Q&A Friday #76: How Do You See The Primaries Playing Out?

Question: “Care to forecast the early primary support numbers for each candidate just before the primaries?

As the lower tier candidates drop out, upon recognizing the futility of their chances and in some cases the fact that their pet issue is clearly covered in future debates, their previous supporters will align behind the remaining candidates.

Want to take a guess as to where the various pools of supporters end up, assuming the top 3 stay in contention? My guess is that Rudy remains essentially unchanged as these folks drop and Fred and Mitt climb. All of this still ignores the approximately 22% undecided among Republicans.” — canddmf

Answer: It’s extremely early, so this could change, but here’s how I think it’s most likely to play out at this point….well first, here’s the current primary schedule

Jan. 3 — Iowa
Jan. 5 — Wyoming
Jan. 15 — Michigan
Jan. 19 — South Carolina
Jan. 19 — Nevada
Jan. 22 — New Hampshire (They may end up in December)
Jan. 29 — Florida
Feb. 5 — Super Tuesday (20 states have primaries on this day)

Barring a stunning comeback by McCain or a startling upset victory by Huckabee, the race will likely turn into a three-way dance between Mitt Romney, Fred Thompson, and Rudy Giuliani.

Mitt’s slingshot strategy (Win Iowa, New Hampshire and gain so much momentum that he takes all the January primaries will fail). Instead, all three candidates will probably win January primaries and will be considered viable contenders, the only three viable contenders, when Super Tuesday rolls around — which likely means Fred Thompson will be in the catbird’s seat.

Why?

Because Mitt has weaker numbers than Fred and Rudy, and Rudy is considered to be a considerably weaker candidate than Fred. So, as the other candidates drop out, Fred will pick up bigger shares of their supporters than Mitt or Rudy (Additionally, I expect Rudy’s numbers to dip a bit starting in December as some of his conservative backers get buyer’s remorse).

Moreover, I expect that Fred will raise more money than Rudy or Mitt in the 4th quarter and because Rudy and Mitt had such high burn rates in the 3rd quarter, they will have very small cash on hand advantages over Fred or perhaps, even be behind him in the money race.

What this will mean is that Fred will probably be the strongest candidate going into Super Tuesday, will probably come out with more delegates than Mitt or Rudy, and will only get stronger as the field gets smaller.

Again, it’s early and I will have a much better idea of how things will play out around mid-December, but at the moment, the above scenario seems to be the most likely.

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