Sunday, December 02, 2007

Is There a Democratic Huckabee?

At an event in Des Moines two weeks ago, I asked Joe Biden if this could be the first presidential election where being a white male is a disadvantage. He laughed and said the whole idea of having a woman and African-American in the lead was pretty cool (well, maybe he used slightly different words), but that in these dangerous times, people would go with experience.

Jonathan Alter says Hillary Clinton may be touting hers, but the second-tier Democrats are the ones that really have it. And one of them might make a surge as a result:

If Clinton wasn't worried about Obama in Iowa, she wouldn't be bashing him every chance she gets. Should she lose there, the door might open for a second-tier candidate to get competitive. You think I'm crazy? That's what they said when I wrote about Mike Huckabee in August.

Biden does get similar reaction to Huckabee at the events I've seen in Iowa. The relatively few people who see them come away loving both. So why hasn't Biden gotten the uptick Huckabee has in the last month?

The problem with Alter's analogy is that in general, Republicans don't like their field, but Democrats do. The GOP contenders, especially in Iowa with so many Christian conservatives looking for a better choice, was wide open for a guy like Huckabee.

Both Bill Richardson and Biden have made mini-surges in Iowa, but Richardson has never gotten beyond about 12, while Biden peaked around six percent. It's possible John Edwards could tank and one of the other two sneaks into third, but even that won't put them in position to win the nomination. They're cursed with front-runners that haven't disappointed primary voters.

Speaking of Edwards, Alter slips in this surpriser without fanfare:

Edwards may yet prevail; Iowa is once again as fluid as ethanol. But if he doesn't win the Jan. 3 caucuses—he's been steadily losing altitude since early summer—he says he'll drop out.

Plenty of people have speculated that very thing (and one wonders how Edwards would be doing without all that speculation, actually), but I've never heard anyone report him saying it. The nightmare for Clinton would have to be Edwards dropping before New Hampshire, and his support largely going to caucus-winner Obama.

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