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Monday | June 16, 2003

How they can win: Graham

Welcome to Part III 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 Graham, the longest shot of the "serious" candidates.

Iowa: 1.19
Gephardt should win this state, with Dean and Kerry fighting it out for the 2-3 slots.

As I've mentioned before, the primaries are more an "expectations" game than an actual horse race. Thus, there will be two results that "matter this day -- whoever comes in second, and whoever comes in 4th.

Graham is a late entry to the race and faces steep fundraising problems and a clear charisma issue. This much is clear: Graham must come in 4th or his candidacy is toast. Period.

Coming in fourth, ahead of the other "moderate" candidates (except for Gephardt, whose 1st place finish is a foregone conclusion) would give him a solid financial and momentum boost heading into the first primary in NH.

New Hampshire: 1.27
Again, this is about expectations. Kerry and Dean will fight it out for first place. The second place finisher will be a "loser". The third place finisher will be a "winner". Graham must place third. While a 4th place finish might not cripple a stronger candidate like Gephardt, Graham has no room for error. He must show strength early or the press will have an easy call writing him off.

South Carolina, Delaware, Missouri, Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma: 2.2
Assuming Graham has placed 4th in Iowa and 3rd in NH, chances are Lieberman and Edwards will be forced to drop out or will remain limping along, mortally wounded. The press will only have room for a single "moderate". But that won't be enough for Graham. To have any chance of victory, Gephardt must also be out of the race, leaving him to duke it out with Dean or Kerry for the nomination.

So this is Graham's big opportunity to take out his opposition in the "moderate" side of the primary. Winning SC, AZ and OK would do the trick. Delaware will go to Dean/Kerry, while MO will go to Gephardt. If Graham wins the three aforementioned states, Edwards, Lieberman and Gephardt are gone.

Michigan, Washington (caucus): 2.7
Graham can essentially ignore these states.

Maine: 2.8
Ditto. Graham would have little chance to garner MA, WA and ME. Better to focus his attention on:

Virginia, District of Columbia, Tennessee: 2.10
DC is out of the realm of possibility. However, Graham can compete in VA and TN. Given the drumming he will have gotten in the previous three states, and the drumming he would get in Wisconsin a week later, Graham will need to show strength this day.

Wisconsin: 2.17
Graham would ignore Wisconsin.

Idaho: 2.24 and Utah: 2.27
Again, logic would dictate these would favor Graham, though word is that Dem constituencies in those two states are fairly liberal. If Graham were to lose these states, he would be faced with the inevitable "moderate candidate cannot win votes in conservative Idaho and Utah" media meme.

It's a tough call, but I think Graham could survive losing these states, though it would obviously be better to win them. On the other hand, a more liberal opponent, like Dean or Kerry, could lose those states with no negative repercussions.

California, Connecticut, Georgia, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Rhode Island, Vermont, Hawaii, North Dakota, Texas (tentatively), Washington (primary): 3.2
And, as I've noted before, this will effectively be the last day of the primary, especially since Texas is trying to move up to this day.

The states here really favor a more liberal candidate, even with the addition of Texas. To win, Graham would have to defy all expectations and take out at least two of the big liberal enclaves -- California or New York -- as well as take the middling states of Ohio, Connecticut, and Minnesota.

If he managed that tall feat, he would win 7 of the 14 states in a decidedly hostile primary day (CA, OH, CT, MN, GA, ND, and TX), maintain competitiveness in delegate counts, and head in tall and strong into the following week's Southern Super Tuesday. Race effectively over.

Bottom line: For Graham to win, everything would have to go right (such as winning California), and nothing can go wrong. It's a tall order for a candidate that has the fight and says the right things, but whose uninspiring campaign style hampers his effort.

From day one (IA) he needs to outpace his "moderate" counterparts. If he falters a single day he's toast. No other serious candidate in this field face this level of pressure. None of the others have such a small margin for error.

Posted June 16, 2003 08:50 AM | Comments (41)


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