Sunday, January 20, 2008

Nevada and South Carolina

Results are in from the latest caucuses and primary. On the Democratic side Hillary Clinton eked out a victory over Barack Obama. The real story here (given the almost identical delegate count of Clinton and Obama) is that John Edwards is done. He says he is going to stay on in spite of getting an abysmal 4% of the vote. In my opinion, the Nevada result is a more accurate gauge of Edwards' national popularity. Edwards did well in Iowa and New Hampshire because he was able to revive the infrastructure he had from his 2004 run. Without the organizational advantage, the campaign collapsed. Now, he may still do well in his native South Carolina (he was born there but later moved to North Carolina), but his campaign is over. This is a two horse race from here on in.

On the Republican side, Romney continued to show that he is the man to beat nationally with his win in Nevada. Much like the Democratic race, Nevada involved little of the retail politics of Iowa, New Hampshire or South Carolina. This meant that Romney's money paid off handsomely. The real question is can Romney actually fundraise. He may be able to pay for the Republican nomination by himself, the presidency is a much more expensive kettle of fish. However, no other Republican seems able to get their name out without a long intensive ground war. John McCain, facing a problem similar to John Edwards, garnered only 13% of the vote. Mike Huckabee who has almost no money was a distant fourth at 8.2%. Ron Paul continued his strange and fascinating run, picking up his first second place finish. Rudy Giuliani still believes that he can compete with Romney in an air war but he may have kept his powder dry a little too long. There are only so many sixth place finishes a candidate can take.

In South Carolina, the Republicans had a completely different result. Those who argue that Romney will never win the nomination can point to South Carolina with confidence. There, John McCain, with no Karl Rove to attack him, exorcised his 2000 ghosts and held off Mike Huckabee for the win. South Carolina is the first state from the South to vote and is thus crucial in reading the Republican Base. Iowa and New Hampshire are swing states and Nevada, while traditionally Republican has in the past and may in the future vote for a Democrat. South Carolina is as red as they come and the failure of the Romney campaign in that state should not be overlooked. Romney has a real problem in that the more people see him the less they like him (see Iowa and New Hampshire). As a result he didn't go hard to ground in South Carolina. The other candidates were far more invested here and were rewarded by the locals. McCain's win here makes him nationally viable in a way that his repeat in New Hampshire did not.

Long story short, I don't know who wins in either party. Hillary has the momentum but an Obama win in South Carolina (the first state with a significant African-American population) would swing the Mo back to the junior senator from Illinois. The Republican race is as wide open as ever. I would be shocked at this point if the race is over after Mega Tuesday (February 5).

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