A State Of The 2008 Race Report

The story of the last couple of weeks has been, without a doubt, Mike Huckabee’s dizzyingly fast rise in the race. A few short weeks ago, Huckabee was in 2nd place in Iowa, not in the running in any of the other states, and in 5th place in national polls. Since then, he has pulled ahead of Mitt in Iowa, moved to the top of the heap in multiple states, and, for a brief time, even had the best overall rankings nationally.

How has it affected the race? Well, I’m going to do a little breakdown of the candidates’ chances for victory at this point that will show you. However, keep in mind that the race is extremely fluid right now and things can — and probably will — change very quickly.

Let’s start with the candidate that’s most likely to win and work our way down through the top tier, shall we?

1) Mike Huckabee: How lasting Mike Huckabee’s bounce will be is questionable, but for the moment, he is the strongest candidate in the race. He’s leading in Iowa and although he’s in 4th place in New Hampshire, an Iowa win has the potential to vault him into the two slot there. Next up is Michigan, where Romney, Giuliani, and Huckabee are bunched at the top of the charts. That state is a toss up, as is Nevada, where Romney leads, Huckabee follows, and Rudy is in third place. Next up is SC, where Huckabee is winning and Florida, where he’s running in 2nd place currently.

The big question marks for Huckabee at the moment revolve around how much money he has raised in the 4th quarter (He raised very little in the first three quarters), whether he can close the deal in Iowa (I think he can), and whether he has staying power. At the moment, he’s in 2nd nationally, leading in the first state, and has been moving up. That’s a good position to be in.

2) Mitt Romney: Although Huckabee has a slight edge on Romney at the moment, Mitt’s path to victory is easy to spot as well, even if he loses Iowa. New Hampshire is right next door to Massachusetts and Mitt has been leading in that state for a long time. If he closes the deal and then goes on to win Michigan, he’d have a great shot to win Nevada. If he wins three out of the first four states, SC would be within his grasp as well. Although Giuliani has a large lead in Florida at the moment, if Mitt has that kind of momentum going in, he may be able to beat him there, take Maine, and cruise into Super Tuesday in such a strong position that he will be nigh undefeatable.

3) Rudy Giuliani: Although Rudy currently has the best numbers nationally, he has slipped in several of the early states and he is barely beating Huckabee nationally. That means a lot could end up riding on Michigan for Rudy. If he can’t win or at least finish 2nd there, he may have to wait all the way until Florida to get at least a 2nd place finish and by then, Huckabee or Romney may have become unstoppable or his campaign may have lost so much momentum that he’ll lose the state.

4) Fred Thompson: The rise of Mike Huckabee is problematic from Fred Thompson because a lot of Huckabee’s support seems to be coming from former Fredheads. Huckabee is also beating Thompson in the absolutely key state of South Carolina, which is where Fred has his best chance of victory before Super Tuesday.

At this point, Fred probably needs Huckabee to fade a bit, especially in South Carolina, needs to do surprisingly well in Iowa, and then probably needs to do surprisingly well in Nevada and/or Michigan. Having McCain drop out after New Hampshire and endorse him — which seems conceivable, but far from certain, would probably be very helpful as well.

In other words, Fred’s campaign needs to heat up — and fast, or he’s probably not going to be able to pull it off. While he’s not out of it, Huckabee, Romney, and Giuliani are all looking considerably stronger than he is at the moment.

5) John McCain: McCain’s big problem is still that he doesn’t look likely to be able to win a state prior to Super Tuesday and his numbers look to be fairly weak everywhere but New Hampshire. Unless he can pull a huge upset and win in New Hampshire, he doesn’t seem to have any sort of path to the nomination.

Summary: At the moment, Romney and Huckabee look like the two candidates who are capable of running the table early on. If neither of them can pull it off, you can expect 3-5 candidates to be duking it out on Super Tuesday and at that point, unless someone can dominate on that, the race could continue on for quite a while.

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