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2008 political season already in full swing

By Staff
As we enter the New Year we find ourselves in the midst of a political year in full swing. We are off to the races and in full throttle in the 2008 presidential juggernaut. It will be a horserace for both parties’ nomination. It is a wide-open race.
This year’s contest is the first time in many years where not only is there no incumbent president for reelection but neither is there an incumbent vice-president waiting in the wings to move up. It is truly open but the obvious frontrunners have emerged over the course of the past year’s campaigning. The race has indeed been going on at full speed for at least a year.
On the democratic side it is a clear two person race. Sen. Hillary Clinton, the frontrunner, staked out her lead early and has consistently polled twenty points ahead of her rival, Sen. Barack Obama, for the entire year of 2007. However, Obama has made a move in the past month. Polling indicates that Obama has cut into her lead some but Hillary still has a double-digit lead in national polling.
The first contest is this week in Iowa. It is a close call between Clinton, Obama, and Edwards in this caucus state that gets the nod as the first contest. John Edwards has campaigned in this small state fulltime for four years in hopes of getting a win and it propelling him to the top of the heap via momentum. He knows most of the Iowa caucus goers on a first name basis but after Iowa Edwards will not be a factor.
It is a two-person race for the democratic nomination between Clinton and Obama. Currently the reason for Hillary’s lead among democrats is that African Americans who comprise a very significant portion of democratic primary voters favor Clinton over their fellow African descendant Obama. The perception among these voters is that Obama cannot win and Hillary can. Even our own two predominantly African American political organizations are split. The older Alabama Democratic Conference has endorsed Hillary Clinton while the New South Coalition picked Barack Obama.
The republican battle is murkier. This race could go all the way to the convention. The big story in this race is the emergence of the former Governor of Arkansas, Mike Huckabee. It is clear that evangelical Christians, who comprise the same amount of power in the Republican Party that African Americans do in the Democratic contests, have settled on Huckabee. His surge has been phenomenal.
In late summer, four months ago, Huckabee’s support among Republican primary voters was between 0% and 3% and closer to zero. Now he is currently in second place nationwide with 16% and is expected to win the Iowa caucus this week. Huckabee is the choice of white evangelical Protestants. Therefore, Iowa is a good state for him because it is rural and conservative.
Huckabee, who at 52 is the youngest republican running, is an ordained Southern Baptist minister but besides being the darling of social conservatives he has come across in the early debates as the apparent winner. He is glib, affable, and likable. He speaks calmly in parables and extended metaphors. He will do well in the South and in Iowa but his numbers are dismally low elsewhere in the country, especially in the more populous and more liberal states such as New Hampshire, New York, and California.
Huckabee’s momentum has cut mostly into Mitt Romney and Fred Thompson. Huckabee has basically cut the legs out from under these two possible heavyweights. His move has played perfectly into Rudy Giuliani’s game plan. Giuliani had expected to lose in Iowa and South Carolina and basically start his campaign on February 5th with New York and California. Huckabee will be the stalking horse that slays Romney and Thompson and leaves them hapless going into the important vote rich states.
Current national polling among republican voters has Giuliani at 26%, Huckabee at 16%, McCain at 14%, Thompson at 14% and Romney at 10%. Any of these five could be the nominee. However, the odds favor Rudy Giuliani for the GOP nomination. At this point in the first week of 2008 it looks to me like an all New York subway fight between New Yorkers Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani. However anything can happen in politics and usually does. It will be a long but interesting 2008 presidential year.
See you next week.Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political
columnist. His column appears weekly in 70 Alabama newspapers. Steve served 16 years in the State Legislature. He may be reached at www.steveflowers.us.