I don't know about you, but the 2008 presidential race is the most exciting election I've ever seen. With the level of media involvement and big money being thrown around, you'd think the nominations would already be in the bag. Just a month or so ago, Hillary was seen as a shoo-in for the Democratic nomination, and Rudy was the presumptive favorite to get the Republican's nod.
Then, over the past weeks, both frontrunners have begun to slip. Hillary, after her weak performance at the most recent Democratic debate, has slowly slipped in polls in both Iowa and New Hampshire. And Rudy has been losing ground to Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee. Romney matches Giuliani in the "I have managerial experience" category that Americans seem to want after experiencing eight years of the gang that couldn't govern straight, but he has the positions on social issues required to win over evangelical voters. Huckabee seems like a sincere, honest, Christian guy -- qualities voters don't see in the former New York mayor. (Though he might have a bit of a hard time justifying the fact that he doesn't believe in evolution, but we'll have to wait and see how that plays.)
In a poll out today, the lead in Iowa -- with only about a month until the caucuses -- now belongs to Barack Obama and Mike Huckabee. Huckabee's rise is especially interesting, given that he is spending only a fraction of the money Romney and Giuliani are putting out in the Hawkeye State.
So what happens if Obama and Huckabee take Iowa? Can they extend their popularity into New Hampshire -- a much different state, with a much different nominating process (actual voting, vs. a series of caucuses)? My hunch is they can take Iowa, but they lose in New Hampshire, where Hillary holds on (but barely) and Romney wins the Republican race. Romney then takes Michigan and Nevada, Huckabee picks up South Carolina -- but we still don't know the nominee until Super Tuesday, February 5, when 20 states hold their primaries, including California, New York, New Jersey and Illinois, where Giuliani could do some catching up.
On the dems side, I don't see Hillary getting the nod now. Her negatives are just too high. On the other hand, I'm not sure America is ready to elect a black man whose name rhymes with Osama and whose father was Muslim. Obama takes Iowa, Nevada and South Carolina, but loses New Hampshire to Hillary or Edwards. On Super Tuesday, the battle begins. HRC pulls down New York and New Jersey, but Edwards brings home Florida, while Obama pulls down California. And we still don't have a nominee and Dems wait until the convention to choose a candidate.
Meanwhile, if Romney wins Super Tuesday, the Republican race is settled. But if Giuliani wins big in February, the evangelicals go crazy because of his stands on abortion and gay rights. (Only the craziest of the crazy evangelicals worry about Romney's religion, though.) That means an independent candidate could step in and break the whole race wide open.
If Bloomberg steps up, he pulls the moderate Republicans away from Romney. (If Giuliani wins, Bloomberg stays home.) But he also pulls conservative Democrats who just can't get behind voting for an African-American because, well, because they just can't.