Monday, January 07, 2008

CRYSTAL BALL: Obama Tsunami Upends Hillary, Mitt & McCain Neck & Neck

How big will Obama's New Hampshire win over Hillary be? I say, at least 20%.

I'll use a little history to help handicap the 2008 New Hampshire Primaries. First, let’s look at the Obama-Clinton race.

The conventional wisdom says Obama beats Hillary with the only question being by how much. A good way to determine how badly Hillary can lose and still recover is to look at the 1984 Democratic primary between establishment candidate former Vice President Walter Mondale and upstart Sen. Gary Hart. Hart road a wave of “New Ideas” to a 37.3% to 27.9% win over the eventual nominee, a 9.4% margin. In more recent memory, the 2000 Republican contest had upstart Sen. John McCain’s “Straight Talk Express” rolling up a 48.5% to 30.4% drubbing of establishment favorite Texas Gov. George W. Bush, the eventual nominee. That’s an 18.1% margin. This history proves that a big loss in the Granite State is not fatal to an establishment candidate. If Hillary can keep Obama’s victory to within that 9% to 18% range, she can recover. However, a 20% spanking or even a monumental blowout of 25% or more may make the 3rd Clinton Term Project all over except for the crying ;-).

The Republican contest is between the 2000 N.H. primary winner Sen. John McCain and the former governor of neighboring Massachusetts Mitt Romney. Romney led in New Hampshire from May through December 2007, polling between 27% and 32% most of the time. However, though Romney has held his support level, he’s behind in the late pre-primary polls because of Rudy Giuliani’s collapse and Fred Thompson’s evaporation. Their supporters have coalesced around the McCain campaign enough to vault him into the top spot. A close second place showing by Romney is not fatal much like Bob Dole’s loss to Pat Buchanan (27.2% to 26.2%) didn’t mean he wouldn’t eventually capture of the 1996 nomination.

The “x” factor in both Republican and Democratic primaries is the level of Independents voting in their primary. In 2000, according to CNN exit polls, 41% of all voters in the Republican primary were Independents. McCain creamed Bush at a better than 3-to-1 clip, 62% to 19%, with Independents. The 4% of GOP primary voters that were Democrats passing on the Gore/Bradley yawner broke for McCain by a ridiculous 6-to-1 margin, 78% to Bush’s 13%. Bush actually did win among the 53% of Republicans voting in the GOP primary, 41% to McCain’s 38%. Will a similar 45% of 2008 GOP primary voters be Independents and Democrats? I suspect many of these voters won’t pass up the chance to vote for the charismatic and history-making campaign of Barack Obama.

PREDICTION: Independents come out big for the Democratic primary and for Obama. Hillary comes in second to Obama by more than 20%. Edwards will finish much closer to Hillary than Hillary to Obama. McCain and Romney will be in a close battle that’ll be decided by the number of non-Republicans that vote in the Republican primary. My heart says Mitt beats McCain in a close contest, my head says he losses by 3% or less and lives to fight another day (actually, in next Tuesday’s Michigan Primary on January 15th.) That clown Ron Paul again beats Rudy Giuliani and in doing so, ensures that Romney remains half of the mythical two-man race. The only question will be if McCain, rather than Rudy, can be the other half of that tandem. It’s crisis time for Team Rudy and the media will begin to focus on his demise rather than Romney’s.

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