Handicapping N.H.: Will Media Get It Wrong Again?

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By: Greg Mitchell


As the Firesign Theatre said, “Everything you know is wrong.” This aptly applies to the performance of the media pundits so far in this election year. Most of them recently declared Vermont governor Howard Dean unstoppable, and until this month hinted broadly that Sen. John F. Kerry (Mass.) and Sen. John Edwards (N.C.) should or would drop out of the Democratic presidential race. When polls in the past week showed movement to those two candidates in Iowa, the pundits suggested that surveys in that caucus state are notoriously unreliable, i.e., the pundits still knew best.

Even on caucus eve most commentators said that Dean or even Gephart would pull it out due to “organization” which is “all important in Iowa.”

So I decided to handicap next week’s New Hampshire primary on the basis of that same “everything you know is wrong” principle. Given the track record of the conventional wisdom so far, here’s how the Democrats might finish in New Hampshire, from last to first.

Last place: John Kerry. He has the Big Mo, hails from a neighboring state, has an attractive wife, and is highly electable. So it will be Kerry out, not Kerry on.

Next to Last: Howard Dean. Has the best organization, the most money, also hails from next-door, and leads in the polls. Forget it.

Sixth Place: Wesley Clark. He has surged in the polls, has had the state to himself until today, famously visited L.L. Bean, and also appears electable. Thus, expect less from Wes.

Fifth Place: John Edwards. Shares the Big Mo with Kerry, has the freshest face in a state that favors underdogs, also looks good against Bush. Still has time to drop out.

Fourth Place: Joe Lieberman. Has little money. A pro-war candidate facing antiwar voters. Are there any Jews in New Hampshire? Totally unelectable, so expect a late surge with a chance for an upset win.

Third Place: Al Sharpton. No money or organization. Thinks L.L. Bean is a rap star. No minorities in New Hampshire. Could win it all.

Second Place: Dennis Kucinich. No money or momentum whatsoever — call him “Little Mo.” He’s the only unmarried candidate at a time when the candidates’ wives are drawing extraordinary attention. So look for The Bachelor to move to the head of the pack and soar to victory, if not for one write-in candidate.

The Winner: Bob Graham. Sure, the Florida Senator dropped out months ago, but Chris Matthews and others are now saying the prime goal for Democrats this November is to win Florida (again?), and they suggest an Edwards-Graham ticket. So why shouldn’t voters go all the way and put the Florida guy on the top of the ticket? Look for the upset of the young century: a write-in sweep for Senator Graham.

And then, as they say, on to South Carolina. It’s not too late for Gary Hart to jump into this race. After all, his former sweetheart Donna Rice hails from the Palmetto State.

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