Setting the expectations: We will have a whole different race by tomorrow morning

New Hampshire is upon us, and its a much quieter election day than last Thursday. There are no secret deals between candidates (by the way, Richardson is still denying that he made any deal, while most evidence points to the contrary). Not to mention that the election itself feels rather anti-climactic, at least on the Democratic race. After all the excitement and suspense that preceded the caucuses last week, there is now a sense that the Democratic contest got wrapped-up faster than anyone expected and before we had any chance to get into an election rhythm. Just as last Thursday, I will refrain from offering set predictions, though I would like to point out that the one prediction I did before Iowa -- that Ron Paul would defeat Giuliani -- was vindicated in dramatic fashion. But I will offer a few guidelines for what to look for tonight and what the expectations are a few hours from the results.

Democrats, first place: Hillary Clinton led big in New Hampshire for most of the year and if she had managed to maintain even a consistent double-digit lead going into today she would probably have managed to keep some of it. But her lead was already down to low single-digit and Obama has gotten a massive bounce in the space of a few days. He is clearly favored going into the primary and most polls show him leading by double-digits. Given the state of disarray in the Clinton campaign these past few days, a double-digits defeat would unsettle her even more and lead to a staff shake-up (Update: Begala and Carville deny they will join the campaign).

Yet Clinton supporters should not be too depressed yet. First of all, the latest polls are showing that the race seems to have stabilized, and both Rasmussen and ARG show that Clinton might be slightly coming back. Naturally, Clinton's number one problem has been that 5 days between Iowa and New Hampshire leaves her no time to fight back, and that a bounce like the one Obama has gotten naturally erodes by itself to some degree -- but in a bit more than five days. A Clinton victory tonight is still possible, and it would (justifiably) be treated as a huge come-back.

But what effect would a smaller-than-expected defeat have on the Clinton campaign? Say, if she loses by 3 to 4% ? She would definitely claim victory (the "comeback kid" redux) and given the Obama campaign's hopes of effectively winning the nomination tonight (and even perhaps forcing Clinton out prematurely) that would surely be a huge disappointment for them. The media has been setting up a Clinton is dead storyline for days, so a tight finish like that, while certainly hurting Clinton further, would certainly give her some sort of morale boost and make her continue the fight.

Democrats, rest of the field: It would be a humongous stunner if Edwards gets second or if Richardson gets third position. Polls show that the former is not at all in the fight for the top positions, and it's been a long time since Richardson broke double-digits. And remember that Edwards's argument over the past few days has been a constant insistance that Clinton's third-place Iowa position eliminated her. How will that play out in the coming days after Edwards gets third-place here?

Republicans, first place: Hard to figure out what is going on in the Romney-McCain showdown. McCain has been ahead in the polls rather consistently since early last week, but Romney did not fall at all post-Iowa. Quite the contrary, polls taken over the week-end and on Monday appear to register a small Romney come-back. That should at least insure that Romney does not fall too far behind tonight -- and he is still very much in the lead. The media has been presenting McCain as the overwhelming favorite when, truth is, his position looks much more fragile than Obama's -- and the expectation game is clearly favoring Romney. A Romney victory would be a huge boost and he would have to be consider a strong favorite -- not to mention that it would probably eliminate McCain. A McCain victory would make the AZ Senator the national front-runner, but I am now doubting that Romney would be as screwed as the CW dictated a week ago.

Republicans, rest of the race: Lots of questions here -- and the tightest race of the night could be that for GOP third-placer. Rudy Giuliani, Mike Huckabee and Ron Paul could all score third-place and it's almost impossible to predict their order. As in Iowa, Iook for a strong Ron Paul showing tonight as polls probably understate his support. Third-place for either Giuliani or Huckabee could be a boost for their campaigns; it could also be a great (and quite unexpected) way for Rudy to be part of the story-line a week after his sixth-place in Iowa. Another question: How low will Thompson sink? If by some miracle any of the other candidates go below him, it could prove pretty humiliating for them.

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  • First, let me say to Taniel or whoever that I've become addicted to your site... I thoroughly enjoy your analysis that seems to be more focused than that of regular media (and I'm not an MSM hater).

    As for New Hampshire, I think we see two interesting things. First, the two towns that voted at midnight produced a whopping Obama margin. Could this mean he has strong support in rural areas?

    Second, I've been following the news blog on the webpage of the Nashua Telegraph. None of the clips all day have talked about there being a massive turnout for one party over another. I infer this from all the posts about towns/cities potentially running out of ballots. Could this mean that Independents are turning out in even numbers for both parties?

    Finally, I think we need to consider, absent of the stories and headlines, the delegate counts. Prior to IA and NH voting, much fuss was made that they were small and didn't matter because of their size. Yet afterwards, it seems most act as if the nomination gets decided. That being said, it is important to note that Clinton still leads in the delegate count and probably will even if she loses SC and Nevada. You can't, unfortunately, look at this in a vacuum, but I do think it's an important point.

    I just made myself feel mildly smart with all that.

    By Anonymous app state, At 08 January, 2008 15:34  

  • Well I'm biased as hell, but I'm torn on this one...

    On one hand, Clinton's support should be sured up by her crying yesterday. So she doesnt' collapse.

    On the other hand...the importance of the Shea-Porter endorsement thing hasn't really been covered. She has a MACHINE out there turning out people. That's worth 4 points to Obama by itself. I'm not joking...

    I'm praying that Romney somehow comes out on top of McCain. I mean...McCain is the toughest GE candidate for the dems, even though he might fall off the stage at some point during the campaign ala Bob Dole.

    By Blogger Democrats Against Hillary, At 08 January, 2008 16:08  

  • I just wanted to say that I am following your analysis and I hope you continue through the rest of the primaries. Thanks!

    By Anonymous johnemiddleton, At 08 January, 2008 16:19  

  • Just wanted to say, I have been following your blog for a while now and find your analysis quite fair.Look forward to reading your analysis through out this year.

    By Anonymous Smiles, At 08 January, 2008 16:38  

  • I also enjoy your site and read it faithfully. I'm curious about your background...

    By Blogger Chuck, At 08 January, 2008 17:37  

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