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Friday | June 13, 2003

How they could win: Kerry

Welcome to Part II of the six-part series "how they can win", featuring the six "serious" candidates: Dean, Edwards, Gephardt, Graham, Kerry and Lieberman.

For purposes of this scenario building, I'm assuming all six candidates are running strong, without the presence of a major scandal or foot-in-mouth incident.

This edition features Kerry, the self-annointed "front-runner" of the pack.

Iowa: 1.19
As far as the press is concerned, Gephardt will win Iowa. It doesn't mean Dean or Kerry can't slip in (especially if Edwards and Lieberman can start syphoning support away from Gephardt), but the CW is pretty settled on the matter.

Thus, the real battle will be for second place, and it's clearly between Dean and Kerry. Note that this isn't a must-win for either candidate, but the second-place winner will get precious momentum for that all-important week preceeding the NH primary. And NH is a *must* win.

New Hampshire: 1.27
This is where Dean and Kerry fight it out for the right to remain in the race. They will finish 1-2, and the loser will be crippled, punished by waning press interest, abandoned by financial backers, perceived as a "loser", etc.

Ironically, the third place finisher in NH will be seen as more of a "winner" than the second place finisher. Funny thing, these primaries.

So Kerry wins NH. This essentially takes Dean out of the running (though perhaps not entirely, as I'll further explore when I get to Dean).

South Carolina, Delaware, Missouri, Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma: 2.2
CW is that the "moderate" candidates, including Gephardt, Graham, Lieberman and Edwards will battle it out for these states. Still, Kerry can probably steal Delaware with little effort, giving him a small additional momentum boost. But he doesn't need it. He'll still be riding the NH wave and can focus his attentions on:

Michigan, Washington (caucus): 2.7
This gets a little tough. If Gephardt is still in the race, he's got the strongest shot at Michigan. If Dean is still in the race, Washington is his. The next primary is Maine, which would be hotly contested ground between Dean and Kerry.

It's clear, then, that Kerry needs to decisively knock out Dean as early as possible (which explains why the two camps are at each other's throats). Otherwise, every "liberal" state becomes a vicious battle between the two "liberal" candidates, while the "moderate" survivor sneaks through virtually unnoticed.

But since we're trying to get Kerry to the finish line, let's assume Dean gets knocked out of the race. This day would probably be a wash -- Kerry gets Maine, the "moderate" candidate gets Michigan. If Kerry could win Michigan as well, it might signal the end of the race. But lets be conservative and assume a split.

Maine: 2.8
Kerry would undoubtedly get Maine. Which would be offset by

Virginia, District of Columbia, Tennessee: 2.10
Kerry would grab the District, while the moderate candidate would snag VA and TN. Not to write off Kerry's VA chances (especially with the voter-rich Northern Virginia area), but realistically speaking, these last three days would probably produce a 2-2 split.

(Incidentally, I know DC has far less delegates than VA or TN, but the press will report a 2-2 split. Just watch. They'll tackle the race as though it was a baseball game, and delegate counts can get a little messy.)

Wisconsin: 2.17
Kerry would grab WI, but no one will care.

Idaho: 2.24 and Utah: 2.27
The remaining candidates will also ignore these two states, who I assume would go to Kerry's opponent (though I'm told that Dem votes in those states are quite far to the left and might actually boost the more liberal candidate).

Why are WI, ID, and UT being ignored? Because all of the candidates' time and money are being poured into:

California, Connecticut, Georgia, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Rhode Island, Vermont, Hawaii, North Dakota, Washington (primary): 3.2
The more I look at the calendar, the more certain I am that we will have a nominee on March 3. Over half of the delegates will be assigned at this point, and someone should emerge with a solid lead and irresistable momentum. The press, eager to cut down on the costs of covering the race, will be quick to proclaim a winner, even if this "winner" hasn't reached 50 percent of the necessary delegates.

And a well-funded Kerry, facing a more moderate opponent, should have a good day. Mighty California? Easy Kerry victory. Same with Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, RI, Vermont, Hawaii and Washington.

Bottom line: To win, it's critical Kerry knock out Dean early. That would allow him to carry the torch for the party's liberal wing in a schedule quite honestly frontloaded with liberal states.

Now, if by some bizarre twist of events Dean and Kerry are the last two candidates standing (unlikely but possible), Kerry would still win (thanks to $$$).

Posted June 13, 2003 09:10 AM | Comments (103)


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