Sunday, December 16, 2007

Only 2 more weeks till the Iowa caucuses

Republican Politics, American Style
Published on December 20th 2007 in Metro Eireann By Charles Laffiteau

With just two weeks to go until the Iowa caucuses and the beginning of the last leg of the US Presidential nomination process, I will now attempt to provide the indepth and unbiased analysis of the average US citizen’s views on various different social issues and the current political standing of the Presidential candidates of both the Repunlican and Democratic parties that I promised you in my last column.
I should note that the key US Presidential primary dates have all been moved forward in the past six months as different states jockey for a position of national influence regarding the eventual Presidential nominees by being among the first to allow their voters to cast ballots for them. In so doing, some of these states also risk losing half or all of the number of convention delegates allotted by the Republican and Democratic Parties to them. These states are betting that the national parties will not follow through with these threats, but if they are wrong in this assessment then they will have a reduced or no role at the national nominating conventions.
The candidates who win these primaries will then be left with nothing more than some newspaper headlines to show for their victories, since half or all of these state’s actual delegate votes won’t be counted as part of the political parties’ Presidential nomination process. Personally, I hope both parties follow through on their threats because such actions by individual states to draw more attention to themselves throws the entire nominating process into chaos.
As things currently stand though, it appears that Iowa will once again kick off the race for national convention delegates with the first in the nation state party caucuses on Thursday January 3rd, 2008. The Iowa caucuses will then be followed by the New Hampshire state primary five days later on Tuesday January 8th 2008. Both of these dates are the earliest ever for Presidential nomination voting.
The Michigan primary has been moved up to Tuesday, January 15th along with the Florida primary two weeks later on January 29th but all of the Democratic candidates have refused to campaign in either state and none of their Republican counterparts have made any moves in that direction either. The Republican Party has slashed the number of delegate votes from all of these states in half for holding their primaries before February 5th and the Democratic Party has said it will bar delegates from these states from voting at their national convention. Well, so much for these states trying to trying to influence the national Presidential nominating process.
The biggest Presidential primary voting date will once again be on February 3rd 2008, the so called “Super Tuesday” national primary for both parties, when voters in twenty one states will go to the polls to elect almost half of the nation’s presidential nominating delegates. Super Tuesday separates the Presidential contenders from the pretenders and the leading vote getter coming out of this group of primaries will be the odds on favourite to capture their respective party’s nomination for US President.
Even though the number of delegate votes at stake in the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primaries is very small, many past Presidential party nominations have been decided based on surprising or disappointing showings in these early voting states. It is for that reason all of the Democratic and Republican nominees have been spending the vast majority of their time and television advertising dollars on their respective Presidential political campaigns in these states.
In 2004 John Kerry emerged as the surprise winner of the Iowa caucuses, while frontrunner Howard Dean ran a disappointing third, leading to Dean’s demise and Kerry’s eventual triumph as the Democratic Presidential nominee. In 1992 Massachusetts’ US Senator Paul Tsongas defeated little known Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton 33.2% to 24.8%, but Clinton’s strong showing surprised most political observers and thus gave him the momentum he needed to win the Democratic Party’s Presidential nomination. So where do the current Presidential candidates stand in these two early presidential voting states?
Well, in Iowa the frontrunner among Iowa voters for the past year, Republican Mitt Romney, is now in a virtual dead heat with former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, despite a huge advantage in terms of campaign resources, staff, TV advertising as well as time and money spent in the state over the past year. Huckabee has surged past better known and financed Republican rivals such as Rudy Giuliani, “Law and Order” TV star Fred Thompson and Senator John McCain and is now poised for an upset win in the Republican caucuses.
Huckabee is a very likable candidate who has handled himself well in debates with his better known rivals and enjoys the support of a majority of socially conservative Republican voters. A win in Iowa or a strong second place showing there may give Huckabee just the momentum he needs to duplicate what another former Arkansas Governor did in New Hampshire sixteen years ago, which eventually led to Bill Clinton capturing the Democratic Party’s 1992 Presidential nomination.
On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton has also lost her front running position in Iowa and is now in a statistical tie with her two main Democratic rivals, Barack Obama and Senator John Edwards less than two weeks before this contest is decided. The news isn’t any better for Romney and Clinton in New Hampshire where both have seen double digit percentage point leads over second place rivals, John McCain and Barack Obama, evaporate. Both Clinton and Giuliani (because of Huckabee) have also witnessed additional erosion of their leads in national polls.
Nationally, Romney is fighting the perception that he isn’t as trustworthy as other candidates like Huckabee, because of his flip-flops on social issues like abortion and gay marriage. Clinton is likewise grappling with the public’s perception that she says what voters want to hear, not what she believes. So from my perspective, a loss or close win in these early contests could sink their Presidential campaigns.

No comments: