There are just four days left until the process to nominate presidential candidates for the election of 2008 commences with the Iowa caucuses of January 3, 2008. Coronation, my foot: there’s been a real horse race between contenders for the presidency among Democrats, and there are some real choices for Democratic primary and caucus voters to make. Since the Election Day debacle of 2004, we’ve kept track of committed support for various presidential contenders, indicated by sales of Election 2008 bumper stickers, magnets, campaign buttons, t-shirts and lawn signs. While polls measure fickle opinions, our measure tracks the stronger commitment marked by the laying down of cash to promote a candidate in public. The more strongly committed are more likely to caucus and to vote. The following is the percent share of sales of our Election 2008 gear in the past week of December 22 to December 29, 2007:
Barack Obama: 26.8%
Hillary Clinton: 20.1%
Dennis Kucinich: 20.1%
Joseph Biden: 9.8%
Bill Richardson: 9.1%
John Edwards: 8.5%
Al Gore: 2.4%
Chris Dodd: less than 1 percent
Mike Gravel: less than 1 percent
It’s still a race here, with committed support for Barack Obama garnering the highest share of sales but with Hillary Clinton and Dennis Kucinich tied not too far behind. Hillary Clinton and Dennis Kucinich, tied in committed support? “What’s up with that?,” you may ask. “Isn’t John Edwards supposed to be the third-place candidate?” Well, yes, he is … in Iowa, the one state out of fifty where he has been campaigning since 2005. John Edwards’ strategy is to do phenomenally well in that one state and use it as a springboard to success in other states. But he has not been catching on as a candidate elsewhere, at least not yet. As the trend chart below for Biden, Clinton, Edwards, Kucinich and Obama shows, John Edwards has not garnered a significant share of our sales nationally during the year.
Dennis Kucinich, on the other hand, has been gaining in committed support, especially since the candidacy of Mike Gravel fizzled itself out and it became clear that Al Gore would not be running for president (Senators Dodd and Gravel, it’s a problem when your level of support is lower than that received by someone clearly not running at all). In 2004, you may remember that Dennis Kucinich stuck it out in the presidential primary race for a long time, using his campaign to let voters make a statement about support for a policy of peace. Given the level of support for Kucinich this time, and his ability to run a low-cost race, look for him to keep his campaign going, and look for protest votes (against the establishment candidacies of Obama, Clinton and Edwards) to coalesce further around him after the beginning of the year.
In just four days, the nominating process begins with the Iowa caucuses, a process that may (or may not) upend the pecking order in the Democratic presidential race. Sing Auld Lang Syne and kiss the Baby New Year, bringing with it our hopes for a new government in touch with reality.