Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Iowa caucus predictions

By Rick Morris

Proving that any bitter, impassioned rants that I may make have no bearing on my capacity for rational judgment, I am agreeing with Bob Novak's assessment that Mitt Romney will pander his way to first place in the Iowa caucuses. I am predicting a narrow win based on the fact that he has built a conventional machine there (perfectly appropriate, given his politics-as-usual theme for the campaign) as opposed to Huck's strategy of assembling many evangelicals who are not political regulars. Huck should finish about 2% back of Romney, with the battle for third place as a virtual dead heat. Months of battering from Hugh Hewitt and his fellow-traveling sellouts in the Conservative Establishment will also end up mattering, as will Rush Limbaugh's last-minute kidney punch for good measure. Who saw El Rushbo's cheap pile-on coming a mile away? Oh, that's right, it was me!

Ultimately, I believe that my candidate Fred Thompson does have enough support from influential conservatives on the ground to eke out a narrow third-place finish. I had thought that Ron Paul would be in the top three or four, but with John McCain supposedly surging, I think he'll nip out Paul just barely for fourth. With all three of these candidates likely to finish in the low teens, however, there won't be much room for any of them to brag.

On the Democratic side, I agree again with Novak, albeit to a limited extent. I think Barack Hussein Obama will complete a victory that the polls are suggesting right now, but will nonetheless shock the world. I do think Hillary Clinton will finish a close second, and that's where I disagree with Novak. I understand his rationale that John Edwards will benefit from being the second pick of far more people whose candidates don't make the 15% cutoff to proceed, but I think the Clinton machine will carry her just a hair past Edwards for second.

My early guess for New Hampshire is that if these results come in as predicted, Mittens is in very good shape. Independents who might have crossed over to vote for McCain if Obama were severely damaged in Iowa might not do so under these circumstances. If this occurs, the stampede towards the nomination that Hewitt and his cohorts have long been trying to engineer under the guise of "sober analysis" could be well underway.

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