Sunday, January 06, 2008

Spinning the Wheels – Campaign 2008: Iowa's over, rolling on to New Hampshire

ROCHESTER, N.Y. — From my seat here, sitting on my parents' couch during the last day of my visit here, the 2008 presidential landscape is shifting quickly.

"Romney's going to crash and burn," my dad, political scientist and poll watcher extraordinaire, says. "Huckabee's going to burn himself out."

Guiliani might never ignite, and McCain may surge, but I've been wrong before. Thursday night, out to dinner here before the Iowa caucuses, I predicted Barack would roll, Edwards would surprise with his experienced Iowa caucus-goers, and Hillary would fall short of expectations. All proved true.

And then there were my Republican predictions, which proved absolutely wrong. Huck, I'd said, would end the evening disappointed, his poll numbers not bearing out the surge they indicated. Of course, I was wrong.

This post is a scatter-shot of initial thoughts on the '08 campaign, and with the snowball beginning for Barack, as my dad has suggested, I'll try to keep up. Hillary is running scared, Barack is riding high, Edwards is hanging on, and Richardson is glad to still be around.

I'm disappointed Biden is gone — he had all but locked up my vote before he fizzled in Iowa, with his sincerity, intellect, and experience (which, contrary to Barack-speak, isn't always a bad thing). Whoever the Democrats' nominee is would do well to pick Biden as the veep nominee.

The Republican field is a mess, with scary prospects and no one who seems promising, and but one, John McCain, who seems tolerable. (Disclaimer: This analysis is from an unabashed, if moderate and independent-minded Democrat.)

Romney doesn't want it from the heart. My best evidence comes in a quote from Romney in this Washington Post story by my college buddy Eli Saslow. Said Romney: "I'll make my message loud and clear. Of course, to be elected president would be an enormous honor. But not to be elected would be an enormous relief."

More on the candidates in posts to come, I hope, but for now, I'll leave you faithful readers with some thoughts on the process.

The 2008 presidential campaign began earlier than any other in my memory, at least in December 2006, with Edwards announcing his candidacy from my-then city of residence, New Orleans. The New York Times has labeled the campaign "The Long Run" in a series of candidate profiles beginning in early 2007. The long primary run has been underway for more than a year, but the general election campaign is shaping up to be the longest in history as well.

If Tsunami Tuesday, Feb. 5, goes as it could, and as I think it will, strongly for one candidate in each party, we could have a presumptive nominee then, with 24 states voting that day, and the snowball carrying the big winners to the conventions. If not Feb. 5, March 4's Super Tuesday could seal the deal. In either case — nominee by Feb. 5 or March 4 — we'll have a long general election campaign, eight or nine months. I expect that long run to produce the lowest voter turnout in American history, as a result of sheer boredom and frustration with the campaigns after about mid-April.

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