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With Vilsack dropping out of the race, the fundamental dynamics of the race for 2008 have changed. Vilsack was never a big player, but the fact that he was from Iowa had a chance of putting one of the three frontrunners in a devastating fourth place finish.

No longer is that possible. With Vilsack out, Hillary, Obama, and Edwards will surely each place in the top three, meaning Iowa is now a less decisive state, since no one will be eliminated or severely weakened by Iowa. The field will merely be sorted.

With Iowa and New Hampshire likely to each move up a week, Nevada actually becomes more important, and so do New Hampshire and South Carolina. If any of the top three win in Iowa, it may or may not give them momentum into New Hampshire, which will likely give Obama or Clinton a win. If Clinton were to win both Iowa and New Hampshire, I think there is really no chance of preventing her steamroll to the nomination. But if Edwards or Obama wins in Iowa, and Obama wins in New Hampshire, Nevada becomes a contest between Obama and Edwards and South Carolina a contest between all three candidates. Even if Biden or Richardson or Dodd were to win second or third in any of these contests, the sheer number (approaching 20 now) of states with wealthy media markets on February 5th eliminate the chance of any of the second tier candidates winning without coming in first in one of the first four states. With the possibility that Florida could move up to the middle of January, that will probably boost Clinton, and give her a delegate lead heading into February 5th.

February 5th could, if Clinton wins the first four or five contests, be a coronation. If the top three split the first four or five states, I think you are likely to see Clinton emerge with a delegate lead but just barely, with Obama winning a huge chunk of delegates and Edwards taking a number of states himself.

With this split decision, each of the other second tier candidates will drop out and Edwards, Clinton, and Obama will split up the rest of February's winnings until the minnier Super Tuesday on March 6th.

That day will likely see Ohio, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and Maryland take center stage, and you can expect Obama and Edwards to do better than Clinton in those states.

We are then likely to see no candidate emerging with a majority of delegates and head into the August convention with no clear winner. There will be a convention fight and after one or two ballots, Edwards, who I think will come in third, will throw his support to Obama and give him the nomination over Clinton.

I know this seems biased, but I think that unless Clinton wins Iowa and New Hampshire, this is the situation that will play out. Tell me what you think.


leaveonlyfootprints said...

I still think Edwards takes Iowa, which will screw things up for the Clinton-Obama narrative that people have been building.

Anonymous said...

I think this view is a bit West Wing-esque. The name of the game is and always will be momentum, and I think the big February primary is actually good for udnerdog candidates (when a 2nd or 3rd place finish in Iowa or New Hampshire will legitimize one of them), but whoever does best in Iowa and New Hampshire I believe will be the one to beat going into February.