With the enormous expense of campaigning in so many big states, expect candidates to concede some contests and focus on others. (And, to try to do more through free media — candidates will be thankful that Jay Leno, Conan O’Brien, Jimmy Kimmel, and possibly David Letterman are returning to book them as guests.) This may cause a regionalizing of the results. For the GOP, Huckabee may do well in the seven Southern states voting that day (as might Thompson, as a last gasp, if he’s still in it); Giuliani might win New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut; McCain might do best in California, Arizona, Colorado, and Utah (as might Romney in his last shot, if he hasn’t dropped out yet). For the Democrats, Clinton might carry the coasts while Obama sweeps the South — or vice versa.
The delegate counts coming out of Super Tuesday will give us front-runners seeking to reach the key clinching numbers (2209 for Democrats, 1259 for Republicans) through February and early March — and possibly beyond.
KEY DATES Super Tuesday, February 5; Maryland and Virginia primaries, February 12; Ohio and Texas primaries, March 4
PREDICTION McCain wins most states, Huckabee pulls out a few, and Giuliani recovers to do well in the tri-state area. The Democrats tip toward Clinton.
ELIMINATED EdwardsLeg 4: The Great Lull (April 1 through August 24)
The two nominees should be known by early March at the latest. But the public doesn’t resume paying attention to the race until the party nominating conventions in late summer. That’s six months in which the media has dedicated massive resources to cover a presidential race in which nobody is interested.
This guarantees three things: 1) anything that the nominees say or do (or that anyone says about them) will be covered as though it is an outbreak of plague; 2) coverage of anything that happens in the world will focus on how it theoretically affects the presidential race; 3) any Tom, Dick, or Harry can get massive media attention by using the word “president.”
On this third point, look for authors and filmmakers to take advantage of the great lull — Michael Moore released Fahrenheit 911 during the 2004 lull, while Richard Clarke, Bob Woodward, and Bill Clinton all published presidency-related best-sellers. Even the 9/11 Commission Report, published July 22 of that year, became a best-seller.
Third-party candidacies — real or rumored — will heat up during these months, necessitated by the summer deadlines to get on the ballot in each state, but fanned by media boredom. Ross Perot emerged during the 1992 lull. The 2000 lull saw the Green Party team up with Ralph Nader, and rumors of Donald Trump and Warren Beatty candidacies floating through the press.
This year, all eyes — and dozens of reporters — will watch every move of Nader’s, Michael Bloomberg’s, Lou Dobbs’s, Ron Paul’s, and anyone else who issues even the slightest hint of interest in an independent run.
And if we’re lucky, a third party will provide the level of meaningless entertainment that the remnants of Perot’s Reform Party gave us in the summer of 2000, when the fight for the party’s guaranteed federal resources led to a televised spectacle of bickering, feuding, and lawsuits. Actual headline of June 23, 2000: REFORM PARTY HOPEFUL [PAT] BUCHANAN COURTS MUSLIM VOTE.