I wasn't going to bother looking at the Presidential races again until June, a year before the California primary. Well, the Cal primary is being moved to February and the entire process is accelerating, which is making tradition tactics obsolete.
Traditional tactics for the early primary season was to create a mobile campaign headquarters around the candidate supplemented by volunteers in the early voting states. The emphasis was on "retail" politics - townhall meetings in Iowa and coffee klatches in New Hampshire. Politicking was personal and fairly inexpensive in the winter. Candidates had the ability to hone their messages and conserve their cash for the long spring campaign season. Someone with a strong message and a weak wallet had a chance to make an early impact.
No more. With so many primaries front-loaded into the winter, including the monstrosity that is California, retail politics is meaningless. The successful candidate will need a boatload of money early. There is not enough time to translate a strong showing in New Hampshire into the donations needed to compete in the Golden State. In a way, this is a return to the smoked-filled room nomination school. The money people will be deciding the nominees in 2008. The presidential primaries are interesting theater; they are no longer important.
The President Race - Republicans
As I did in December, I'll be offering my odds and, for comparison, in red the odds calculated by the Intrade Trading Exchange.
Mitt Romney (former gov-MA) - 3 to 1 (6 to 1)
Has a lot of weaknesses, principally his tendency to flip-flop on social issues like abortion. Gets only 5% in a recent Gallup poll. For a lot of Republicans in the south, the thought of voting for anyone from Massachusetts is sickening. To a lot of fundamentalist Christians, Mormons are only a little better than Scientologists. But, he is gathering an impressive list of Republican power brokers (including the recent defection of Jeb Bush from the McCain camp) and, compared to the other front runners, has the least defects.
Rudy Guilianitm (former mayor of New York) - 4 to 1 (5 to 1)
I still don't see what conservatives see in him, but he is still in front in the polls (40% in Gallup), apparently entirely because he was mayor when the Twin Towers were hit. His political experience is thin (six years mayor, nothing higher, out of office since 2001). His personality is abrasive, the aura of corruption is thick around him, his sexual exploits would even maked Democrats blush. If this were a normal election cycle, he would never survive the scrutiny of the primaries. But, this is a power broker nomination, they will stick pearls on that pig and make it fly.
St. John McCain (Sen-AZ) - 10 to 1 (4 to 1)
Worshiped by the media, whoring himself to Jerry Falwell, sucking at the fund raising tit he used to condemn, trying to be everywhere and nowhere on Iraq. The brave Navy pilot who was tortured during the Vietnam War is now such a coward he is afraid to vote on Iraq. I recently saw a YouTube clip that compared McCain's positions. What struck me about it was how much he has aged since 2000. The firm speaking voice is gone. He has become an old man. He will never again rise above the 24% he is polling now.
Newt Gingrich (former congressman-GA) - 20 to 1 (20 to 1)
With front runners like these, the grassroots conservatives are looking anywhere else. Eight years out of office with few fatcat supporters, he hasn't a snowball's chance. But, he is polling 9% and in a normal year could have been a message sender, like Pat Buchanan in 1992.
Sam Brownback (Sen-KS) - 50 to 1 (30 to 1)
Favorite Son of the creationists and anti-abortionists, he has hurt himself by not being sufficiently gung-ho on the war. Polls 3%.
Duncan Hunter (congressman-CA) - 1000 to 1 (200 to 1)
The Mexicans-are-a-blight-upon-creation candidate. The strongest voice for erecting an Iron Curtain around the country.
Chuck Hagel (Sen-NB) - 1 google to 1 (25 to 1)
If the anti-war candidate wins the Republican nomination for President I will eat my own foot. The whole thing, bone and all.
The Field (11 to 1)
Mike Huckabee is doing so bad he can't even get people to laugh at him. Tom Tancredo is the dumb guy version of Duncan Hunter. Who is Jim Gilmore, anyway, wasn't he some character in an Adam Sandler movie? I never heard of him but he's polling 2%. No hope for any of these guys but there is still a little time for some cockroach to crawl out from under the baseboard and catch the imagination of the Republican electorate. As they have proven many times in the past, there is no one too dumb or too insane to get the Republican nomination for President.