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Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The Democratic Primaries - Hillary's Road to Victory

Originally posted at Daily Kos on May 23, 2007.

"In America any boy may become President and I suppose it's just one of the risks he takes." ~Adlai Stevenson

Today, four score and seven years after the battle for female suffrage was won, little girls can dream of becoming president thanks to Sen. Clinton's trailblazing path toward the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination. It's time to revise Adlai's adage.

According to the national and state polls, it is clear Hillary is the frontrunner at this early stage. She's got the money, name recognition, and institutional support to secure the nomination on February 5th. In fact, it could be argued that if she wins three of the four early contests (IA, NV, NH and SC), the race could be over before the Mardi Gras Primary.

Can Hillary vanquish Obama, Edwards, Richardson and the rest of the Democratic field so efficiently?

Of course, Democrats are notoriously fickle when it comes to frontrunners, as we tend to gravitate toward underdogs and show more affinity to insurgent campaigns than Republican primary voters traditionally do. Taking this into account, I've been wondering the following:

1) Will Hillary's frontrunner status be seriously challenged by the talented candidates in the field?

2) Does the frontloaded primary schedule make her victory inevitable? Or, could the enormous pot of convention delegates available on Feb 5, 2008 be stolen away from her if she stumbles in January?

In two previous diaries, I've contemplated how both Obama and Edwards could navigate the early primaries and knock Sen. Clinton from her lofty perch. From this vantage point, both Obama and Edwards, IMO, are aiming to position themselves going into into Super Duper Tuesday Feb 5th as viable alternatives to Hillary, creating a two or three candidate race. Neither Obama or Edwards will be able to effectively lay claim to the nomination prior to the Mardi Gras Primary.

But, Hillary can.

By sweeping the January contests, she could effectively have the nomination wrapped up BEFORE the Mega Primary. Of course, she won't mathmatically be able to accumulate the number of delegates to secure the nomination (less than 5% are available in the early contests) but, her institutional advantages will allow her to close the door on the competition if she avoids January stumbles.

I'm aware this view may not be well-received here at DKos. And before I get pilloried by the large contingent of Edwards, Obama, Gore, Richardson and the "ABC" (Anybody But Clinton) populations residing on this site, I am not a Clinton supporter. In fact, I worry about the polls showing Clinton as the weakest of the leading Democratic candidates in general election matchups. I'm not advocating on behalf of any of the candidates, at this point.

Two other caveats:

Gore candidacy - I am not including a Gore candidacy in this (or the Obama & Edwards) scenarios, as an entry by the VP would scramble all the campaign's strategies. I'm taking Gore at his word - and trying to determine what he REALLY plans on doing is simply a fun parlor game, at this point.

Florida primary - The DNC is still debating whether or not Florida will lose convention delegates, as a result of leapfrogging to Jan 29. The committee is also consdiering punishing candidates campaigning in the Sunshine State. For these reasons, I'm leaving Florida out of the calculus at this point. Once those questions are resolved, I'll revisit how Florida affects the strategies of each of the campaigns.

For much of the analysis and predictions in each of these diaries, I've used the most up to date public polls available.

In addition to the polls in the previous link, American Research Group (ARG) reports presidential preferences as fo April 30, 2007 as follows:

Democrats IA NH SC

Biden 6% 2% 3%
Clinton 23% 37% 36%
Edwards 27% 26% 18%
Obama 19% 14% 24%
Richardson 5% 3% 1%
Undecided 16% 15% 13%

any candidate not listed did not receive more than 3% in any of the states listed

IOWA CAUCUSES - Monday 1/14/08 (tentative)


John Edwards has been ahead in the Iowa polls for months, with brief surges by both Clinton and Obama. Edwards' vast investment of time and energy in the Hawkeye State has paid off in his steady lead in the state polls but he hasn't pulled away from the pack, as his lead typically ranges between 2-10 points.

Iowa represents Edwards' best opportunity to derail the Hillary locomotive. Conversely, any finish other than first for Edwards likely dooms his campaign. For this reason, if Hillary can win in Iowa, the fight for the nomination would become a two-person battle.

assuming IA results: Clinton 30%, Edwards 28%, Obama 26%
45 pledged delegates at stake
Clinton - 21
Edwards - 13
Obama - 12


Nevada is an unknown variable in the 2008 campaign. Without a long history of participating in the caucus experience, identifying and developing an effective and strong network of activists is likely to be difficult for all the campaigns. Clinton has been building a national campaign and is aiming to overcome Edwards' efforts to win union support and Richardson's regional affinity and a win here would show the depth and strength of her national appeal.

Currently, the scarce polling shows (ARG - Dec 2006, Zogby - April 2007, and Mason-Dixon - May 2007) Hillary with a comfortable lead at this stage of the race. And, if Clinton wins the Iowa Caucuses, it is likely her victory will provide momentum in the Silver State. The wildcard may be NM Gov. Richardson, who could get a boost for his candidacy as the one westerner in the race (I'm not counting Gravel in this discussion, folks).

However, the most recent NV poll, from Mason-Dixon shows Hillary far ahead in Nevada, with both Edwards and Obama only measuring in the mid-teens, struggling to gain traction. In a state with no long-standing tradition of political engagement in the nominating process, Clinton's near-universal name recognition makes this a likely victory, especially if she pulls out a win in Iowa.

DELEGATE COUNT - assuming NV results Clinton 35%, Obama 25%, Edwards 15%, Richardson 15%
25 pledged delegates at stake

NV Prev Total
Clinton 11 21 32
Obama 6 12 18
Edwards 4 13 17
Richardson 4 0 4

NEW HAMPSHIRE Tuesday, 1/22/08 (tentative)
"Hillary Ekes Out a Win in Granite State - Race Down to Clinton - Obama

The open primary in New Hampshire presents Sen. Obama his greatest opportunity to upset Clinton's momentum. Again, NH polls show Hillary comfortably ahead, with both Edwards and Obama jockeying for the number 2 position. According to Rasmussen polling, Obama attracts independents by a 2:1 margin. If the energy and excitement remains on the Democratic side, Obama could capitalize on this advantage and attract the independents to the Democratic polls and win. This far out, I'd estimate that Sen. Clinton would be the favorite to overcome this obstacle, particularly if IA and NV are already in her victory column. Her victory margin might be very slim, but as the old saying goes, "Close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades."

DELEGATE COUNT - assuming NH results Clinton 37%, Obama 35%, Edwards 10%, Richardson 10%
22 pledged delegates at stake

NH Prev Total
Clinton 14 32 46
Obama 8 18 26
Edwards 0 17 17
Richardson 0 0 4


The Battle Moves to Dixie - SC Primary Tuesday, 1/29/08 (tentative)

The African American vote makes up a large percentage of the primary vote in South Carolina. And, as witnessed this past March in Selma, Sens. Clinton and Obama are waging an all-out battle for the support of this community. I do think that Obama is likely to win either NH or SC, and from Hillary's perspective, South Carolina is the least damaging to her overall chances.

From a national perspective, South Carolina is not going to be "in play" for the Democrats in the general. And, if Clinton has already claimed victory in the three previous contests (all critical Swing States), she will have begun to silence the worry among Democratic voters about her ability to win in November. Additionally, an Obama win in South Carolina - if this is his first of the campaign - is likely going to be too little, too late.

DELEGATE COUNT - assuming SC results Obama 38%, Clinton 37%, Edwards 12%, Richardson 8%
45 pledged delegates at stake

SC Prev Total
Clinton 17 46 63
Obama 28 26 54
Edwards 0 17 17
Richardson 0 0 4

It's important to note the delegate totals only reflect PLEDGED delegates resulting from the primary and caucus results.

And, even if Hillary's machine does stumble, they've got comprehensive strategy to woo the millions of absentee voters in California (who will be voting BEFORE Iowa's Caucuses - if present schedule remains as is) to create a firewall in case Clinton loses Iowa and/or New Hampshire. After all, there are more absentee voters in CA than the entire populations of some of the early voting statess. Ah, but that's another diary.

NEXT ON THE CALENDAR - FLORIDA - a bellwhether and kingmaker?

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