To hear some in the political community talk, Hillary Clinton has the Democratic nomination for president all locked up, and Rudy Giuliani has a commanding lead on the Republican side.
Uh, people who want to place big bets on those two right now should ask President Howard Dean for some counseling.
To be sure, Clinton and Giuliani lead in national polls. Both would like to have people believe they're the inevitable nominees in order to increase fundraising and discourage contributions to others.
But early leads in national polls reflect only name recognition, and these two are well known. If others start winning, or beating expectations in places like Iowa and New Hampshire, those national surveys will shift overnight, thanks to the free media those candidates will receive.
There are other reasons not to morph the front-runners into nominees too early.
- Many Iowa caucus-goers are professional undecideds. They've been told so often they are important and that their decision counts that they've come to really believe it. So, they take their sweet time watching debates and the way candidates conduct themselves before making a choice.
- Of those Democrats who've decided on a preference, 53 percent say they could still be persuaded to change their minds. On the Republican side, it's 67 percent.
- People can make mistakes. A gaffe or big mistake in one of these debates can hurt a candidate.
On the GOP side, Mike Huckabee has moved into third place among GOPers in the Iowa Poll. Huckabee is solidifying support of social conservatives, without being mean about it - or scaring away moderates. His good humor is worth a lot too. Want proof he's moving up? Anonymous e-mails trying to savage him are starting to make the rounds.
For all the work and money Mitt Romney has put into Iowa, he's plateaued at 29 percent. (He was at 30 percent back in May.) As with Clinton on the Democratic side, that means 70 percent of his party's activists want someone else.
Clinton's at least been moving up. After four months of effort, Romney's showing no progress. No wonder his people are concerned.
October 16, 2007
some insightful analysis today, and gave a well-earned nod to Mike Huckabee:
Posted by Joel at 10:14 PM