A view on Iowa from New Hampshire

By Soren Dayton Posted in | | | Comments (3) / Email this page » / Leave a comment »

Candidate RCP avg
McCain 31.3
Romney 28.8
Giuliani 10.0
Huckabee 9.5
Paul 7.0
Thompson 2.3

Mike Huckabee's stunning victory in Iowa will have a number of consequences in New Hampshire, where I am now. Last night John McCain flew from Iowa to New Hampshire for his caucus-watching party. At the same time, Rudy Giuliani left New Hampshire before the caucuses even began. It is not clear to me that he is coming back to New Hampshire.

Until a poll shows otherwise, this is still a John McCain versus Mitt Romney fight at the top, just like Iowa was a Romney versus Huckabee fight. Iowa's results seem to help McCain and hurt Romney in NH. At the same time, it endangers Rudy.

Mitt Romney took a hit. Look at the opening paragraph of the AP story:

Republican Mitt Romney failed Thursday to pick up the first of two back-to-back wins he hoped would propel him toward his party's presidential nomination, losing the Iowa caucuses five days before what is now for him a pivotal New Hampshire primary.

(That's actually significantly toned down from the first story that hit the wire) The Romney campaign, already down, can expect much more negative coverage from the media, which already dislikes him. It is certainly possible that there will be falling turnout at his events and fewer volunteers. Already down 6-9 points to McCain, this just makes his life harder.

McCain is trying to turn this environment tactically against Romney. Excerpts from his statement:

Negative campaigns don't work in IA and they don't work here in NH. ... 100th townhall tomorrow in NH. ... We put the old lightening back in the bottle. ... We will continue our positive campaigning.... Very confident of victory.

McCain is trying to remind the people of New Hampshire of his special relationship with them. The press is not reporting McCain's placement, and in 2000 he placed even lower. Local reporters and pundits expect no negative impact of McCain's showing.

The conclusion for the top-line race is this: McCain keeps his momentum, while Romney, his most likely challenger, will likely take a significant hit. Advantage McCain.

For the rest of the candidates, read on.

Huckabee faces a uniquely awkward environment, even if he has 9.5% in the RCP average. In Iowa, he posted 14% of non-evangelical vote, versus 50%-ish of the evangelical vote. But there are very, very few evangelicals in New Hampshire. His message here is about his record on taxes. It will be interesting to see where this climbs to and who it comes from. Any Huckabee succcess will be interpreted as proof that he can perform outside of evangelical voters.

Rudy Giuliani. Rudy has a problem here. He is gone, and people will notice. He got 1/3rd of the vote of Ron Paul in Iowa. If he repeats that, the fundamental logic of his candidacy disappears. (Incidentally, recent polling suggests that he has a similar problem in Michigan)

Fred Thompson. Fred's game is not in New Hampshire. It is South Carolina. He has virtually no organization, and has only been here ... twice? He might do a drive-by, but no one expects him to succeed here, and he is currently at the bottom of the big-5 here. It does not look like Fred's 3d place Iowa showing is really being reported, so he is unlikely to get a real bounce here.

Ron Paul. He could do well here. There is a natural crusty libertarian base here that he appeals to. And there is plenty of evidence of a good grassroots organization. But his message appears limited here.

Today I am off to Romney, Huckabee, and McCain events to see what is going on here. If you have ideas for questions or observations, email me at soren.dayton-at-gmail.com.

UPDATE: Rudy is back in New Hampshire. He is actively campaigning through the primary. I'll be seeing his stuff too.

Romney and Thompson combined for more than Huckabee. This is really just "spin" by a self-described across the board conservative.

But across the board conservatives have tended to prefer Romney and Thompson (in reverse order) over the other candidates. The fact that, in a state like Iowa where 60 percent of the voters were evangelical Christians and in a race against an evangelical minister, a composite across the board conservative candidate would have conceivably received more votes, that's good news. It probably means that while one of the Romney-Thompson pair might drop out of the race prior to February 5th, it's not likely that both of them will drop out.

On my blog, I argue that Fred won in Iowa because Huckabeeand McCain will knock Romney out of the race, leaving Fred as the remaining orthodox conservative. I linked to this post, but I don't see a way to send a trackback. Sorry if I'm dense this morning.

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I don't agree that the fundamental logic of Rudy's candidacy disappears with a poor showing in New Hampshire. There is no doubt that a strong showing in New Hampshire would be huge for Rudy and a less than 3rd place finish hurts.

It remains to be seen how much it hurts, however. He didn't compete in Iowa and he's not seriously contesting New Hampshire. Instead, from the beginning, his plan has been to let the other candidates damage each other in the first few weeks while he racks up delegates from New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, California, etc.

None of the early states are yielding many delegates. If Huckabee, McCain and Romney split them up, we'll be at Florida with no real front runner and where Rudy has been leading. The next week, we get three winner take all near locks for Rudy, plus a bunch of other delegate rich states that he should be very competitive in.

There's a reason why Rudy, even with his poor showing in Iowa and fall in New Hampshire is still the 2nd most likely to win the nomination behind McCain according to those who bet on such things via Intrade.

I do think, however, that Rudy's strategy focused too much on delegates and not enough on the power of momentum and free media coverage. It's obvious that his path has become much more difficult with his failure to campaign in the early states.

With the field as it is, if he would have gotten any push from the early states - even just 3rd place in both Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina - I think he would have had a great chance at the nomination. Now, it's an uphill, but still very doable climb.

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