Big political news this morning that will surely be all over the talk shows tonight. Joe Lieberman and Wesley Clark have decided to pull their campaign organizations out of Iowa and instead, compete for New Hampshire and the southern and western primary states: ["2 Top Democrats Will Not Contest Iowa's Caucuses"]. The A.P. only got part of the story in the Union Leader this morning: ["Lieberman Set to Pull Out of Iowa"].
This is interesting for two reasons: 1) Iowa is a major contest that both are bypassing; and 2) caucuses are hard to organize. You really need a very good field organization to get anywhere in Iowa. Clark is starting very late so it is understandable that he would give up the state and concentrate his efforts on states where people cast ballots instead of milling around at a caucus. Democratic activists also tend to be very liberal in Iowa which is probably why Lieberman isn't connecting.
The strategy is a big gamble for both campaigns because it tends to signal an early defeat. Gordon Fischer, the Iowa Democratic Party chairman, noted both Al Gore in 1988 and John McCain in 2000 tried the same thing but could not win their party's nomination. However, their post-Iowa strategies were much different. Gore was counting on his Tennessee roots to help in the Super Tuesday primaries that year without acknowledging that Dick Gephardt and Jesse Jackson were also running in those primaries. McCain skipped Iowa and trounced Bush in N.H. and won other contests. He was later flogged in South Carolina and other places and did not win the nomination.
The states after Iowa and N.H. are Arizona, Delaware, Missouri, Oklahoma and S.C. on Feb. 3. New Mexico has a caucus as well. Michigan will hold a caucus on Feb. 7 with Maine following on Feb. 8. Virginia and Tennessee hold primaries Feb. 10 and Wisconsin on Feb. 17. Idaho will hold a caucus on Feb. 24, with Utah holding either a caucus or primary on Feb. 27. March 2 mark's the 2004 election's Super Tuesday which will include California, New York, Georgia, Ohio, Texas, the rest of New England, and a caucus in Minnesota [All dates subject to change].
If there were no southern candidates or there was not a frontrunner in N.H., this might be a good strategy for both candidates. However, both John Edwards and the Rev. Al Sharpton are pulling double digit numbers out of southern states like S.C. If Howard Dean, Dick Gephardt, and John Kerry emerge from Iowa and N.H. with wins or second-place finishes in both states, the candidates move to S.C. with four- or five-way races, which doesn't leave much wiggle room for Lieberman or Clark. Gephardt will easily win his home state.
As far as the other states go, there hasn't been much polling data available. During a Talking Points Live online discussion on Oct. 10, Terry Neal, Chief Political Correspondent for washingtonpost.com, noted a number of polls he had seen from the later states:
Yes, I have heard a little...
In Arizona, a recent poll has Clark, Dean and Lieberman bunched at the top. But the leading candidate, Clark was at 13 percent. So for all practical purposes, that's wide open.
In Missouri, not surprisingly, Gephardt is the clear favorite, even though at 36 percent, he could be doing better. In order, he is followed by Dean, Kerry and Lieberman. In New Mexico, one recent poll had Dean leading with 18 percent, followed by Lieberman at 14 percent and Kerry at 10 percent. No other candidate was in double digits.
Haven't heard much about Okla. and New Mexico.
I spent a little time over the weekend looking at some of the major newspapers from these states and searching Google.com's news site, and didn't find any published polling data.
Despite strong numbers for Lieberman in Michigan, it is a caucus state this year which means you need a serious organization there to win. The Maine caucus is a bit different since it is a smaller state and progressives have a history of doing very well there.
In 1992, Jerry Brown won the state despite the media reporting for two days that Paul Tsongas won the state. Corrections were admitted afterwards but the damage was already done. Look for Dean, Kerry and Kucinich to do well there.
Another interesting note from the A.P. article: Lieberman has spent almost $7 million so far. My question is, on what? Sure, he has some Joe Mobile PT Cruisers and now, he has a Winnebago. He has expensive campaign staffers, including his kids, but has cut the salaries of some. Lieberman hasn't run any advertising that anyone knows of. So where is this money going? Even though it is a crowded field, $7 million should put a candidate in play, especially since he was the vice presidential nominee in 2000.