Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Wither the GOP race today?

First of all, a clarification: I'm not handing over the Democratic nomination to Clinton just yet. While I think she has the best chance of being the winner, I think this game will be afoot through SuperTuesday on the liberal side of the aisle. I'm just glad that the "phenom" hasn't been coronated already--he may eventually win, mind you, but he still has to navigate the Hope, AR roadblock. Hopefully he takes on some tarnish--at least.

Now to the GOP side: again, it's anybody's guess right now.

Some people are saying that Romney "must" win in Michigan. I do not echo this sentiment. While he must eventually win somewhere "bigger" than Wyoming, his line in the sand is not Michigan. I think a showing there that keeps him at or near the top of the delegate tally is enough.

In fact, I would put only three "musts" in the GOP race right now. First of all, Giuliani MUST perform well in FL. If he splits the vote there with 2 other candidates, he is going to be in trouble. Which isn't to say he must win, mind you--he could come in a close 2nd to somebody provided they separated themselves from the rest of the field (I don't think that's gonna happen, but who knows?). But if Ru-dee's foray into the arena ends up creating more murkiness than definition, he will be in trouble on Super Tuesday.

Secondly, Fred MUST start picking up some good performances and soon. He needs no worse than a strong second in South Carolina, and then he needs a good showing in Florida or else he will be done. I'm not holding my breath, though--I think he may have seen his high-water mark a couple months ago. Unfortunate.

Lastly, McCain and Huckabee cannot allow the other person to "gain separation" from them in the next couple weeks. I wrote last night that McCain could be considered the frontrunner right now; well, the same could be said for Huckabee, who's victory over Romney in Iowa was both more convincing and more debilitating to Romney. And in the persons of McCain and Huckabee, you have the people fighting for all the non-conservative votes--you know, Rudy's territory--on the GOP side for the next three weeks. If one of them gains separation from the other, look for it to be a 3-person race in Florida and beyond (with Romney and Rudy, assuming Rudy does well in Florida); if, however, they stay tight. . .well, they'll actually probably increasing the chances that both of them will lose out.

HERE'S my newest prediction: there is very little separation between McCain and Huckabee before FL. McCain barely wins Michigan, but it's really a 3-way toss-up (Romney still leads in delegates after MI); Romney wins Nevada barely over Rudy (nothing that Romney will write about in his memoirs, to be sure); Huckabee wins by double-digits in South Carolina, and Thompson drops out while giving Romney his personal endorsement.

Enter Florida. And end my predictions. Like I said yesterday, there's too much about FL--or specifically about Giuliani--that we just don't know right now.

If I was giving any campaign some advice: Rudy needs to hit Nevada hard. Against all odds, this one is still his for the taking. If he can win there, he becomes the leader for the nomination. I think an honest effort by his campaign there will give us a good preview of what he has in store for FL and the SuperTuesday crowd.


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