Saturday, January 05, 2008

Where do they go from here?

My quick take on the Iowa caucus results -

Democratic side...

Obama - Upside? His victory shows that his candidacy has legs - Iowa is one of the whitest states in the Union. If he can win here, he can win pretty near anywhere. Downside? On the other hand, this was basically a home field for him (Iowa and his home state of Illinois are neighbors) - he should have done well here. 38% was just a bit better than expected, however.

Edwards - Upside? His strong 2nd shows that he won't be outshined by the rock star Dems, Obama and Clinton. Downside? Now he has to prove that he can hang with them in a bigger arena (like the rest of the country.)

Clinton - Downside? She went from inevitable to 3rd place. Upside? 29% is a strong third, and she's got the smarts and the staff to learn from what went wrong. New Hampshire might be too soon for any changes to take effect, but February 5th looms as the bigger prize.

Richardson - Downside? 2%. 'Nuff said. Upside? He was totally overshadowed by the big 3, who went all out in Iowa. Now the campaigns have to expand their focus. He'll have a chance to shine through if he hangs on until February 5th.

Kucinich - Downside? Didn't even get enough votes to make most results pages. Upside? He could still garner enough delegates in his home state of Ohio to make the convention interesting.

If none of the big 3 pulls away from the pack.

Biden and Dodd - Downside? They're done. Upside? They get to focus on their duties in the Senate, possibly burnishing their VP credentials.

Gravel - Downside? Makes Kucinich look like a front-runner. Upside? Winter campaigning in New Hampshire isn't going to be much fun, but it beats sitting at home in Alaska.

Republican side...

Huckabee - Upside? Hey - he won, and by a comfortable margin. Downside? Now he has to find out if his combination of economic populism and hardcore theocratic social conservatism can win over chamber of commerce Republicans in places like California, New York, and Florida.

Romney - Downside? The biggest loser in the Iowa caucuses. He spent millions on TV ads alone, and didn't even make it close. If he, the former governor of Massachusetts, doesn't win New Hampshire, his candidacy is toast. Upside? He should win NH, and it doesn't have to be an overwhelming victory now that expectations have been lowered.

And despite the amount of money he spent in Iowa, he's got more.

Lots more.

Thompson - Upside? He came in third, without trying very hard. Downside? He polled better as a potential candidate than he has as an actual candidate. If he doesn't show signs of life in NH or Michigan (January 15), he may not last until February 5th.

McCain - Upside? He didn't try very hard either. Downside? He came in fourth. He has to do well in NH, or he could lose the 'resurgent' momentum that he has been gaining, and considering Romney's home field advantage there, that's very possible. Either McCain or Romney could be done by Tuesday night.

Ron Paul - Upside? 10% for a relatively 'fringe' candidate is nothing to sneeze at. Downside? He still came in behind two candidates who didn't try hard (McCain and Thompson) and just ahead of one who didn't try at all (Giuliani). 10% may be his peak outside of his Congressional district in Texas.

Giuliani - Downside? Low single digits in IA. Upside? Spent the day in Florida anyway. He's going to poll better as the campaigns move eastward; the big question is will 'better' be good enough to win?

Hunter - Downside? He and Mike Gravel could go into pro wrestling as a tag team named "The Utterly Irrelevants." Upside? Pro wrestling is hard work, but pro wrestlers get more respect and better pay than Congress. Oh, and he can say that he outlasted Tancredo.