by Frank Schnittger
Wed Jan 16th, 2008 at 11:08:14 AM EST
Romney's convincing 39% to 30% win over McCain in Michigan throws the race for Republican nomination wide open again. McCain had gained considerable momentum from his New Hampshire win to build up a 30% to 20% lead over Huckabee in the national polls, with Romney and Giulliani both trailing at 13%. It will be interesting to see how Romney's win effects these numbers.
Hilary Clinton's 55% to 40% win over "uncommitted" voters in the largely meaningless Democratic primary has been all but ignored by the media, although a less than convincing win would surely have been sensational news. Her lead in the national polls over Obama has recovered to 9% in the wake of her New Hampshire victory where the concerns over possible vote rigging of Diebold vote counting machines highlighted here seem to be largely ignored by the MSM.
The campaign now moves to the Nevada caucuses where Obama and Clinton are virtually tied and Edwards is a close third in two polls on Real Clear Politics. On the Republican side McCain (22%) leads Giulliani (18%), Huckabee (16%), Romney (15%) and Thompson (11%). Presumably Romney's win in Michigan will now bump him up that order. [Update: A new American Research Group poll has just moved Romney to the head of the queue with 28% - even before the Michigan vote]
What is striking about these figures is just how open both these races still are. It is almost as if the voters are saying they are not ready yet to make up their minds and are trying to keep their options open for as long as possible.
After Nevada the Democratic race moves on to South Carolina (Jan. 26), where Obama (33%) has a clear 11% lead over Clinton (22%), and Florida (Jan. 29) where Clinton has an even clearer 22% lead over Obama.
The Republican race is much closer, where McCain (26%) has a much narrower lead over Huckabee (23%), Romney (15%) and Thompson (11) in South Carolina, and is tied with Giulliani on 21% in Florida, with Huckabee (18%) and Romney (17%) slightly behind. Romney's win over McCain in Michigan should compress these numbers even more.
These are the last opportunities for the major candidates to build momentum prior to the crucial and potentially race defining Primaries on Super Tuesday (Feb. 5th). It is thus quite possible that Obama (South Carolina and perhaps Nevada) and Clinton (Florida and perhaps Nevada) will go into Super Tuesday with roughly equal momentum, and that Huckabee (Iowa, and perhaps South Carolina), McCain (New Hampshire, and perhaps Nevada, South Carolina, Florida), Romney (Michigan plus unknown bounce from this victory), and Giulliani (perhaps Nevada, Florida) will all have won primaries on the Republican side.
So how does all this effect my original very early and very tentative prediction of a narrow win for Clinton over Huckabee in the Nov. Presidential Election? Clinton's then 20% lead over Obama in the National polls has been trimmed to 9%, and Giulliani has, as I predicted, been eclipsed by Huckabee. However McCain has done even better than Huckabee and leads him by 10% in the national polls (prior to his defeat in Michigan).
McCain's rise is thus bad news for my prediction on two counts - firstly, in that he may defeat Huckabee for the Republican nomination, and secondly, because he beats both Obama and Clinton (by a narrow 3-4%) in the national head to head polls taken before Michigan. Hence the critical importance of Romney's victory in Michigan in keeping his hopes (and my Huckabee losing to Clinton prediction) alive for some time to come.
It is critical to Huckabee's chances that McCain, Romney, and Giulliani continue to cannibalise each others votes on the non-evangelical side of the Republican party for as long as possible. If McCain establishes a clear lead and momentum in Nevada, South Carolina and Florida, he is the most likely Republican nominee and next President.
The recent spat between Clinton and Obama over race can only damage both, and the likely elimination of Edwards, if he fails to win Nevada, robs the Democratic Party of the candidate with the best chance of beating McCain in the national head to head election.
Can the Democratic party really be in the process of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory?