Thursday, August 09, 2007

My Iowa Straw Poll predictions

I'm legendary for poor political prognostication ... but last year I did pretty well on US Senate results. Even won a steak dinner! I'm interested in finding out if this was an anomaly or the first tick in a trend. Thus, my picks for the Iowa GOP Straw Poll this weekend. Below are the names as they appear on the official candidate list as of today [PDF], with my percentage predictions next to them.

Sam Brownback -- ~2%
John Cox -- ~1%
Rudy Giuliani -- ~12%
Mike Huckabee -- ~10%
Duncan Hunter -- ~1%
John McCain -- ~9%
Ron Paul -- ~7%
Mitt Romney -- ~38%
Tom Tancredo -- ~3%
Fred Thompson -- ~15%
Tommy Thompson -- ~2%

Getting those numbers out of the way to summarize the situation:

To Win: Mitt Romney -- Since Giuliani and McCain have officially dropped from contention, and since Fred Thompson isn't even officially a presidential candidate yet, Romney has to win in Ames, and win comfortably, in order to keep his campaign on the tracks. I predict that he will do so.

To Place: Fred Thompson -- Fred's a very attractive candidate to a lot of Republicans who are unsatisfied with the current field. That's probably mostly because he hasn't shown his stuff yet ... but I still think he'll pull a second-place finish.

To Show: Rudy Giuliani -- Yes, he's officially dropped from the poll, but his name is apparently still on the ballot. If Giuliani was actively contesting Iowa, I'd have him breathing down Romney's neck. Even without an active presence, he still has a certain amount of (undeserved) cachet with GOP voters.

To Surprise: Mike Huckabee, John McCain and Ron Paul -- Huckabee is starting to pick up some of that "conservative southern dark horse" steam. Even at this early stage, there's a lot of reasonable doubt about the conservative credentials of both Romney and Fred Thompson. I don't foresee him garnering the GOP nomination, but I think he'll poll better than the also-rans in Ames.

McCain, on the other hand, will be lucky to do as well as I have him doing. Since he didn't compete in Iowa in the 2000 cycle, either, he doesn't have residual support to come out for him. He's widely perceived as on the ropes -- not a favorite, not a dark horse, on his way out rather than in, a little long in the tooth, etc. I'm going to stop writing about him before I end up moving him down even further.

The thing to remember about Ron Paul is that his supporters tend to be the hardcore activist types. This straw poll is not a "scientific" poll -- it's a self-selected sample of people who are willing to travel down the road a piece, spend a whole day on politics, perhaps even shell out good money for an event ticket, to support "their" candidate. Paul is polling at 1-2% on the "scientific" side, but I think he'll be more successful than most of the candidates at getting his supporters out for an event like this, and that will affect the results.

If he finishes sixth as I am predicting, he'll be able to continue to campaign and raise funds with at least some claim to be "in the running" ... but in order to really gain momentum, he needs to beat Huckabee, and in order to get major media attention and start the ball rolling big-time, he needs to nose past McCain. Can he do it? Well, like I said, I'm legendary for getting these things wrong -- but I've picked Huckabee, not Paul, as the one to come out of Iowa as the perceived "surprise contender." I guess we'll see.

The Also-Rans: Tom Tancredo, Sam Brownback, Tommy Thompson, John Cox and Duncan Hunter -- Some of the hardcore Know-Nothing protest vote will still go to Tancredo and, to a lesser degree, Hunter, despite their bizarre and miserable performances in debate so far. If not for his heterodox foreign policy views, Paul would likely have stolen all their thunder ... and he may yet, since this is their last soft peal of said thunder.

Brownback and Tommy Thompson will pull a little bit of support as midwest/farm state pols. But not much.

Nobody knows who the hell John Cox is, and nobody really cares very much.

Comments are open for guffaws, competing predictions, etc. Have at.

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