And so it all begins…

A few thoughts here, on Iowa, the prospects of a brokered convention, and another possible scenario

Iowa

The Iowa caucuses will be taking place tonight, from 8 PM to 11PM. Several places will have live coverage, most notably the Prospect’s TAPPED.

Here’s my prediction for the final results:

Dean 26%
Kerry 24%
Edwards 17%
Gephardt 16%
Kucinich 7%
Undecided/Clark/Lieberman/Sharpton 10%

This is utterly a SWAG. Dean’s got the organization in place, but Kerry’s got the money and establishment backing (kind of like Mondale ’84). It really could go either way. I think a Kerry victory would be big in terms of momentum, but not totally unexpected, given his surge the last two weeks.

An Edwards win would be HUGE–and unexpected. While he has been finishing strong, it’s hard to gauge just how solid his support is, since his campaign was lagging for so long. While a big Iowa finish wasn’t a centerpiece of his strategy, it still would be nice to have. A finish anywhere from 10% to 20% is good, top two is better, and a win–

Well, I think an Edwards win transforms the race. You definitely have to think in terms of a four-man race then, and one that could last all spring. Edwards has been moving in New Hampshire, and any finish north of 15% would enable him to build up his support in the Granite State, to the point where that state could prove to be a donny-brook as well.

Notice I haven’t posited the effects of a Gephardt win. That’s because there wouldn’t be any. Why?

First, nearly all of the observers on the ground in Iowa have noticed that his campaign has simply…faded away. The excitement level of his supporters is flagging dramatically, and his crowds are shrinking.

Second, and most importantly, there are credible reports that his campaign is broke, and lacks the necessary funds and resources to take advantage of what looks like an increasingly hard-to-conceive victory. Whatever momentum he may receive from a win in Iowa doesn’t look like it would translate to momentum in New Hampshire–he’s only at 3% there.

Next up are the Groundhog Day primaries. He should win Missouri, but it’s hard to say where else he’d finish strong, let alone on top. And the road doesn’t get any easier for him, so it’s hard to say what he does from here.

I’m not even going to address Lieberman, Kucinich, or the rest. That’s for the Tuesday morning quarterbacking.

Brokering a Victory

This year, the Democratic primaries aren’t winner-take-all; the delegates will be awarded on a proportional basis. So the longer the campaign lasts, the better the odds of a brokered convention get.

I’m not going to even predict what would happen then. There haven’t been any votes cast yet, so doing so, I think, is foolish. Fun, but foolish.

We won’t know how likely a brokered convention is until after February 3. That’s when we’ll know how well the Southern Strategy paid off for Edwards & Clark. My guess is that if Dean, Kerry, Clark and Edwards are all within 5 to 10 points of each other, they all stay in. And the longer that state of affairs continues, the better the odds of a brokered convention.

Another Scenario

This is just an idle flight of fantasy, but I think that a Clark/Kerry or Kerry/Clark ticket is a possibility. More later on that.

Okay…tomorrow: my take on the Iowa results.

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