by J Scott Christianson, Columbia Daily Tribune Columnist
Now that Thanksgiving is over, the presidential primary races will accelerate to an even faster pace — as if they weren’t already moving at light speed. By the night of Jan. 15, the Iowa caucuses, New Hampshire primary and Michigan primary will all be over and done. The winners of these early contests will only gain a small number about 200 of the 3,500 elected seats at their parties’ respective conventions but will win much more in terms of name recognition and fundraising ability.
Of course, that doesn’t guarantee that the winners in these early races would be the best candidates for their parties, but the fact is that we Americans love the horse race aspect of political campaigns and will cheer on the early winner, even if he or she ends up looking like an old nag come November.
However, I think we’ll see some surprises in the Democratic and Republican primaries in the next six weeks. And as an aspiring political prognosticator, I figure I need to put my predictions in writing now if I am going to be able to say “I told you so” in the spring.
Despite the best efforts of their campaigns to spin the latest poll numbers to their advantage, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are in a dead heat for the lead in the Democratic camp, which means they have stopped attacking the Bush administration and have turned to attacking each other.
Each is trying to find a way to land a knockout blow before the Iowa caucuses, which I doubt can be done. These attacks are only going to intensify in the next month. And when Iowa voters get into the caucuses, I don’t think there will be any love left between the Obama supporters and Clinton supporters. They will no longer consider the “other side” to be part of the same team.
This is one of the reasons why I am picking John Edwards to win the Iowa caucuses. When Iowa Democrats start looking for a candidate they can agree on, I think they will decide Edwards is the only serious candidate who would make an acceptable compromise for Clinton and Obama supporters. To pull this off, Edwards needs to stay on a positive message while continuing to criticize Bush’s policies and avoid getting drawn into Clinton and Obama’s fight. Otherwise, he’ll just get shot up in the cross-fire.