Some thought on the new shape of the race:
- Edwards has been running a positive campaign up until now, which has been easy. He hasn't faced criticism either from other candidates or in the press. That will change, and he may not hold up well under scrutiny. One obvious target: Edwards, in his legal career, never took a single pro bono or civil rights case.
- They never learn: Already on NPR this morning, I heard Kerry described as the "Frontrunner" in the race. That remains Dean, who has organizational and financial resources that Kerry can't match.
- In retrospect, Clark's decision to skip Iowa looks like a bad call. It was based on the CW that even a candidate with a compelling message can't do well there without a massive organization. Kerry and Edwards have pretty much demolished that theory.
- NH now becomes a critical test for both Kerry and Dean. Dean really can't afford to be upset twice in a row. Kerry needs to maintain his momentum. Both are very vunerable going into the Feb 3 states, where Clark should do well. Kerry has been far behind in polling in those states, which mostly seem to have tight races between Dean and Clark. Another Dean loss in NH means he will carry negative mo into Feb 3 and probably lose again. A poor Kerry showing in NH probably means he sinks back into the pack.
- Clark can afford a solid 3rd behind Kerry and Dean in NH. Both have spent more time there, both come from neighboring states, and both will spend more money there, since Clark is bound by the public financing limits. But Clark really has to pick up some victories on Feb 3 or he'll land on life support.
- What may be worst about this loss for Dean is that it completely destroys the whole logic of his explanation of why he is the best candidate to win. Dean had unlimited time and resources to bring out the new voters that he supposedly had the unique ability to bring out. And the new voters did arrive to a large degree; participation went way up and about half of those at the caucuses were first time participants. But those new voters didn't break for Dean.