Saturday, December 8, 2007

The Handicapped Republicans

A few years back, one of the most addicting sites for political junkies was Ron Facheaux's Political Oddsmaker. The concept was brilliant: Facheaux picked the percentage odds of any given candidate getting elected (or nominated) for hundreds of offices nationally at any given moment. Alas, it seems the Political Oddsmaker is either no more or is well hidden behind a firewall. Nonetheless, I am taking it upon myself to continue the concept in handicapping the Republican nomination race, now that we're only a few weeks out from the Iowa caucuses and the NH primary.

My goal is a little more ambitious than the old Political Oddsmaker's though. Not only do I want to figure out the odds of a given candidate getting the election, I am also going to try to describe the most likely scenario that would lead to the candidate getting their party's nomination.

So, without further ado, I bring you the Republicans:

1. Rudy Giuliani (Intrade Odds: 41%)(Mark's Odds: 30%): Still holding on to his national lead, but facing a severe downturn at a bad time thanks to some significant recent scandals. He's not likely to do very well in Iowa, and he may be lucky to hold on for second in NH. In the other early primary states, he's either in a tight race or trailing badly depending on the poll you consult. Nationally, he's still the frontrunner, but how much of that is name recognition? If he falters in Nevada and Michigan, he could be in deep crap come Super Tuesday. At this point, much of his support is based solely on reputation and name-recognition, which makes him very vulnerable. Most Likely Scenario for Nomination: Holds on to win Nevada and Michigan and finishes a solid second in New Hampshire. Wins big on Super Tuesday thanks to momentum generated by core states New York, New Jersey, California, and Connecticut (and maybe Illinois). Romney disappoints in Iowa and other early primaries (other than NH), and drops out after Super Tuesday when he fails to catch on in areas where he is still largely unknown. Core Group of Supporters: Bush Loyalists, Wall Street Republicans.

2. Mike Huckabee (Intrade Odds: 19.8%)(Mark's Odds: 30%): Currently energizing the evangelical base of the Republican Party, he still seems to lag in fundraising; however, the support of the grassroots for an authentic evangelical is outweighing his lack of cash. He's currently surging, but he is going to find additional progress increasingly difficult as he tries to expand his base beyond evangelicals. His penchant for Christian Socialism is worrying to many of the remaining Bush die-hards and to libertarians alike. It's hard to see him garnering above 30% of the primary vote nationally. But with a fractured Republican Party, that 30% could be enough to get at least a plurality, if not a majority, of delegates. His support is strongest in the Reddest of Red States, where he could get a majority or significant plurality of votes. Huckabee's supporters are also more passionate than most of the other candidates', which will be important in notoriously low-turnout primaries. Most Likely Scenario for Nomination: Wins big in Iowa and South Carolina, beats either McCain or Giuliani in NH, and mobilizes his Northern Florida base to give Rudy a tough run in Florida; cleans house in the Bible Belt states on Super Tuesday, and largely finishes a respectable second in the Super Tuesday Western States. For Huckabee to get the nomination, Romney's speech must not have made many inroads into Huckabee's evangelical base. Core Group of Supporters: Evangelicals.

3 (tie) Mitt Romney (Intrade Odds: 21%)(Mark's Odds: 15%): Nationally, has remained steady at about 8-12% throughout the year. His speech yesterday was largely successful with the Republican establishment, but his support has been coming almost exclusively from the establishment since day one, so it remains to be seen how he plays with the actual voters. Is competing for the same interest groups as Giuliani and Huckabee. Has lots of money, and has spent lots of money, but has placed all his eggs in the Iowa/NH basket. Comes across as a more articulate version of Dubya. May be a prototype for a life-size, fully robotic, version of Ken Doll. Most Likely Scenario for Nomination: Rudy's slide into scandal continues. Romney's speech is received well by would-be Giuliani supporters and former Romney supporters who joined up temporarily with Huckabee. Makes a comeback in Iowa and maintains his stranglehold on NH. Outstanding early performances in Iowa and NH rapidly bring him to the attention of voters in other states who are largely unfamiliar with him. Within the span of a few days, his national support doubles. Performs reasonably well in the Bible Belt, stealing supporters from Giuliani and Thompson in the process, while limiting Huckabee's inroads. Submits to skin graft to prove he's not made entirely of plastic. Giuliani falters in all the early primaries, and disappoints in Florida, while failing to win any states on Super Tuesday outside of NY, NJ, DE, and CT. This force Giuliani to scale back or withdraw completely, with most of his supporters going to Romney. Core Group of Supporters: Bush Loyalists, with some Evangelicals and Wall Street Republicans.

3 (tie). John McCain (Intrade Odds: 8%)(Mark's Odds: 15%): Faces continued financial difficulties, but retains a tremendous amount of credibility with Republicans disheartened by the Bush Administration. Supporters are more loyal than Romney/Giuliani/Thompson supporters, which will help somewhat in low turnout primaries. Would benefit greatly if Thompson were to withdraw early. Comes across as a real, live human being at debates and speeches. Can afford to largely write off Iowa. May threaten for 2nd place in NH with Giuliani's recent blunders and NH's independent streak. Has good national name recognition, and is currently running ahead of Romney nationally. Most Likely Scenario for Nomination: Romney falters in Iowa, while McCain takes second in NH. Giuliani runs out of gas after a disappointing performance in the early primaries, including Florida and winds up performing poorly outside of NY, NJ, CT, DE on Super Tuesday. Giuliani or Romney withdraws and throws all of his weight behind McCain. Thompson gives up early on and throws his support to McCain. Core Group of Supporters: Republicans Disillusioned by the Bush Administration, fiscal conservatives, Westerners, Independents, Veterans.

5. Fred Thompson (Intrade Odds: 5%)(Mark's Odds: 8%): Has run a very uninspired campaign giving rise to repeated accusations of laziness and a lack of desire for the job. Something of a dullard. Has managed to raise a fairly good-sized war chest thanks largely to his "Draft Fred" strategy of delaying entry. Has managed to really annoy NH voters, and has a very lukewarm base of support. Should do respectably in Iowa and much of the Deep South, possibly winning a couple of states outright. By traditional definitions is probably the most authentically conservative candidate in the race. Most Likely Scenario for Nomination: Huckabee falters, allowing Thompson to make significant inroads into the evangelical vote. Thompson wins in most of the Southeast states, and is able to stay competitive going into the March Texas primary, which he wins. McCain disappoints in the early primary states, and withdraws, throwing his support behind Thompson. Eventually, the weaker of Giuliani/Romney does the same. Core Group of Supporters: Moderate Libertarians, Disillusioned Republicans, Evangelicals.

6. Ron Paul (Intrade Odds: 5%)(Mark's Odds: 2%): Has run a significant insurgent campaign that has confused the Republican establishment. Has shocked the world with his massive fundraising. Support may be underestimated by 1-3 points due to cell phone sampling issues. Outspoken opposition to the Iraq war makes him an immediate "no-deal" to most Republican primary voters. Supporters have a level of passion unmatched by any in recent history, which suggests a high voter turnout in historically low turnout primaries. Likely to do significantly better than his polling numbers in the primaries, but is unlikely to go above 20% in any given primary due to intense opposition from Republican base. Still, no candidate will benefit more from low turnout than Ron Paul. Since he will likely stay in the race for the long haul, no matter what happens, he could wind up second or third in delegate count at the end of the day, after most establishment candidates withdraw. Still very difficult to see him winning since he is so hated by the estabilshment; were he to become a serious threat for the nomination, you could expect the establishment to mobilize dramatically behind one other candidate. Most Likely Scenario for Nomination: Voter disillusionment leads to historically low primary turnout, while Paulites turn out in droves. Support for other candidates remains horribly fractured, and none is willing to withdraw from the race, meaning that 20-30% of the vote remains sufficient to win a plurality in even some later states. Tancredo gives up his single-issue candidacy and endorses Paul. Support for the Bush/Cheney Administration plummets below 20%, and impeachment proceedings begin with unprecedented popular support. Barack Obama shocks Hillary early on in the Dems' race, allowing anti-war potential Obama supporters in independent primary states to switch over and vote for Paul on the Republican side. Core Group of Supporters: Libertarians, anti-war Independents, young voters, conspiracy theorists, militia groups.

7. Duncan Hunter: (No Intrade Odds) (Mark's Odds: Less than 1/1000 of a percent): The closest thing to a real fascist in the race. Has next to no chance of winning the nomination. Most Likely Scenario for Nomination: The United States is struck by multiple nuclear attacks, killing hundreds of thousands in the process. Since fighting terrorism is already most closely associated with Giuliani, Hunter would need some additional factors for him to have a shot at the nomination. Specifically, this nuclear terrorist attack would need to be perpetrated by a group of gay Islamic Mexican illegal immigrants. Core Group of Supporters: Chuck Yeager, Big Brother.

8. Tom Tancredo: (No Intrade Odds)(Mark's Odds: Zero Point Zero): Hates immigrants. Unfortunately for him, most of the other Republican candidates have decided that they hate immigrants too. They just have the ability to talk about other issues without mentioning the phrase "illegal immigrants," so Tancredo is pretty weak even for a one-issue candidate. Core Group of Supporters: Minutemen.