Punditology: our collective wisdom - who will win in Iowa and beyond?

Kari Chisholm FacebookTwitterWebsite

Well, the January 2008 edition of my Punditology Challenge is closed - and 562 folks participated. It's a group of folks that includes elected officials, local and national political consultants, journalists, bloggers, and plenty of political junkies, activists, and blog readers.

First, a critical disclaimer: In the past when I've done this, our conventional wisdom has been largely correct. Except when we're wrong - and we're spectacularly wrong. And given the volatility and closeness of this campaign, it's entirely plausible that we'll get Iowa wrong - and entirely miss the after-effects of whatever ends up happening in the weeks to come.

Our Conventional Wisdom
New HampshireClintonMcCain
South CarolinaObamaHuckabee
Florida Giuliani


As a group, 45% believe that John Edwards will win the Iowa caucus, followed by 34% who think Barack Obama will, and 21% who are sure it's Hillary Clinton.

More specifically, 24% think it'll be Edwards/Obama/Clinton, while 20% say it'll be Edwards/Clinton/Obama. 19% think it'll be Obama/Clinton/Edwards, and 16% say it's Obama/Edwards/Clinton.

49% are certain that Bill Richardson will place fourth, while 38% are sure it'll be Joe Biden.

Over 90% of the participants say they're supporting a Democrat for president (no surprise, given our readers and my email list). So, apply however many of grains of salt you need for the above. (33% say they personally support Edwards, 27% for Obama, 10% for Clinton.)

What about the Republican side of things? We're much more certain - 59% say it's Mike Huckabee, while 38% say it's Mitt Romney. A full 40% say it's Huckabee/Romney/McCain and 27% say it's Romney/Huckabee/McCain.

New Hampshire

Given the strong showing for Edwards in Iowa, it's surprising (or perhaps not) that 53% of our pundits believe Clinton will win New Hampshire - with 37% for Obama, and only 10% for Edwards. 37% say it'll be Clinton/Obama/Edwards, and 31% say it's Obama/Clinton/Edwards.

54% believe John McCain will win in New Hampshire, while 34% say it's Romney. 8% say it's Giuliani, and only 3% say it'll be Huckabee - despite his presumed Iowa win.

If we're right, we've got chaos brewing in the primaries. On the jump: Michigan, Nevada, South Carolina, and Florida - plus a link to all the detailed numbers.


There's no Democratic primary, but 50% of our pundits think Romney will win in Michigan - his home state, and where his father was the Governor. If we're right, the first three states will go three ways for the GOP.


56% say Hillary Clinton will win the Nevada caucus, while 38% say McCain will win the GOP edition (32% for Romney.)

South Carolina

The GOP will vote in South Carolina on January 19 (a week before the Democrats.) 64% think Huckabee will climb off the mat and win there, while the pundits are split on who will place second - 32% McCain, 31% Romney.

If our pundits are right, it would seem that the big pre-Super Tuesday showdown for the Democrats will be South Carolina on January 26. And 41% believe that Obama will score his first victory that day. 36% believe it'll be native son John Edwards, and 22% say victory will belong to Hillary Clinton.


Again, the Democrats aren't participating in Florida - but the GOP is. If our pundits are right (and who knows by this point), Rudy Giuliani will score his first big win in Florida, with 44% predicting that outcome. Roughly equal numbers say it'll be Huckabee (19%), McCain (19%), or Romney (17%).

Super Tuesday

In the end, our folks are certain that by Super Tuesday, only Clinton (99%), Obama (97%), Edwards (83%), and Dennis Kucinich (61%) will remain in the race. On the GOP side, it'll be chaos - with Romney (93%), Huckabee (91%), Giuliani (85%), McCain (84%), and Ron Paul (73%) still in the race. Sometime in late January, we'll do this again - and ask you to predict all 22 states on Super Tuesday.

It's going to be a fun month. Stay tuned.

If you want to see all the details, visit the Punditology Challenge.

  • Dick Flatts (unverified)

    You leave out Michigan and Florida. Like it or not there will be winners in those two primaries. You can call them meaningless, call them beauty contests, or whatever you like, but someone is going to get some headlines as the "winner".

  • Anon (unverified)

    Hey Kari n' Gang,

    Thanks for doing this. It was a great deal of fun to fill out and very interesting to see what the "Conventional Wisdom" of Oregon Political Junkies looks like.

    Cheers hoping you make these kind of fun polls a regular part of Blue Oregon.

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    Dick... Hillary will win Michigan. The only candidates on the ballot are Gravel, Kucinich, and Clinton.

    Anon... Actually, we've got lots of non-Oregon people too!

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    The difficulty with that challenge was that you really have to get Iowa right to get the rest right. Depending on who you have winning there, scenarios unfold in rather different ways. It looks like the majority of respondents followed my logic: if Obama doesn't win Iowa, it clears the way for Clinton (and I think that if he doesn't win Iowa, he can't win SC because the black vote will swing back to Hillary). It doesn't matter if Edwards or Clinton win Iowa--in the early states, it all favors Hillary.

    For those 33% who support Edwards, here's a question: what is the road for John to the nomination. I have sat down with a list of polls and the primary states, and I just can't see how he does it. I'm only marginally more a fan of Obama than Edwards, but when I try to imagine a realistic scenario for him, I can't see it. Anyone?

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    Jeff... That's easy. And it's the roadmap that Elizabeth Edwards laid out in a visit to Oregon last fall.

    First, win Iowa.

    Second, recognize that in New Hampshire, 50% of the voters start paying attention after Iowa. (The 50% that are NOT obsessive C-SPAN junkies.) In 2004, there was a 30% swing from Dean to Kerry after Iowa. So, win Iowa, win New Hampshire.

    Third, in Nevada, win the low-turnout caucus with the support of organized labor.

    Fourth, in South Carolina, win easily - since he's the native son and he'll be on a roll.

    In short... it all starts with a win in Iowa and a big bounce into New Hampshire. Anybody that wins both of those states will win it all.

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    Edwards' only option is to win Iowa. Obama and Clinton can keep on keepin' on if they lose Iowa, but Edwards just doesn't have the money.

  • rural resident (unverified)

    The difficulty with that challenge was that you really have to get Iowa right to get the rest right.

    You're basically right, Jeff. Which just tells us how ridiculous the current system is. 300 million people are pretty much entrusting around 200,000 citizens of a state that isn't terribly representative of the nation (and who aren't even casting secret ballots) to essentially narrow down the field to one or two candidates on the Dem side. Fewer than 100,000 R's may determine whether or not several perfectly legitimate candidates can continue to seek that party's nomination.

    Then, within the next few weeks, a couple of other unrepresentative states that will be relatively invisible until this time in 2012 (New Hampshire; South Carolina) will have a disproportionate impact on the process. Even with the "Super Tuesday" block being moved up to February 5, voters in the larger states will see their choices heavily constrained. Candidates who would better represent a more diverse group of citizens either won't still be running or may well be perceived as "politically damaged" for no particularly good reason.

    I'm not arguing against the value of retail politics. However, this process starts too early, takes too long, costs too much, and puts too much power in the hands of the media. I seldom hear any discussion of what should be a fundamental question: Why should someone who doesn't do well in Iowa or New Hampshire be virtually eliminated before the process reaches the states where the majority of voters live?

    Right now, too much of this is driven less by the needs of people for information about our potential leaders than by the media, which makes billions of dollars from candidates having to overspend on campaign ads. $400+ million in advertising in Iowa alone for today's caucuses? Insane. That doesn't count the other sums spent as candidates spent months in Iowa and New Hampshire.

    If this all goes badly enough, maybe we will have reached the zenith of political idiocy and the resulting discontent will tell the party leaders to make big changes in 2012.

  • Pat Malach (unverified)

    I have sat down with a list of polls and the primary states, and I just can't see how he does it.

    First of all, if we learned anything from 2004, it's that one should throw out all the polls (most especially the post-Iowa ones) and consider the roll that Keith-Jackson-like "ol' Mo" will play.

    Get the ball rolling in Iowa, and it follows from there.

    (ie: "In 2004, there was a 30% swing from Dean to Kerry after Iowa. So, win Iowa, win New Hampshire.")

  • Don (unverified)

    While that is true Pat, there were two other factors that led to Kerry's rise and Dean's fall in NH:

    1. Kerry was a Senator from a neighboring state. Although Dean was also from another neighboring state, lots of folks in NH are former Boston/MA residents.
    2. The "Dean Scream" whether rightly or wrongly, caused Dean to be viewed poorly. It gave a bad first impression on Dean to many undecided NH voters.
  • Pat Malach (unverified)

    Ah yes, who could forget "the scream"? That certainly didn't help Dean. But I think its effect has been over-estimated because it did come after Dean's surprising(?) loss to Kerry in middle-America Iowa, where the good doctor's substantial lead in the polls proved ephemeral.

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    I am a self-identified Edwards fan, but I've done more work online and out of pocketbook for Jeff Merkley, because I suspect you are right. My heart says Edwards, but my political brain says that the Iowa "surge" cannot--because it has never--worked. John just cannot build the organization, recruit the workers, buy the ad spots, schedule the flights, do all of the myriad tasks required to run essentially a national campaign on Feb 5th no matter how much money he raises. So while I'm still publicly for Edwards, Barack Obama is a strong second. And I would happily vote for Hillary Clinton as well.

    For me, getting 60 seats in the Senate is a much higher priority because it's a harder goal. For President, I'd be happy with any of the top three (and even Biden, Richardson, or Dodd).

    Last minute Iowa poll summaries are at pollster.com

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    Kari, I guess that has to be the scenario, but while anything's possible, it just doesn't seem to plausible to me. I know he'll get a bump in the polls for winning Iowa, but unless it's a pretty big win, it would have to be a serious bump. NH's not a great state for him--he finished fourth in '04, and I question whether he'd pick up the independent vote.

    Can he win if he loses NH?

  • Miles (unverified)

    Rural Resident: Which just tells us how ridiculous the current system is. 300 million people are pretty much entrusting around 200,000 citizens of a state that isn't terribly representative of the nation (and who aren't even casting secret ballots) to essentially narrow down the field to one or two candidates on the Dem side.

    You are so right. I think I just heard last night that in 2004, only 6% of eligible Iowa voters participated in the caucuses. So these decisions are in the hands of an absurdly small number of people, with their own provincial interests and policy positions. (Why do we subsidize corn production again? Oh, yeah.)

    What I don't understand is why the Democratic party caved to Iowa and New Hampshire this election by disallowing Florida and Michigan delegates when they moved up their primaries in order to compete. I'm not in favor of an expanded election season, but why are we letting two small states hold us hostage? I'd much rather have MI and FL voters narrowing my options than Iowa and NH.

  • A. Rab. (unverified)

    I am inclined to agree with Paul about Edwards', but for slightly different reasons. I think Edwards plan for using early wins to boost him forward could work, thanks to free media and name recognition from his VP nomination. However, I think his real problem is that he has only one way to win. If Edwards' Iowa strategy fails (does not place first, not enough free media, etc.), that is basically the end of the campaign for him (like Gephardt in 2004). Clinton, and to a lesser extent Obama, can survive an Iowa loss and still conceivably get the nomination.

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    I agree with most of what both Jeff and Pat Malach post up-thread. Edwards does have a path, but as Jeff points out, that would be like bowling a 300. I just don't see Edwards getting a big enough bounce form Iowa (where he is already expected to be either one or two) to overcome his trailing third in the NH polling. Could happen but it's an outside bank-shot. Obama and CLinton are the only ones poised to keep going through to super Tuesday regardless. I also see scenarios where if Edwards doesn't score a one-two punch win in IW and NH as a lot of his support going to Obama as the viable alternative to Clinton.

    In short, while I like Edrwards (been vacillating between him and Obama) if he doesn't hit a steady stream of clutch play home runs, his support will collapse which will most likely coalesce around Obama since I don't see a lot of his supporters falling in line with Clinton, but many do like Obama more than Clinton.

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    Posted by: A. Rab. | Jan 3, 2008 12:16:58 PM

    Exactly my thoughts as well.

  • Pat Malach (unverified)

    Well, we'll all find out soon enough, won't we?

    I believe that when the third-place candidate starts proving he/she is "viable" by winning an early contest or two, support increases dramatically -- throw out the polls.

    In the meantime, don't forget this.

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    the Iowa "surge" cannot--because it has never--worked.

    Yeah, that peanut farmer from Georgia never amounted to anything back in '76.

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    And don't forget Harkin in '92.

    Sorry! Elections make me snarky.

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    Posted by: Kari Chisholm | Jan 3, 2008 12:53:54 PM the Iowa "surge" cannot--because it has never--worked. Yeah, that peanut farmer from Georgia never amounted to anything back in '76.

    You mean that peanut farmer from Georgia who came in second in Iowa (behind "uncommited" who took first)?

  • DAN GRADY (unverified)


    I hate the 'horse race' aspect of the Iowa & New Hamshire during the Presidential cycles. I'm more suited for the 'baseball spring training' feel of Congressional cycles. The whole contest atmosphere makes me queezey.

    Our Democracy hangs in the balance in a way that only seems to compare to the Johnson/Lincoln election. Sure, secession is not at stake, but more like if we will exist as a representative democratic republic, or a mirage as a democracy with an election to be played at halftime of a playoff game in the NFL. We'll get corporate sponsorship, and tell everybody that we are stil 'The Land Of The Free, Home Of The Brave' while surrendering our freedom, and civil liberties for the lie of security.

    It's as though we are living in a new reality T.V. show and the election process is the contest and the ultimate prize; Airforce One, the White House, and all those electronic toys at the NSA.

    Happy Thoughts;

    Dan Grady

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    For me, getting 60 seats in the Senate is a much higher priority because it's a harder goal.

    You said it, Paul. Couldn't agree more, especially coming from Oregon where we're all but cut out of the primary contest anyway. I'm watching Iowa & pulling for my candidate, but our local senate contest is the place we can have the most impact.

  • dog holmes (unverified)

    it'll be romney in the gop; he's presidential; huckabee is vice-presidential;

  • Ana Curtis (unverified)

    It's not too early for Hillary to talk to Bill Richardson about a potential VP position. As another first (Hispanic candidate), this certainly would give voters a sense of that sought-after factor, change. Richardson has proven his skills with foreign policy, is anti-war, and can balance the ticket in other ways. He and can help Hillary with the Hispanic vote in Florida, and will certainly help in New Mexico, Denver and California and win her support among governors.

  • DAN GRADY (unverified)


    Posted by: Ana Curtis | Jan 4, 2008 9:04:44 AM

    I don't believe that's going to happen, Bill Richardson endorsed Obama the day of the caucus like Kucinich.

    Happy Thoughts;

    Dan Grady

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    Posted by: Kari Chisholm | Jan 3, 2008 12:53:54 PM

    the Iowa "surge" cannot--because it has never--worked.

    Yeah, that peanut farmer from Georgia never amounted to anything back in '76.

    1976 was not the first post-McGovern/Fraser election, but the second one, and the first run under what might be considered "normal" conditions (no war, no Nixon funny business, no Democratic party still tearing itself apart).

    Can you give me just one more example from the ensuing 32 years?

    In the past 7 Democratic contests where an incumbent was not running, the eventual nominee was first in Iowa 4 times (if you give 1976 to Carter, if you don't, 3 times).

    Among Republicans, in the 4 contests, the eventual nominee won Iowa twice; it's 3 out of 5 if you don't count Ford as an incumbent.

    So, 6 out of 12. Not so hot.

    Furthermore, in EVERY ONE of those six cases where the Iowa winner was the eventual nominee, the winner was the candidate with the best funded and best organized campaign.

    Really, Carter is the ONLY case that seems to stand as an exception, and by some descriptions, Carter had as good a campaign organization in 1976 as anyone else.

  • zoey (unverified)

    People, im sure someone in ur families r sick and cant afford heaalth insurance and its obvious the rebublicans dont care and wont provide free health insurence which may i provide that the united states is the one of the only countries of the devolped countries TO NOT HAVE FREE HEALTH INSURANCE!! ALso barack obamma people talk about jump on a bandwagon hes not experienced enough maybe in 2012 but not now and just because hes black doesnt mean he should have the black vote. I no u probably dnt want the typicall southern white man in office but u have to think about the country not bout urself. So i have my support behind edwards becuase hes behind so many views that will b required to run a great country and is a great speaker, so is Hilary but i don't trust her. barack cant speak at all and runs on and on by the way I've been doing campaigns since i was born and im 13 but u no what oprah is just behind barack cuz hes black she never supports anyone and hear comes a black guy and now she supports someone come on so stop jumping on the bandwagon cuz hes not ready to run the country but like i said mayb in 2012. o and i no i mentioned im 13 but did i mention im also a biracial and haved faced racism.And yes im sick of having a southern white man in office but im thinkin about the country and the future the next generation.thank you for reading

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