With the Iowa Caucuses concluding tonight, Republican Mike Huckabee and Democrat Barack Obama securing their respective parties’ convention votes for the presidency, it seems to be as good a time as any to give my own prognostication on how all of this is going to shake out.
On the Republican side, I see it coming down to the wire between Huckabee and Rudy Giuliani. Huckabee is the candidate the religious right has been looking for. He’s the candidate some people hoped they were getting in Fred Thompson, but Fred is reputedly either lazy or health-hampered. Most of Fred’s supporters will defect to Huckabee after Super Tuesday, if not sooner. Romney was the early frontrunner to carry the banner of social conservatives in this race, and it is only a matter of awareness that keeps many of them from defecting to Huckabee. If being Catholic was a large challenge for JFK, being Mormon is a gargantuan challenge for Mitt. Once the social conservatives leave his camp, Mitt ceases to be viable numbers-wise, and much of his New England and business-minded support would probably fall to Rudy. John McCain polled acceptably in Iowa, but he is damaged goods. It’s very hard to imagine a scenario where he regains the broad support he had 8 years ago, and easier to imagine that he drops out before February 5th with dwindling numbers in the next few states. Giuliani is the politically spiritual successor to George W. Bush, and as much as that may alienate some, it appeals to a large portion of the GOP base and his perceived electability in a general election makes him a favorite for Republicans most concerned with retaining the presidency. Although I personally appreciate the ideas and person of Ron Paul, the GOP seems more concerned with legislating morality at the national level than the constitutionally federalist approach to fiscal and social policy which Paul espouses.
On the Democrat side, the quick answer is not-Edwards. I continue to find Hillary Clinton’s wide support to be fairly inexplicable in that I have yet to meet a staunch Hillary supporter, much less one that can provide a logical explanation of why she is appealing as a prospective President. I suspect her key supporters are the establishment-minded members of the Democratic Party and people who believe strongly that we need to elect a female president. Obama is the rock-star candidate of the party, and throws around big yet vague ideas and speaks about hope. Most non-political-establishment people I encounter who are left-leaning seem to favor Obama. If ever there was a time where we could elect a President based on style rather than substance, it is now, and this has the potential to benefit Obama greatly. Obama has the better shot at becoming President. Hillary has horrendously high negative numbers in a general election – the GOP would have a field day getting the vote out to vote against her. If Obama is willing to bring on some serious advisors to turn his audacity of hope/hype into detailed policy that he can articulately describe, the presidency is his for the taking. Without this, he risks annihilation in the general election because his current policy initiatives are high on hyperbole and low on detail.
Guess at the final outcome? Giuliani over Clinton in the general. Huckabee over Obama is also easily imaginable.