Prognostidigitation: You read it here (well, part of it on Big Orange) first

In the Iowa wrap-up diary last week, I posted this comment.  It turned out to be prescient, so I’m going to flog it a little.  The key insight is that, without an incumbent running, Iowa and New Hampshire are generally won by different candidates.  This year, that worked in both parties.  Part of this may be due to Granite Staters desire to defy expectations, part to the less populist and more libertarian politics of the state, and part of it may be due to the different campaign strategies and tactics (and infrastructure) required to win the two states.

Anyway, having said four days ago about the race what people are saying now, I’m going to take a victory lap.  Yes, this is obnoxious; we’ll all get over it.  I think what we’re likely to see now is Edwards decides to withdraw if he doesn’t do well in Nevada — assuming (as I expect) that he does prefer Obama over Clinton — and tosses his support to Obama, most of which sticks on Feb. 5.  But unless Obama beats Hillary by over a 60-40% margin on Feb. 4, this will not be over for a long time, for reasons discussed below.

(Consider this a virtual blockquoting of the post below from Jan. 4:


Like Huckabee (and Carter and Robertson and Hart) (4.00 / 1)

and others who have done unexpectedly well in Iowa, Obama adapted well to the rules of the caucus; his community organizing background actually turned out to be a huge plus, and now we know why he’s been going after moderates while neglecting the likes of us.  (On the GOP side, there may never be another non-evangelical who tries to compete in Iowa.  It’s a fool’s game, as Huckabee showed.)

The question is whether New Hampshire — a state requiring a very different strategy — follows Iowa.  The answer, notwithstanding 2000 and 2004, is: except when there is an incumbent running, usually not.  I have a chart buried in DKos about this:

1972: IA, Muskie; NH, McGovern

1976: IA, uncommitted (then Carter); NH, Carter

1980: incumbent

1984: IA, Mondale; NH, Hart

1988: IA, Gephart; NH, Dukakis

1992: IA, Harkin (uncontested); NH, Tsongas (then Clinton)

1996: incumbent

2000: IA, Gore; NH, Gore (but by only 4% over Bradley)

2004: IA, Kerry; NH, Kerry

New Hampshire is a very different state than Iowa.  Huckabee will likely lose there.  (Among Republican races since 1976, a different person has won Iowa and New Hampshire in every race without an incumbent.)  If Obama wins, NH it will be because he has neither elicited great dissatisfaction as a frontrunner (as did Mondale or Gore) nor doubts about electability (as did Gephart and Harkin) that brought down previous Iowa victors.  But NH does not play to Obama’s organizational strength the way that Iowa did; you can’t likely community-organize your way to a general election victory.  (Though it would be sweet if he could!)  The main thing benefitting him, and the thing to watch for in the polls over the next few days, is that Edwards may falter now, and his voters are more likely to go to Obama, just as people long predicted before it became too much predicted to be worth predicting.

But this is likely to be a long race: Hillary simply will not drop out before Tumultuous Tuesday unless she’s losing so badly that it hurts her image to continue.  In fact, I’ve argued that if she isn’t knocked out on Feb. 12 (VA and MD), with this primary calendar it doesn’t really make sense for her to drop out before March 4 (OH and TX), and if she’s still in the race at that point it makes sense to wait for Pennsylvania on April 22.  The races in between these benchmarks — respectively Wisconsin and Hawaii, and then Wyoming, Mississippi and the territories — are just not big enough to settle things.  If her argument is that Obama is green and liable to be torn apart under press scrutiny, it’s better for her to wait and see if he stumbles over this two-and-a-half month period as the presumptive nominee, after which she can try to salvage the day in PA, IN, NC, WV, KY, and OR over the following month.

If Clinton wins the early races, by contrast, the pressure on Obama to withdraw will be huge.  I don’t think we’ll have a sense of how this comes out before Feb. 5.  I agree that Edwards won’t likely come back barring some meltdown by one of the other two, but that’s possible.


So far, so good!