campaign may be over.
AZ (55) Clark is polling strong here, already, so he can probably really take advantage of Dean. Kerry is so far back that he'll need a big win in New Hampshire to gain much ground here.
NM (26) Dean and Clark are out ahead, but not by much. Kerry or Edwards or even Lieberman could easily make a strong run here.
OK (40) Dean and Clark are way out ahead, but with plenty of undecideds. Given it's demographics, Edwards should be well poised to jump.
ND (14) I can't find any info for North Dakota. I'll take a wild guess, though. Dean is leading and Clark is coming on strong.
So, this is all to say, it's still very much a race and Dean is not the candidate of destiny he once was. Is this good or bad for Dems? Common line is bad, since more money will be spent in primaries than in the general election. I'm not sure I buy that. I mean, that money is spent increasing visability. As long as they can eventually return to positive points, it could well energize people to vote for whoever the Democratic nominee is. But, we'll have to wait and see. Iowa just threw a major wrench in the process.