Excellent column from Peggy. I agree with pretty much all of it.
The more I learn about Huckabee, the more awful he seems. Quite apart from our disagreements on the issues (which are manifold), he strikes me as fundamentally temperamentally unsuitable for the Presidency. Which is not the same thing as saying he’d be a poor candidate: I think he’d be a pretty strong one, almost certainly stronger than Fred Thompson or Mitt Romney, and just perhaps the strongest of the field. But I’m slowly coming to the conclusion that he’d be a disaster in office, and the Sam’s Club folks would do well to steer clear of this fellow who looks like he might be a plausible standard-bearer.
I also agree that the Clinton campaign is in potentially perilous condition. Daniel Larison is right that she doesn’t need to win Iowa to win the nomination. Indeed, if she does win Iowa, that’s probably all she wrote. But I think Obama has just crossed a crucial threshold, the threshold where ambivalent voters go from wishing they could support him to seeing him as a real, viable alternative. Winning Iowa could just seal the deal, particularly if Edwards comes in third and it’s clear that Obama is the alternative to to Clinton. I also wonder whether developments on the GOP side are making people re-think electability. If the GOP candidate is Huckabee or Romney, I think Obama is a stronger opponent than Hillary. (By contrast, if the GOP candidate is McCain, Giuliani or Thompson, Hillary might be a stronger opponent.)
And I agree with her about immigration. Immigration is just not one of my issues. I can have a pleasant conversation with a restrictionist and I can have a pleasant conversation with an immigration liberal. I think the immigration-liberal vote is essentially nonexistent, but I also think there are precious few people out there who will actually vote primarily on immigration restriction (certainly fewer than are single-issue abortion or gun-rights voters). Rather, immigration on the right is functioning in this election as a synecdoche of populism more than an actual policy debate. Which is why, I suspect, Mike Huckabee can obtain the endorsement of the founder of the Minutemen in spite of Huckabee’s history of being an immigration liberal.
For what it’s worth, at the current odds on Intrade, I would buy Obama as nominee and hedge by shorting Obama in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. He is currently favored to win Iowa and given a roughly 50-50 shot to win the other two contests. If he wins all three, he gets the nomination. If he wins Iowa, the odds of winning all three go way up – these are not independent variables. Yet he’s given only a 30% chance of winning the nomination. I think that should be closer to 40%.
Also, for what it’s worth, I would be shorting Giuliani in Florida and for the nomination and hedging by shorting Romney in Michigan and Nevada. There is no way Giuliani wins the nomination if he loses Florida. No. Way. He has got to win something before Super Tuesday, and currently he is polling fourth in Iowa, third in New Hampshire, third in Michigan, third in Nevada, and fourth in South Carolina. In the most recent poll Giuliani is well ahead in Florida, but he hasn’t yet lost everything prior. You can currently short Giuliani at 70% in Florida and 40% for the nomination. Those numbers should be, at best, 50% and 30%. And the likeliest scenario for Giuliani to win the nomination is for Romney to fail to become the anti-Huckabee after New Hampshire. If Romney can’t close the deal in Michigan, the momey guys will look for another candidate to be the anti-Huckabee, and the most likely candidate is (still) Giuliani (unless we see a surprising revival of the McCain or Thompson candidacies). So shorting Mitt in Michigan and Nevada, which you can do at 55% and 30% respectively, is a hedge for a Giuliani flame-out.