Sunday, January 6, 2008

Clinton and Giuliani: down but not out

I’ve always been interested in American politics, so being in the States for most of December and having a closer view of the run up to the Presidential nomination process was like being a kid in the political sweetie shop. Now Barack Obama has won the Iowa caucus, the UK media has gotten a hook to start following the race to be President with gusto. He is dynamic, young(ish), a different colour from the other candidates and has developed a easy to understand narrative about Change. The bandwagon has left the building, and is currently trundling through New Hampshire. The fawning media should try to read his book, 'The Audacity of Hope'. That would knock the shine off their coverage by sending them hurtling to the land of nod..... Despite their great starts, I’m not 100% convinced that either winners in Iowa, Obama and Mike Huckabee, can go on to with their respective party’s nominations. My favourite factoid from the weekend’s papers has been that only two Democrats have won both Iowa and New Hampshire since 1976, and neither Al Gore nor John Kerry went on to become President. Winning early is not a bad thing, but it’s not essential, especially in these three and four horse races. In the Democrat race, the problem with Hillary Clinton so far is that she’s been seen as the establishment candidate. Now she can compete as the underdog, which can be the change that her campaign needs. If I were her I’d spend more time campaigning with Chelsea and less time standing in front of old Clinton allies like Madeline Albright. Also in her favour she will have a more experienced campaign staff, and she has money and a consistent significant and substantial lead in the national polls. While this weekend’s polls have it too close to call in New Hampshire, she has around a twenty point lead in both Florida and California which go to the polls within a month. By comparison, New Hampshire and Iowa together send 77 delegates to the Democratic Convention, while Florida sends 185 and California sends 370. Hillary needs to hold her ground in New Hampshire and this campaign will still be wide open as we move to Super Tuesday. The fact that Edwards will still be in the race in a month should help Clinton, as it should help to split the 'anti-establishment' vote. Compared to the Democratic race, the contest for the Republican nomination has been largely ignored by the UK media, but it’s a far more interesting contest in electoral terms. It still seems like a real 4-way contest between a former fat preacher who does not believe in evolution, a flip-flopping Mormon, a man who is even older than Menzies Campbell, and the former Mayor of New York. I still think that Rudy Giuliani has a great chance of winning. His stated strategy has been to focus on larger states which poll later in the contest like Florida, so even his sixth-place finish in Iowa was no cause for concern. If the other Republicans pick each other off early, currently Romney seems to be the villain-de-jour, then Rudy would be well-placed to come through the middle as the least-hated candidate. He’s still the narrow favourite on Betfair from the likely winner in New Hampshire, John McCain. So with one Primary down and twenty-eight to go, I’ve put money on Clinton and Giuliani to win the nominations.