Tuesday, December 19, 2006

More smart money bails: Are the caucuses already over?

If you missed it, here's some coverage of the most recent withdrawal from the presidential race, Evan Bayh:

Dave Price
Iowa Progress
John Deeth
Kay Henderson
Political Fallout
State 29

The surprise of Bayh's withdrawal was enough to pull me away from vacation to write for a minute. If you haven't already done it, let me put some pieces together for you:

Mark Warner spent a fair amount of money considering the possibility that he might run for president, then decided not to.

Russ Feingold spent what might have been even more to consider running for president, including spending the cash to give staffers to dozens of candidates seeking office in November. Shortly after the election, he also announced his decision not to run.

Now, Evan Bayh, who spent as much or more money than Feingold and appeared to have hired even more staff, also pulls out.

I look at this a lot like a hand of high stakes poker. And any poker player worth his skin will tell you that you don't pull out of a hand when you've already got a ton of money on the table unless you know you can't win. Let's look at the table for a moment and see if we can see what they're seeing:

Tom Vilsack, Chris Dodd, Bill Richardson, Joe Biden, Dennis Kucinich, Wesley Clark and John Kerry are all weighing runs, but most have either waited too long to get started or have limited credibility. They're all long shots at best.

Within the list of real candidates, then, the lowest ranked is probably Al Gore. He's got some significant ideas and some fired up supporters, but it's unlikely caucusgoers at large will want to give him a second chance.

Next, I'd rank Clinton. She's done very little work here in Iowa, and in fact she's done little to help candidates or make friends anywhere. Plus, before she even enters the race she'll generate unfavorable feelings from nearly half the voter base. She's overrated by pundits at this point and will probably be an early disappointment.

Barack Obama is probably standing in second right now. Two weeks ago I said this about him:

He's the "it" candidate right now, and a popular pick for sure. But when he's exposed in prime time to a nationwide audience, if he doesn't walk on water he'll be seen as a disappointment.
I continue to stand behind that.

Then we've got John Edwards. The only polling data I've seen in Iowa puts him way out in front. He's popular, he's got a bit of a rock-star aura and it's believed in many circles that if we had nominated him for President four years ago, he'd live in the White House right now. He's also already more or less locked up the support of people like Ed Fallon, who could potentially bring another large block of voters from the left edge of the undecided pool.

To sum up: While we're still a long way out and anything could happen, right now I see John Edwards as the clear frontrunner, and he's way out in front of second place. It's his race to lose, and it's close to being over.



Anonymous said...

December 20, 2006: "It's his race to lose, and it's close to being over."

I know it's fun to make big, bold predictions, and especially to make them sound like you're just one step ahead of everyone else, but really, calm down.

You might be able to get away with this type of prediction in a year, but probably only if you had 30 years of experience under your belt. Especially given your in-depth analysis that an entire group of potential candidates "have either waited too long to get started or have limited credibility."

Us mere mortals are still lost in the morass of potentialities and pre-campaign positioning. Join us sometime.

Peter said...

This is weird how everything is so early.

The Real Sporer said...

I think that we need to start later and have a longer nominating process.

I agree with your analysis about the candidates. I'm pleased, but Edwards is looking pretty good.

I do disagree about Bill Richardson. He might not be good looking enough, which is important although people hate to admit it, but is probably the most qualified Dem. Smart, smart governor. Has served in major diplomatic roles for both Bubba and W.

Richardson is also a kind of unifying figure that wouldn't conduct a slash and burn campaign. A Bill Richardson/Newt Gingrich kind of campaign would be interesting.

Anonymous said...

You are seriously underestimating the aura of Obama. He takes the "it" that Edwards has to the next level and does not have a lot of the baggage that Edwards carries.
You are spot on with Hilary though. She's dead in the water. OBAMA/EDWARDS 2008 will be the ticket.

rf said...

If Obama enters the race, he'll be very tough to beat. If that is the case, I would love to see Obama/Warner ticket. If Obama does not enter the race and Hillary does, Edwards vs Hillary will be a tough fight. If both Hillary and Obama stay out, there will be room for at least one serious challenger to Edwards. I think that is the scenario that gives Vilsack his only real chance.