A State Of The Race Report After New Hampshire

Republicans

Huckabee won in Iowa, but his victory didn’t give him any sort of big boost in New Hampshire, where he finished a weak 3rd. McCain finished in 4th Iowa and although he did win New Hampshire by a decent margin, Hillary Clinton’s stunning come from behind victory has stolen a lot of his thunder.

What that means is that Michigan is going to be enormously important because it looks likely to turn into a three way battle between McCain’s momentum, Huckabee’s populism, and Mitt Romney’s home state advantage.

The state will be most important to Romney, who poured enormous amounts of time & treasure into Iowa, New Hampshire, and Michigan. So far, he’s 0-2 in those states. If he goes 0-3, you have to think his money and momentum levels will take a real hit as people start writing his campaign off for dead.

On the other hand, a win in Michigan for either Huckabee or McCain would be huge. If Huckabee pulls it off, that should cement in a win for him in South Carolina and give him a big boost in Florida.

On the other hand, if McCain pulls it off, that could allow him to climb into contention with Huckabee for the lead in SC and could give him an opportunity to capture Florida as well.

Long story short for the top 3 candidates is that Michigan is going to be a real opportunity to take charge of the race, and since there has been no Michigan polling since the middle of December, it’s impossible to know who’s going to win the state right now.

Then there’s Rudy Giuliani. His strategy, which is to skip the early states, win Florida, and then count on his high approval rating to carry him through Super Tuesday, is looking less than sound.

The latest Florida poll does have him in first place, but it’s hard to see his holding on to that lead as Huckabee and/or McCain rack up wins. Moreover, Rudy’s popularity overall has dropped. Rasmussen has him at 13% nationally and then since McCain won NH, he isn’t going to be dropping out before Florida which is bad news for Rudy, because they draw off of many of the same voters. Had McCain dropped out, many of his supporters would have probably migrated over to Rudy. What this means is that Rudy’s campaign isn’t on life support yet, but it’s in the hospital bed, looking worse by the day.

Fred — sigh — is looking to be in even deeper trouble. He stunk it up in NH and he is almost certainly going to do poorly in Michigan as well. With that in mind, Fred has gone to SC, but the latest insider Advantage Poll has him in single digits there. If Fred doesn’t win or at least finish 2nd in SC, he might as well call it quits because if he can’t make it work in SC, you have to ask where he can make it work.

Summary: If Mitt doesn’t come out on top in Michigan, it’s entirely possible that the race could quickly turn into a two-man dance between Mike Huckabee and John McCain. If that is how things turn out, given how Huckabee has been relentlessly demonized in the conservative media over the last month, you have to think that McCain has the edge.

That being said, the race is still very fluid and since the two candidates who seem to be bubbling up to the top aren’t well liked by most conservatives, it’s still possible an alternative candidate could emerge.

Democrats

On the Democratic side, Hillary’s win was a shocker. It was like one of those horror movies where the villain is shot five times and impaled on a giant spike, then people look away, turn back, and she’s behind you holding a machete.

In this case, everybody thought Hillary was going to lose New Hampshire and most people thought that would be the beginning of the end for her campaign. But, now?

Hillary is the comeback kid and this is a genuine dogfight again. Michigan isn’t going to be a competitive race because Obama and Edwards aren’t on the ballot, which means Nevada and South Carolina are the next big stops for the Dems.

There is no recent polling in Nevada, but Obama has vaulted out to a big lead in SC. That makes Nevada extremely important to Hillary. If she wins that state, she can still turn things around, but if Obama wins Nevada and then wins SC, you have to think that people will write off New Hampshire as a fluke.

So, Hillary has gotten her foot back in the door and she desperately needs to kick it open in Nevada. Will she be able to pull it off? We’ll have a better idea when the next batch of polling comes in.

PS: As to Edwards, he’s already out of it, so the only questions left are whether he’ll drop out and if so, when it will be.

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