Predicting Iowa

Since everyone seems to be interested in predicting the Iowa race, I might as well jump into the fray. Kos from The Daily Kos predicts Dean will win by a big margin, with Kerry getting only 20%. The latest Des Moines Register Iowa Poll shows Kerry with a 6 point lead on Dean and Edwards at second place – which dovetails with the early Zogby poll showing a late Kerry surge.

I’m predicting that the Kerry surge is real and Iowa caucus-goers will give the craggy Massachusetts senator the #1 spot. Kerry’s ground game has truly come into its own in recent weeks, managing to capitalize on Dean’s weakness. Edwards has also managed to expand his base of support from being a very lame duck to having a chance at pulling off an Iowa upset. The race in Iowa is exceptionally fluid, but here’s my stab at predicting the race. I used the scientific polling method of Pulling Numbers Out Of My Ass… hopefully by Monday they won’t smell that way:

  • John Kerry: 25%
  • Howard Dean: 23%
  • Dick Gephardt: 22%
  • John Edwards: 18%

The reasoning follows like this – Kerry is the safe candidate who doesn’t have the baggage of Dean right now and has a decent ground game running. I don’t think his momentum is an illusion, although I don’t see him running away with the race either. Dean has had the ground game running the earliest, and his base of support is solid. I could easily see the Dean/Kerry figures switching, as those two are simply two close to call at the moment.

Gephardt also has a solid ground game with strong union support, but I can see the weather keeping many of the Geezers for Gephardt at home. He’ll do well in Iowa, but over the long term his candidacy won’t do well outside Iowa and Missouri.

Edwards has gotten a boost from the Register endorsement, but that boost won’t be able to make up for his lackluster campaign thus far. Edwards is largely an unknown in this race, and he simply hasn’t the base of support needed to pull off an upset against Dean. I think the polls showing Edwards with a strong second are largely illusory – I think many respondants for the Iowa Poll are going with the Register‘s suggestion, skewing the data.

The race is largely within the margin of error, but as always, ground game matters. Kerry has done better in Iowa than previously, but his long-term chances are still poor. Dean is damaged, but a strong second in Iowa will help him – and New Hampshire is likely to be his unless his poll numbers really start slipping. He is still the man to beat. Edwards doesn’t have the national support, and neither does Gephardt. I don’t see either surviving after Super Tuesday, if not before.

The wildcard here is Clark. He is the only real national threat to Dean. He’s had NH all to himself, which has helped him build up against the Dean juggernaut. He has a goot shot at winning South Carolina and doing very well in the Super Tuesday races. If I were Joe Trippi, I’d be trying to secure that anti-war base – Clark is clearly a faux pacifist, as I’ve documented, and the Dean campaign hasn’t yet hammered him on this. Expect Clark’s words to come back to haunt him in the New Hampshire race, especially if he gets within striking range of Dean.

One thing is certain – whatever the outcome of Iowa, it’s going to be damn close, and anything could change in the next 48 hours.

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