For those of you scratching around for a primer on the Iowa caucuses, I recommend Grassroots Rules: How the Iowa Caucus Helps Elect American Presidents, by Christopher Hull, which can be found on Amazon.
Hull makes the case that several factors determine the outcome, and so far in the Democratic race those favor — you guessed it — Sens. Barack Obama (Ill.) and Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.).
While John Edwards has spent years there, never having closed his 2004 Iowa headquarters, he has lost his grip on the state as he has shared it with the two heavyweight candidates and impressive second-tier candidates like Gov. Bill Richardson, Sen. Joseph Biden (Del.) and Sen. Chris Dodd (Conn.), Hull said. And though he has attracted the largest number of former caucus-goers, Hull points to The Des Moines Register poll which has shown Obama with the supporters most likely to turn out, and Clinton with the most committed and loyal supporters.
The process, which requires a 15 percent viability threshold, is likely to eliminate Biden, Dodd and Richardson since candidates drop an average 7.5 percent in the caucus, Hull explains. Richardson, he said, has the most to lose.
"Richardson is going to come in with 12 percent and get mowed down," said Hull. "He will dramatically underperform his poll numbers through no fault of his own."
Of the top three candidates, Hull said, Obama is best positioned to be the second choice for Biden, Dodd and Richardson supporters, since as Hull put it, you are either with Clinton or against her." This could help him make up for lost support from the young people now polling as likely caucus-goers who won't end up making the trip. "They don't know what it takes to get out the door when 'Friends' is on," said Hull.
Clinton can take heart in the fact that Iowans, as a rule, place a premium on electability. "What you find is that the voters in Iowa are trading off their ideology for electability," said Hull.
Got that? Ultimately the process could benefit Obama but the Iowa mindset could benefit Hillary. And, don't forget, anything can happen!
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