After my brilliantly successful (in attracting comments, if not accuracy) predictions on the Iowa primary, I'm ready to follow on with my prognostications about New Hampshire. For Iowa I did fairly well with the Republicans and totally missed the boat on the Democrats – too much confidence in Hillary did me in.
For New Hampshire the situation is sort of flipped. The Democrat situation looks pretty stable, but the Republican polling isn't convincing and is taunting me into making wild conjectures. That said, working from the latest polls and adding my personal insights, here are my predictions:
Barack Obama – 39%
Hillary Clinton – 26%
John Edwards – 16%
Bill Richardson – 10%
Obama is still bouncing from Iowa, and New Hampshire was a pretty receptive state to start with. It's a great place for preaching the message of change, and the heartland of white liberal guilt, which works in his favor. I think he'll lose a point or two from his current strong lead, but Clinton isn't exactly surging either.
I'm still not convinced that anyone in their right mind would vote for Edwards, looking uncomfortable in his catalog-bought common man clothes and mouthing populist platitudes. I dock him points for pure smarminess. But why the hell is Bill Richardson averaging under 6% in the polls? He's clearly the best qualified candidate and he ought to be doing better. He even performed well in Sunday's debate. It's totally subjective, but I think Richardson will do a bit better than predicted. Not enough to make a difference, but he's really running for Secretary of State or Vice President anyway.
John McCain – 35%
Mitt Romney – 24%
Ron Paul – 16%
Fred Thompson – 10%
Mike Huckabee – 9%
McCain showed strong in the Sunday debate. I'm still skeptical about his high poll numbers in New Hampshire, but his honesty seems to have an appeal there and he's got some momentum, so I believe the polls that show him with a strong lead. Accusations of push-polling have been raised against McCain today and we'll see if that backfires and damages his prospects.
Romney gets good numbers just because he's from a neighboring state, but his debate performance was not impressive so I have less confidence in his poll numbers. His big score in the debate was on immigration, but it's an issue which polls show ranks lowest in importance among major issues with voters.
I'm already on record with my belief that Paul will do way better than the polls suggest in New Hampshire, and I think a finish in third and in the mid-teens sounds about right, though he might do even better. I think the polls are also underestimating Thompson. He did very well in the debate on Sunday and has the same honesty factor as McCain plus he's less scary and edgy. I think he'll do much better than predicted.
Interestingly, Huckabee got no bounce in the polls from Iowa, and the more exposure he gets and the more the media plays up his religious background, the less marketable he becomes in New Hampshire. I think he'll crash and burn as dramatically in New Hampshire as he triumphed in Iowa. No one noticed, but Wyoming held its Republican caucus on Saturday and although Romney won, Thompson also got some delegates and McCain and Huckabee got nothing.
New Hampshire reminds me once again of the inherently flawed nature of the primary and caucus process. The parties have been screwing around with this system for more than 150 years, and it just doesn't work very well. It is perfectly designed to produce the worst possible results. It massively overemphasizes the importance of a couple of small states which just happen to be first in the schedule and then two weeks down the road a large number of states vote on 'Super Tuesday', essentially deciding the outcome with a couple of months of primaries still to go, including major states like Texas whose substantial number of delegates are rendered a sort of afterthought.
And then there's Wyoming. The Republicans caucused on Saturday and the Democrats caucus there tomorrow. It's being completely ignored by the media, yet it actually has more Republican delegates than New Hampshire which is getting all the attention. Or it would have more delegates than New Hampshire had the GOP not penalized it by knocking off 50% of its delegates because they moved their caucus so early, which raises the question of whether that penalty is really fair to the voters and the candidates. It cost Romney eight delegates, so he ought to be pretty pissed.
Finally, take a look at the complete list of Democratic candidates for New Hampshire. Did you know any of these folks were running for president? You might find the plans of future president Tom Koos appealing – he wants to exile the entire Bush administration to Iraq after we pull the military out. Or how about Dal LaMagna, the tweezer king, who wants to promote 'responsible capitalism'? Or you might like Henry Hewes who has almost exactly the same religion-based platform as Mike Huckabee but is running as a Democrat (does that tell you Huckabee supporters anything?). And let's not forget Randy Crow a conspiracy nut who thinks that the DC snipers were innocent and that Uday and Kusay Hussein are secretly still alive and working for al Qaeda.
There are also alternative Republican candidates, including Alan Keyes, but most of them aren't offering platforms much different from the major candidates. Except, of course, for possibly non-existent candidate Vermin Supreme whose platform seems to be based around live organ donation. The fine selection of candidates is a tribute to the fact that in New Hampshire anyone can file for president by just paying a $1000 fee. These little known candidates seem to offer something for everyone, so if you're voting in New Hampshire and don't like the frontrunners, remember these other options.