The State Of The 2008 Race

On the Democratic side, both Barrack Obama and Hillary Clinton had strong 2nd quarters raising $32 million and $27.5 million respectively.

John Edwards, who has been on the losing end of a fight with Ann Coulter and his penchant for high priced hair care, has dropped to a distant third place with only 9 million raised.

At the moment, Hillary is polling in the 30-40% range, while Obama is running in the low to mid-twenties, while Edwards in stuck in the low teens.

Originally, before Edwards started to meltdown, I thought Hillary might bury Obama and then his supporters might shift over to Edwards and make this into a race. Well, now it’s starting to look as if it may go the other way. Edwards has a sick wife and if, after the third quarter, he finishes in third place, far behind Hillary and Obama, does he call it quits or does he hold out hope that he might get another shot at veep slot?

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If Edwards drops out, you have to figure that most of his support would move over to Obama, since in many ways, they’re such similar candidates. It’s also worth noting that although Hillary has a strong lead at the moment, it’s not an insurmountable lead, and while she is very well known to the general public, Obama is not. What that means is that Obama has more room to grow. Combine that with his fund raising numbers and I suspect that this will turn out to be much more of a horse race on the democratic side than people are anticipating. That’s bad news for Democrats because it likely means a race to the left in the primary that will be difficult — in the YouTube & blog era — to simply reverse once the general election comes around.

On the Republican side, there has been much talk about John McCain’s fund raising implosion. However, Giuliani ($17 million), Romney ($14 million) and McCain ($11.2 million) all had weak fund raising quarters. Some people may disagree with that, but when Obama raises more money than the top two Republican fund raisers combined, it says something.

So, why are the numbers so bad? The general disenchantment of the Republican base, the fact that all three men are supporters of comprehensive illegal immigration, and of course, the “Fred Factor” all likely had parts to play.

At the moment, Fred is preparing to get in the race, generating a lot of grass roots enthusiasm, and is being hyped as the “conservative” choice in the race. Fred is expected to make an official announcement later this month and how he does in the third quarter will shape the rest of the race on the Republican side.

If Fred can enter the race strong, and pull into first place by the end of the third quarter in the money race and in the national polls, the fund raising for the other candidates may start to dry up a bit and some of the 2nd tier candidates will likely start giving up the ghost.

On the upside for Fred fans, he seems to have a strong internet operation, powerful grassroots support, and so far, the opposition researchers seem to have struck out. If articles about Fred’s lobbyist sons and his alleged lobbying for a pro-choice organization back in 1991 are the best the anti-Fred people can come up with, then the cupboard is probably pretty bare.

Still, there is a sharp learning curve for candidates getting into the race and Fred, having been out of politics for a while, is probably even farther behind the curve than most pols who get into the race. With that in mind, he would be wise to make sure he is really immersing himself in a wide range of issues so that he will be well prepared when he gets away from scripted performances and has to perform in a debate or has to answer questions from crowds of voters. Also, he’s going to want to disprove the “lazy” rap that has been stuck to him by working his behind off in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina.

Rudy is still in the top spot and stockpiling the money. That’s wise, because if his strategy is to dominate Super Tuesday, he’s going to need to have plenty of cash on hand. Course, if Fred Thompson were to pass him, it would cut into his fund raising, and could throw a big kink into his plans.

Although McCain’s campaign has been gravely wounded by the immigration debate and his ridiculously high cash burn rate, it’s hard to say that he’s out of it when he’s consistently outpolling Romney. Still, the staff cuts, the immigration issue staying on voter’s minds for another month or two, and all the stories about his campaign falling apart will probably continue to dampen fund raising. So, out of it? No. But, are things looking bad for McCain? Yes, absolutely.

Then there’s Mitt Romney. For months now, I’ve been saying that his campaign is stalled, but his solid debate performances, impressive fund raising skills, and excellent numbers in New Hampshire and Iowa driven by early ads had me thinking I had judged him too harshly — but actually, I hadn’t.

Romney is in 4th place at the moment and only seems likely to move up if one of the other campaigns falls apart and drops past him. Whether it’s because Republicans instinctively don’t trust a slick, flip flopping Massachusetts Republican, the Mormon issue, or some combination thereof, he’s not getting any traction and he’s staying stalled at around 9%-12% nationally. He can pour money into Iowa and New Hampshire, but even if he won, it probably wouldn’t be enough to get him to the big dance unless he can significantly increase his strength everywhere else in the interim.

Next up is Newt Gingrich. Now, I think it’s unlikely that Newt is going to run, but he’s worth mentioning for a single reason: in polls where Newt IS NOT included, almost all of his support (which looks to be in the 6-8% range) seems to go over to Fred Thompson — and, that would be enough to put Fred ahead of Rudy in most national polls. In other words, when you consider the candidates that are actually in the race, Fred, not Rudy, is the top dog.

Fred is also problematic for the 2nd tier candidates, many of whom are positioning themselves as the conservative alternative to “Rudy McRomney.” If Fred, who is viewed as a conservative, is riding high at the top of the polls, when 2nd tier candidates (and Gingrich) start dropping out, their support will be more likely to go to Thompson than to the smaller candidates.

That could mean that unless the 2nd tier candidates really start to catch on by the end of the third quarter, they may be in a position where it will be very difficult to make progress unless Fred’s campaign falls apart.

That’s why the next 3 months are going to be extremely significant.

I consult for the Duncan Hunter campaign.

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