Thursday, January 22, 2004

Polling Thoughts

Take a look at these poll figures from across the country, Pre-Iowa of course.

Kerry, and to a lesser extent Edwards who looks to possibly be in reach of Clark, are gaining traction from their mo coming off Iowa. Most polls are showing Kerry moving up to the mid-twenties behind only Dean, who is holding at between 25-30%. One poll even shows Kerry in the lead (which is, of course, the only one the Kerry folks consider to actually exist). What does it mean if Kerry comes in second, or even wins?

Consider for a moment that thier Iowa 'victory' was gained from around just 5% of Iowa's registered Democrats, using collusive caucusing techiniques and likely more than one quiet deal. Anyone who knows the caucus system as well as Gephardt does will tell you that it is impossible to win if everyone wants to stop you from winning even more than they want to win. He could tell you exactly why and how, because stopping Dean is exactly what he wanted.

Kerry's and Edward's mo is entirely a media phenominon; the issues and the candidates have not changed overnight. The overall dynamic of the race, and the reasons voters were rejecting Kerry remain fundamentally unchanged. Kerry was losing because his message sucked, he's a sour-puss people couldn't connect with, and his voting record leaves him vulnerable to being considered either a Bush-lite, or a fool. Edwards was losing because he's an inexperienced, manipulative, arriviste, with a pretty face, glib tongue, and lots of very wealthy friends. His mill worker dad not withstanding, people can tell a slick sales pitch when they hear it. He's not nearly so sunny or positive as he claims, but if you want a complete tyro in control of the White House against a nasty and hostile Congress, he's your man.

Well, both of these guys picked up some rhetorical pointers from Dean, but who does them better? Kerry looked half dead in 'victory' compared to Dean's Dance of David and war-cry before supporters and, unfortunately, reporters. Edward's spieled out his purloined notes and smiled charmingly. Kerry's still a sour-puss Boston Brahmin with a yard stick measuring lower intestine. His voting record hasn't changed, and people aren't apt to forget it. That record is likely to get him creamed against Bush, and people musn't forget it. He's a dirty trick playing (push polling, and who knows what sorts of shady deals with the power structure in Iowa), low blow dealing (unattributed attack fliers against Clark), half-truth spinning (his lies and obsfucations about Dean's record), entitled to be President (Presidency as a cure for mid-life crisis, anyone?) career politician. That's not going to change, and he can't hide these facts forever. Edwards is still a slickly packaged trial lawyer trying to win the case of his life, with the payoff being control of the whole country. He might be sincere, but he's so untested he might just fold over like a sapling in the first hard wind. he's got some good policy ideas, and perhaps he would like to try getting re-elected and implementing some of them before asking for America's confidence. Instead he throws away another precious southern Senate seat in his vain and bizzare quest for an even more meteoric rise in politics than the current camera-friendly doofus in the White House. These facts aren't shifted by a few thousand extra votes in Iowa, either.

Kerry doesn't have the money or the support to compete effectively in Super-Wednesday. His organizations in AZ, DE, MO, NM, ND, OK, and SC are nearly non-existent, as is his support. Of them all, his AZ organization may be the strongest, SC the weakest. Even if he gets up more mo out of a win in NH, his own stomping grounds, he still isn't going to take a single state on Feb 2nd. His momentum dries up at a stroke, and is seen for the one-trick wonder it is. Kerry has been bottom feeding for so long in so many states, that even a mild residual bump won't be enough for him to be able to pick his numbers off the floor and continue fund-raising, or allow him to get staff and media in place in time for him to compete in many of those races following Super Wednesday unless he can score at least one win in that tier. Arizona is his best chance for that win. We've been strongly focused on hold off Clark in Arizona, but it begins to look Kerry we have to focus on. A Clark victory in Arizona would be bad, but a Kerry victory would be worse. If Kerry can prove a break-out from Iowa (a mouse sized electorate) and NH (his home turf), he might grow some legs. But if he fails the Feb 3rd tier, he's back to bottom feeding for the duration. Having surged once, if he's unable to capitalize on it, people are not going to give him a third look. He gets two chances at being the front runner, more than most get, and if he fails, he's done. And he will fail.

Edwards may pull 3rd or 4th in NH, which outperforms; and he may win SC, but there are only a handful of states in which he is likely to be competitive in (TN, VA) until Super Tuesday, and then the General is likely to be right there splittin' up the good ol' boy charm votes. A part of a part is not enough to secure a nomination with. Edwards may have the ability to stay in the race until then and act as a spoiler for the General, if he can pickup wins along the way; if he fails, he's out even before Super Tuesday.

Even with their suspicious and anomolous win in Iowa, and even with another 1-2 outcome in NH (though I find that doubtful, NH voters are a pretty canny lot), neither Kerry nor Edwards has the money or organization to compete in multi-state primaries and stick in it for the long haul that Dean has. And that Clark has.

Meanwhile, Lieberman will be out of the race after NH, Super Wednesday at the latest, but unless his numbers move up in at least one Feb 3rd tier state, he's toast. He is no longer competitive, he just hasn't realized it yet.

Kucinich is no longer a factor. His supporters will be severely disillusioned about his deal with Edwards, and rightfully so. If he decides to stick around after Super Wednesday that's fine; he makes Dean look really good by showing people what a true left-wing liberal looks and sounds like and gives him good openings to explain his positions more fully during debates.

There never was any question of Sharpton becoming the nominee and he knows it. He's in it to pick up as many delegates as he can get to broker to the highest bidder at the Convention in case this thing goes long, as it seems likely to do. The main effect he's likely to have on the race in the near term is to capture a great number of South Carolina's black voters, who make up about 50% of the population, and a much greater share of the Democratic electorate in the heavily Republican state. The man has been camped there almost exclusively. This makes a clear victory for every other candidate difficult. Sharpton may even win if the vote is split fairly evenly between enough white candidates. If Dean, Clark, and Edwards are still in the race (and they should be),Kerry is still surging, and picks up more than the few people supporting him now, it is possible that the race could go to Sharpton. Most likely however, the race is up for grabs for everyone but Sharpton or Kerry. Notice I don't mention Lieberman, I think he'll aready be out after NH, but if he stays in and keeps improving in South Carolina, he makes a Sharpton victory an even stronger possibility. Personally, I think a Sharpton victory in South Carolina has a lot to recommend it. It puts Edwards out for the count, and it may strongly mobilize black voters nation wide, giving them a greater feeling of enfranchisement than they have felt in a while. Strong black turnout in the general election will help Democrats enormously. Nothing that Sharpton might extract from the nominee for his votes could possibly be of more value than that.

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