Where We're Going, We Don't Need Campaign Trails


Speaking of super-classy Hillary Clinton supporters, the eerily mirthless Howard Wolfson, ex-flack for the Democrat's runner-up, grabs Jake Tapper by the labels and rants about John "Who's Your Daddy?" Edwards.

"I believe we would have won Iowa, and Clinton today would therefore have been the nominee," former Clinton Communications Director Howard Wolfson told ABCNews.com.

Obama won 37.6 per cent of the vote. Edwards won 29.7 per cent and Clinton won 29.5 per cent, according to results posted by the Iowa Democratic Party.

"Our voters and Edwards' voters were the same people," Wolfson said the Clinton polls showed. "They were older, pro-union. Not all, but maybe two-thirds of them would have been for us and we would have barely beaten Obama."

This is refreshingly blunt in its stupidity, and election guru Nate Silver can tell you why. Two big reasons: Nowhere near two-thirds of Edwards voters listed Clinton as their second choice, and after Edwards left the race most of his support went to Obama. And there are two very Iowa-specific reasons why Edwards voters might not have become Clinton voters. The first was the Iraq War. Edwards, running as the dupe who supported the war in 2002 but now wanted out, muddied what would have been a clear choice between the unapologetic Clinton and the against-it-from-the-start Obama. The second was Iowa's threshold system, where voters whose candidates didn't get 15 percent support at caucus sites would join up with candidates who did. The bleed-off from Richardson, Biden, and all those other guys greatly helped Obama. Nice to know that after eight months Clintonites are still too arrogant to figure out why they lost.

Still, I can see why Wolfson speculates about events that would have shook the primaries. It's fun. Here are three scenarios I've spitballed around D.C., to the alternate amusement or anguish of my conversation partners.

Rudy had gone all out in New Hampshire. Two things probably needed to happen to salvage the Giuliani campaign. The first would have been Ben Smith not running his piece on Giuliani's use of public money to shack up with his girlfriend. But the second was well within the candidate's control. There was a window of about three months when John McCain's mismanaged campaign was broke and imploding. If Giuliani had just ripped off McCain's 2000 campaign and parked in the state for weeks of town halls, he could have snatched up those homeless moderate Republican and independent voters, denying McCain any chance for a comeback. Hell, Giuliani used to be good at town halls in the same way McCain was, blunt and gaffe-tastic. It never happened because Giuliani ran a soft, coddled campaign with no respect to what voters in early primary states were used to. But if he'd played ball, he could have placed first or second and stayed in the mix until the electoral vote-heavy states of Super Tuesday put him in the lead.

Fred had dropped out after Iowa. If Fred Thompson had quit the race when he placed third in the caucus, tied with McCain and barely ahead of Ron Paul, Mike Huckabee would have won South Carolina. The rural counties that gave Bush his 2000 margin over McCain were the places where Thompson overperformed. Subtract him and Huckabee wins the first Southern primary by 3-4 points. McCain heads into Florida with a 1-4 win record, and the state becomes a three-way duel between Huckabee, Romney, and McCain. If Gov. Charlie Crist stays neutral, Romney probably wins. (If McCain had not won New Hampshire, a South Carolina loss would have pushed him out and Giuliani would have won Florida.)

The Ron Paul moneybombs had come earlier. The relationship between the Paul campaign's grassroots and its former staffers reminds me of the divide between Clinton dead-enders and people who actually ran her campaign. I've heard Paul supporters explain, in great detail, what the official campaign should have done with the money that flooded in, and I've heard them name which strategists they blame for the mistakes (when they're not blaming the press. There's general agreement, though, that if the $10 million and change raised in the November and December moneybombs had come earlier, the campaign would have done more with it. I don't think the late money had much of an effect on Iowa and New Hampshire, but more time and money devoted to the Feb. 5 states could have produced a win in Montana or Alaska, a few more 2nd places finishes, a few more humiliations of the other candidates.

Got any more?