A view on Iowa from New Hampshire

Cross-post from Redstate. I am posting there primarily, but I will try to cross-post here more.

Mike Huckabee’s stunning victory in Iowa will have a number of consequences in New Hampshire, where I am now. Last night John McCain flew from Iowa to New Hampshire for his caucus-watching party. At the same time, Rudy Giuliani left New Hampshire before the caucuses even began. It is not clear to me that he is coming back to New Hampshire.

Until a poll shows otherwise, this is still a John McCain versus Mitt Romney fight at the top, just like Iowa was a Romney versus Huckabee fight. Iowa’s results seem to help McCain and hurt Romney in NH. At the same time, it endangers Rudy.

Mitt Romney took a hit. Look at the opening paragraph of the AP story:

Republican Mitt Romney failed Thursday to pick up the first of two back-to-back wins he hoped would propel him toward his party’s presidential nomination, losing the Iowa caucuses five days before what is now for him a pivotal New Hampshire primary.

(That’s actually significantly toned down from the first story that hit the wire) The Romney campaign, already down, can expect much more negative coverage from the media, which already dislikes him. It is certainly possible that there will be falling turnout at his events and fewer volunteers. Already down 6-9 points to McCain, this just makes his life harder.

McCain is trying to turn this environment tactically against Romney. Excerpts from his statement:

Negative campaigns don’t work in IA and they don’t work here in NH. … 100th townhall tomorrow in NH. … We put the old lightening back in the bottle. … We will continue our positive campaigning…. Very confident of victory.

McCain is trying to remind the people of New Hampshire of his special relationship with them. The press is not reporting McCain’s placement, and in 2000 he placed even lower. Local reporters and pundits expect no negative impact of McCain’s showing.

The conclusion for the top-line race is this: McCain keeps his momentum, while Romney, his most likely challenger, will likely take a significant hit. Advantage McCain.

For the rest of the candidates, read on.

Huckabee faces a uniquely awkward environment, even if he has 9.5% in the RCP average. In Iowa, he posted 14% of non-evangelical vote, versus 50%-ish of the evangelical vote. But there are very, very few evangelicals in New Hampshire. His message here is about his record on taxes. It will be interesting to see where this climbs to and who it comes from. Any Huckabee succcess will be interpreted as proof that he can perform outside of evangelical voters.

Rudy Giuliani. Rudy has a problem here. He is gone, and people will notice. He got 1/3rd of the vote of Ron Paul in Iowa. If he repeats that, the fundamental logic of his candidacy disappears. (Incidentally, recent polling suggests that he has a similar problem in Michigan)

Fred Thompson. Fred’s game is not in New Hampshire. It is South Carolina. He has virtually no organization, and has only been here … twice? He might do a drive-by, but no one expects him to succeed here, and he is currently at the bottom of the big-5 here. It does not look like Fred’s 3d place Iowa showing is really being reported, so he is unlikely to get a real bounce here.

Ron Paul. He could do well here. There is a natural crusty libertarian base here that he appeals to. And there is plenty of evidence of a good grassroots organization. But his message appears limited here.

Today I am off to Romney, Huckabee, and McCain events to see what is going on here. If you have ideas for questions or observations, email me at soren.dayton-at-gmail.com.

Fred giving up?

Fred Thompson seems to be throwing himself under the bus. From ABC in Iowa:

By declaring that he needs to do better than he’s polled for months, Thompson risks setting a bar so high for himself that a third-place victory — which would be something of an achievement for his struggling campaign — is a self-imposed disappointment. Under his own rules, Thompson could beat Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani in the caucuses and still be setting himself up to drop out of the race.

Anecdotes ? Data

But it sure is interesting:

OTTUMWA, Iowa–Last night, I attended a Mike Hucabee event at the Bridge View Center here and made the conservative estimate that he drew a crowd of 400 to 500 inside an auditorium that held 650. When I noticed that Mitt Romney had an event at the same place this afternoon, I looked forward to getting an apples to apples comparison. I showed up again today and walked into the auditorium where I had seen Huckabee the night before, only to find it empty. The Romney event "is in a much smaller room on the other side," I was told. Whereas the room where Huckabee spoke was the size of a large movie theater, for the Romney event I was directed to "Conference Room 1," where I counted about 100 people once the event started.

If this is real, and I am not necessarily advocating the position that it is, you have to wonder what the head of the Iowa Christian Alliance was thinking. That said, nice get by Mitt Romney.

Pro-Huckabee group goes up with anti-Romney ad

Trust Huckabee, the somewhat controversial pro-Huckabee 501(c)(4), has gone up on the air with a pro-Huckabee ad and launched an anti-Romney site.

No news yet about the size of the buy. It does strike me that, at this point, Mike Huckabee is more likely to lose votes to someone else than to Romney. Romney’s ads probably remove some votes from Huckabee and add them to someone other than either one of them. Similarly, these ads may not add votes to Huckabee, but they may tear down Romney.

It is unclear how big this buy is. Previous attacks on Romney have been press releases.

UPDATE: Bob Novak notes that, in a suspicious poll that puts Fred Thompson below 1%, John McCain is the 2nd choice of Huckabee and Romney supporters. If they tear each other up this week, does it mean that McCain rises? I doubt that you can come to any meaningful conclusion in an unpublished poll with silly answers. But something to ponder.

Tancredo endorsement

UPDATE: Marc Ambinder hears interesting whispers on this endorsement:

Will he endorse? Unclear. If he does, the betting is on Thompson or Romney, although advisers to both men expect the other to get it, if it’s gettable. Note that Bay Buchanan is a member of the LDS church and is said to be pushing Tancredo to endorse Romney as a way of repudiating Huckabee, somehow. We’ll see.

So the word is that Tom Tancredo is dropping out this afternoon. That’s the good news. There is some speculation that he will endorse, although Marc Ambinder, who is smarter than me, thinks that he will not.

Here are some thoughts:

1. Tanc only has two kinds of juice left.

1a. He can provide a good press day for someone. The question is whether he blows his wad today or after Christmas. If I am getting the endorsement and I don’t need a big kick of momentum, I probably want it after Christmas. On the other hand, a Thursday endorsement may be the last real story going into Christmas. Scheduled at 3pm EST to guarantee that it is talked about on the afternoon talk shows and it is hard to get other stories in. That sounds to me like an endorsement of someone else.

1b. He provides a potentially solid endorsement for the xenophobic crowd. Of course, Tancredo has real baggage (crazy mecca comments, crazy xenophobia, etc.), so mileage may vary.

2. Mitt Romney needs a good press day. I have been hearing that he will get the endorsement. The entire Colorado GOP establishment is backing Romney. Tancredo would actually be helping Romney in Iowa. And if the rumors about Steve King are true, it would seem that Romney would be the natural choice of King’s buddy Tanc. Of course, in the past, Tancredo’s campaign has accused Romney of supporting amnesty. Furthermore, if Tancredo believes that Romney will be the nominee, a very credible position right now, then Tancredo can be there for Romney at the right time.

3. Fred Thompson. If Tancredo wants to help make the Fred Thompson boom happen, here’s his chance. Fred’s numbers aren’t taking off too much. He would need it. Of course, Tancredo would be wondering if it would be wasted.

My gut is Romney. I have a lot of trouble figuring out what Thompson is telling people with interest groups, not bloggers, who are endorsing him.

Romney is doing better in Iowa than you think

First, I want to say that I have no problem with what I am about to talk about, and I am not alleging anything conspiratorial. In politics, affinity groups are affinity groups and great things. Barack Obama will do better among African-Americans than other candidates. Joe Lieberman got huge electoral and financial turnout from Jews. And the Wall Street Journal talks about Mitt Romney’s support from Mormons:

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints says it has more than 22,500 members in Iowa in 68 congregations. Joseph Cheney, the president of one of seven "stakes," or geographical groups within the church, estimates that as many as 7,000 Mormons are likely to show up on caucus night, and that nearly three-quarters of the Mormons in the state support Mr. Romney.

This suggests that about 50% of the adult Mormons in Iowa will caucus for Romney. (Assuming that 70% of the 22.5k are adults, not an unreasonable assumption) That 50% number is extraordinary. In a November analysis of polling, a CBS analyst said:

In 2004 about 124,000 people attended Iowa Democratic caucuses, out of a statewide population of about 2,200,000 adults. Even if that Democratic turnout is matched on the Republican side (which might not happen, given the greater enthusiasm of Democratic voters this year), that would still mean a turnout of only 11 percent of the adult population. The hard part for polling is finding them in advance of the caucuses

In other words, the very high end of typical turnout is around 10%. IA Mormons are looking at 50%. Assuming that, under normal circumstances, Mormons participate in higher numbers, perhaps 20% would normally participate in the caucus, (just a guess) that would mean 2,800 votes. Romney will be beating that by at least 2.5x.

That means that Romney will be increasing the universe of caucus-goers by approximately 4,200 people. Increasing the universe is the Holy Grail of winning the Iowa caucuses, but most people don’t succeed. (Exhibit A is always the famed Youth Vote)

The upshot is that you can safely add 5% or so to Romney’s numbers in any Iowa poll. Furthermore, if the Romney campaign is smart — and they are very, very smart — they are trying to drive these numbers even higher. What if turnout was 70% not 50%? Then that would be the equivalent of adding about 7% to his numbers.

The bottom line is that Mitt Romney will win a caucus that looks close. Romney starts with 5-7% of the vote. Any attempt to play down Romney’s chances in Iowa is just a game, the expectations game.

UPDATE: The LA Times has a similar report about California.

New Huck and Mitt ads in IA

New ads are up. The verdict is in. Huck wins the exchange. I do agree that the crime and ethics issues are what ought to hurt Mike Huckabee.

One of the big questions was how people were going to handle ads around Christmas. Huckabee has managed to come up with an ad that can run the whole time and that is part of his message.

Now the real question is going to be whether someone (paging Fred Thompson) goes negative on Mitt Romney. Thompson has great material for this.

DMR and Globe endorse McCain

The Des Moines Register and the Boston Globe endorsed John McCain today. The Register’s key quotes:

Yet, for all their accomplishments on smaller stages, none can offer the tested leadership, in matters foreign and domestic, of Sen. John McCain of Arizona. McCain is most ready to lead America in a complex and dangerous world and to rebuild trust at home and abroad by inspiring confidence in his leadership.

 

In an era of instant celebrity, we sometimes forget the real heroes in our midst. The defining chapter of McCain’s life came 40 years ago as a naval aviator, when he was shot down over Vietnam. The crash broke both arms and a leg. When first seeing him, a fellow prisoner recalls thinking he wouldn’t live the night. He was beaten and kept in solitary confinement, held 5 ears. He could have talked. He did not. Son of a prominent Navy admiral, he could have gained early release. He refused. …

 

McCain would enter the White House with deep knowledge of national-security and foreign-policy issues. He knows war, something we believe would make him reluctant to start one. He’s also a fierce defender of civil liberties. As a survivor of torture, he has stood resolutely against it. He pledges to start rebuilding America’s image abroad by closing the Guantanamo prison and beginning judicial proceedings for detainees.

 

McCain has his flaws, too, of course. He can be hot-tempered, a trait that’s not helpful in conducting diplomacy. At 71, his age is a concern. The editorial board disagrees with him on a host of issues, especially his opposition to abortion rights and gay marriage. McCain foresees a “long, hard and difficult” deployment of troops in Iraq. The Register’s board has called for withdrawal as soon as it’s safely possible.

 

But with McCain, Americans would know what they’re getting. He doesn’t parse words. And on tough calls, he usually lands on the side of goodness — of compassion for illegal immigrants, of concern for the environment for future generations.

 

The force of John McCain’s moral authority could go a long way toward restoring Americans’ trust in government and inspiring new generations to believe in the goodness and greatness of America.

Pretty good language. It should be pointed out that these are not huge endorsements in Republican primaries, unlike McCain’s endorsement in the Union Leader. That said, any candidate would be touting them.

The most important question in Iowa

I think that the only question left in Iowa is whether these attacks work. If this kind of thing sticks, then it is lights out for Mike Huckabee.

If it doesn’t then this guy wins Iowa and is looking might fine.

For more background, go here. The soft-on-crime meme could sit.

On the other hand, Iowa could just be Iowa. I am not convinced that this stuff works in a low-turnout caucus. I don’t think that anyone is persuading undecideds. Perhaps people are being turning off to being Huckabee supporters.

But I think that they are going to see a forgiving pastor. ….

And the anecdotes that I am hearing of grassroots energy for Huckabee suggest that there will be an enormous amount of forgiveness.