January 7, 2008

The Red Queen's Race - UPDATED

Hatched by Dafydd

UPDATE: See below in Michigan and Florida sections.

I have already made a prediction (pre-Iowa) that Mitt Romney would beat John McCain in the New Hampshire primary. While that prediction looks awfully shaky recently (McCain has a 4.8-point lead in the RCP average of polls), I'm not prepared to withdraw it; I hang my hat, however precariously, on the Rasmussen rolling poll that shows McCain with only a scant, one-point lead: If the angry senator from Arizona loses just a little more of his beloved independents to the Obamawagon, Romney can still pull this one out. Maybe.

But I will make a very confident prediction on the other side: Hillary Clinton is going to lose New Hampshire to Barack Obama... "big time," as a certain beefy veep might say.

The same pollsters who tell us that Romney has a tough election tomorrow say that the Obama-Hillary steel-cage deathmatch is going to be a blowout: Obama leads by 7.7% in the RCP average; and Rasmussen in particular has him up by 10%.

Assuming I'm right, what will this do to the Red Queen's race in subsequent primaries? Just glancing at the currently showing polls, a naive observer would be tempted to say that it's still a shoe-in for Hillary Clinton, that she's a lock for the nomination. But let's look a little closer at where things stand right now...

  • Michigan, January 15th: Hillary is way up; but the last polling was conducted on November 13th! For the entire month of November, Hillary led in New Hampshire by an average of 11.7%; in the first half of November, she led by a whopping 13%. Now she's running 7.7% behind in that state... clearly, there has been significant movement towards Obama... does it apply in Michigan, too?

    If Obama has risen by the same 20.7% in Michigan as he did in New Hampshire, then right now we might be staring at a slim Hillary lead of 2-3% in the Wolverine State. But have we any evidence to conclude thus?

    UPDATE: The argument here is sound, but the polling actually makes no difference; I hadn't recalled, until commenter Watchman reminded me, that Hillary Clinton is the only top-tier Democrat on the ballot in Michigan. The other two, Barack Obama and John Edwards, along with second-tier candidates Joe Biden and Bill Richardson, pulled out of the Michigan race in October during the dispute about Michigan moving up its primary.

    That means that Michigan is a "break even-lose" race for Hillary: There is no upside, only a downside if she gets less than 80%-90% of the vote. She can't even say she drove Obama and Edwards out of the race, because they left over a matter of principle. (A silly principle, but one that supporters can nevertheless respect.)

    In addition, the DNC voted to strip Michigan of all of its delegates on December 1st, 2007, for the same reason that the candidates pulled out. (They similarly stripped Florida of its delegates a few months earlier.)

    Thus, Michigan has become a complete non-entity in the 2008 Democratic primary race.

  • Nevada, January 19th: She was way up in early December, but who cares? It's only 25 delegates and has all the psychological impact that the Wyoming primary did. Besides, it has the same problem as Michigan: We haven't seen any polls in more than a month.
  • South Carolina, January 26th: Obama is all over everyone here in 2008 polling, but the flip in the polls occurred about mid-December; before that, it was the Red Queen, brandishing her inevitability and crying "off with their heads!"

    This is good evidence of when Obama began to rise: In those states where we have continuous polling, Obama was behind until somewhere between the beginning of December and mid-December... then he takes control. This pattern applies not only in the states with heavy scrutiny, like Iowa and New Hampshire, but also in relatively obscure primary states, such as South Carolina; this gives us some confidence to conclude that the same pattern has likely happened in those states where there is not continuous polling, and we can't check directly.

  • Florida, January 29th: Big state. Big Clinton lead... as of December 18th; but that was already dropping. The same four polls had her up by a mean average of 30.3% in their last versions; by the 18th, the average was down to 24.8%, a 5.5% rise by Obama over the space of two weeks to a month. And that was then; this is now.

    I suspect that if polls were conducted today, Hillary's lead in Florida too would have shrunk to a tiny speed bump -- or perhaps melted utterly, like butter on a Daytona blacktop in August.

    UPDATE: Recall that neither Hillary, Obama, nor Edwards has been campaigning in Florida; all three pledged to boycott the state when it, too, moved its primary into January... and when it, too, was stripped of its delegates (on the GOP side, the RNC cut the delegate-count in half for the same reason). This may account for the lack of polling in Florida, since nobody is campaigning there -- yet.

    I suspect that one of the Dems (I won't say who) will break the logjam, violate her pledge, and start campaigning in Florida without much in the way of explanation or apology. And when she does, the fact that she was first will hurt her campaign even more... and will draw the other candidates into the state with a vengeance.

  • California and New Jersey, February 5th "Über-Tuesday," as Rich Galen calls it: Again, no polling since the beginning of December. 'Nuff said.

Right now -- though the word "now" is a bit problematical, considering the geological age of most of this polling -- the race still seems the Red Queen's to lose. But all of this is prologue, because once she loses the New Hampshire primary, everything changes: She will have been spanked in Iowa (third place!) and immediately thumped in NH. She'll start to have that glassy-eyed, second-tier stare; and all the crying jags in the world won't make her seem any more inevitable.

Mitt Romney can survive a second-place finish in New Hampshire, I believe; he has never, ever, ever been thought of as inevitable or a shoe-in or even the national front-runner in the race -- as Giuliani, McCain, and now Huckabee have all been.

Romney has the money to dig in and fight hard all the way to the convention, if he chooses to do so. And in any event, he is associated with a number of policy proposals and the experience of having been the governor of a state that, while not very big (13th by population), still looms large in the history of the nation.

Hillary has none of that... including, possibly, money: Joe Trippi says that the Hillary Clinton campaign is either broke already or rapidly heading there.

Now, take that with a couple of fistfuls of salt; Trippi is a senior advisor to John Edwards and has a vested interest in saying nasty things about Hillary Rodham Clinton Rodham. This is clearly spin; but just because a claim is spin doesn't necessarily mean it's false.

In any event, money or none, Hillary has no particularly interesting policy proposals (other than "party like it's 1999 -- again"); she has never been in charge of anything except HillaryCare; and her brief tenure in the Senate has been about as anonymous as possible in that body of raw ego. Her only claim to fame is that she is clutching the coattails of the last Democratic president. Thus, if she gets a scarlet L branded on her forehead (for loser, I mean; not for liberal, which we already knew), there really is no way to recover and resuscitate her campaign... as John McCain did after his own was legally declared dead a few months ago.

After tomorrow -- regardless of whether there is an unexpected turnaround in "the eleventh hour of the eleventh minute of the eleventh day" that leaves the Red Queen sitting on the throne, cackling like the Wicked Witch of the West Wing -- when there will be a new round of polling in all the upcoming races, we'll get to see just how much electoral hemorrhaging has actually occurred in Hillary's "insurmountable" lead.

I suspect we'll need a bucket and a mop.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, January 7, 2008, at the time of 11:37 PM

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The following hissed in response by: Baggi

I dunno what's going to happen with Hillary but I read somewhere today that Bill lost both Iowa and N.H., so i'm not sure why she still couldn't win even after losing both of those.

As to the Republican race in N.H. I think there are just too many Independents there spoiling to put a finger in the eye of Republicans. I actually think that McCain will blow out New Hampshire with something like 40%.

If Romney gets anywhere close to McCain it will be a huge win for him. I'd say, within 2%. Any bigger lose than that and it will be a big day for McCain and a lot of folks calling it the end of the Romney campaign.

I won't agree with that because ive thought McCain was inevitable in N.H. for a very long time, but that will be the meme until the next Primary.

The above hissed in response by: Baggi [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 8, 2008 2:05 AM

The following hissed in response by: Watchman

Obama is not on the ballot in Michigan (because of the dispute with the DNC over moving up the date), so that may be Hillary's best chance to get a win. Whether winning in that fashion will help her or not remains to be seen. But it will at least represent a break in the momentum.

The above hissed in response by: Watchman [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 8, 2008 5:41 AM

The following hissed in response by: hunter

Hillary is reduced to transparently cheap and cynical theatrics.
First the phony crying - predicted over at The Anchoress on Jan 02
Now this ridiculous and obviously staged gag line from * people seated at the stage * with Hillary:
She is toast.

The above hissed in response by: hunter [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 8, 2008 6:26 AM

The following hissed in response by: Rovin

When the political air leaks out of the tires, the only direction is to roll downhill.

The "Clinton Machine" is leaking profusely and the MSM has found another liberal darling to embrace.

The only downside for conservatives is Obama's momentum may make it harder to defeat him in the general than the Clintons. This may be a little presumptive.

The above hissed in response by: Rovin [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 8, 2008 6:29 AM

The following hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh


But it will at least represent a break in the momentum.

Ah, I didn't know that; I'll check it out and correct this post. But no, that won't help Hillary at all in "momentum;" it's obvious that if Obama isn't even on the ballot in Michigan -- and for a reason that he can politically justify -- then the election there is a joke (unless, of course, there are significant write-ins and she loses anyway!)

That's a "break even-lose" race for her: There is no upside, especially since I believe the DNC has already ruled that Michigan and one other state won't have their delegates seated or counted at the convention anyway. So there is no way Michigan can stop Hillary's slide in the polls.


The above hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 8, 2008 1:54 PM

The following hissed in response by: Geoman

Hillary is toast, but will fight on at least to super Tuesday. Edwards is running for VP, as is Richardson.

McCain will win NH, with Romney a strong second. Both will fight on. Thompson drops out.

Huckabee is over, except for maybe South Carolina. Expect him to run out of cash and momentum very soon. I expect he'll die on the vine after super Tues.

Guiliani will win a few states. Florida and New York, and probably California. This will make him a player everywhere else.

Expect some horse trading at the Republican convention, with a ticket composed of two of the existing candidates.

Obama will be the Dem. nominee, Richardson his VP. Then everyone will wake up and realize Obama is utterly unqualified to be president. Republicans in a landslide.

Who will be on the Republican ticket? McCain/Guliani? Romney/Thompson? Answer murky.

The above hissed in response by: Geoman [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 8, 2008 2:44 PM

The following hissed in response by: Davod

Let us not get to carried away with Obama. Is he Carteresque? Carter was a Governor before he ran.

Where does Obama's money come from?

When I see the MSM rabble and the popular frenzy for Obama and Huckabee I understand why the founders established the Republic the way they did.

What next, the introduction of the Guillotine by whoever becomes President.

The above hissed in response by: Davod [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 8, 2008 5:08 PM

The following hissed in response by: Patterico

"Big time"?

The above hissed in response by: Patterico [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 8, 2008 8:57 PM

The following hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh


"Big time"?

Yeah... a big time Hillary upset!


The above hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 8, 2008 10:08 PM

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