Wednesday, January 2, 2008
Handicapping Iowa: The GOP
Following up on the previous post, it's time to turn to the GOP field. Who among the Republican bottom-feeders is likely to wind up a casualty come Friday morning, and who will hang on to clean the floor of the pond until the bitter end?
First up among likely casualties is Duncan Hunter. This one's pretty academic. Tom Tancredo's likely to get more votes than Hunter in Iowa, and Tancredo dropped out of the race a few weeks ago. Given that Hunter's polling just as bad in NH, he may try to stick it out for five days, but it's unlikely. With a flip-flopping panderer like Romney in the race, Hunter can bow out knowing that his outlandish, distasteful platform will be used for however many votes can be squeezed out of it, making him basically unnecessary. (Odds: 7-6 he's out.)
Next up is Fred Thompson. Sure he's polling respectably in Iowa, better than a number of second-tier candidates who will most certainly stay in the race. So what makes it the Common Wisdom that he's history come Friday? Five words: the New Hampshire weather forecast. It's cold up in the Granite State this time of year, and based on the polling data, Fred Thompson is within the margin of error of having to give back some votes come next Tuesday. Seeing as he's made no secret of the fact that he's not a natural born campaigner, most people are counting on him to bail out. They're forgetting one thing: the Hollywood writers strike. No scripts means no acting gigs, which makes the Presidential campaign Thompson's only gravy train for the moment. Barring a quick settlement to the strike, look for him to stick it out through NH, even if it means angling for a Leno appearance to thaw out the long johns. (Odds: 8-5 he stays in.)
Rudy Giuliani's entire campaign strategy is based on the logic of contesting neither Iowa nor New Hampshire, so that he can essentially survive his certain defeats in those two states and stage a comeback in Florida and the Super Tuesday states. Don't bet on it. If there's even the shadow of a clarification among the GOP frontrunners coming out of Iowa, Giuliani is going to bail. The biggest question is what he'll use as an excuse. Precedent would suggest a health issue, but I think he'll try to re-brand himself as a Wise Man and emphasize his concern for party unity. The reality, though, is that every day Giuliani stays in this thing, he smells more like a loser, which is bad for business. Add to that the fact that his business amounts to sealing plum deals for unsavory clients, the kind that don't stand up well to scrutiny, and the argument for getting out before any more skeletons clatter out of the NY City Hall closet becomes even stronger. (Odds: 9-5 he's out.)
Which leads me to my most longshot prediction on either side of the aisle. Late Friday afternoon, after spending most of the day in meditative seclusion, Mike Huckabee is going to call a news conference, ostensibly to explain away his disappointing finish in Iowa. There in front of the gathered national and international press, though, he will succomb to his enduring bitterness and engage in a foaming-at-the-mouth tirade against Mitt Romney until, realizing that the only way out of his monumental gaffe is a dose of the Holy Spirit, he'll begin speaking in tongues. Exit Huckabee. (Odds: 19-1 he's out.)
So there you have it, folks. If you make a bundle based on anything I've said, send some of it my way. And if you lose your shirt, make sure you don't catch a cold.