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– Mugsy

I follow politics like some people follow football. The Primaries are the year long “Playoffs” with Election Night being my Super Bowl. So it shouldn’t come as any surprise that while others were watching “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Desperate Housewives“, I spent the evening watching the Returns come in from the Iowa Caucus. And you couldn’t script a more exciting night than Iowa Thursday:

Obama won with 38% of the vote, with Edwards coming in second at 30%. But the big news of the night arguably is that longtime front-runner Hillary Clinton came in third with just over 29%, a fraction of a point behind John Edwards.

The early returns showed a surprising (and sizable) 5-point lead for Edwards, which dwindled but held for the first 33% of the returns, at which point Obama took the lead and never looked back, finishing the night with an eight point lead over Edwards and 8.5 point lead over Hillary. But the fact Edwards held the early lead and finished better than the Third place that he’s been polling at for months, can definitely be seen as a victory for the Edwards campaign.

I have expressed my personal support on here for NM Governor Bill Richardson, whose fourth-place finish (with 3%), beating out every other lower-tier candidate by a huge margin, all but solidifies him as the inevitable Vice Presidential nominee (unless that nominee is Obama… the first Afro-American nominee, who I do not see choosing Richardson… the first Hispanic nominee… as his running mate).

I took a bit of flack a few weeks ago for suggesting to Kucinich supporters that they take a second look at Bill Richardson, but on Wednesday, Kucinich suggested to his supporters that if he failed to achieve the 15% minimum threshhold, that they throw their support to Obama… whose platform is FAR less compatible with Kucinich’s than Edwards (the man he redirected his supporters to in 2004) or Richardson (the only front-runner vowing to pull all troops out of Iraq his first year). This could only have been a political calculation rather than a sincere endorsement because hurting Hillary helps Kucinich, whereas helping Edwards only hurts him. “Politically calculating” is certainly not something Kucinich supporters would appreciate in a candidate, which I suspect left a bad taste in their mouths… not that Kucinich’s <1% was of much help to Obama. In one report, the Kucinch campaign was so disorganized, they didn’t even have a representative to speak for him at some (most?) caucuses, and without so much as banner hung under which Kucinch delegates could stand.

While I’m not a huge fan of John Edwards… my main complaint being a serious lack of political experience (serving just four of his first six years as Senator before running in ’04)… I’ve had more serious differences with Hillary Clinton (read my #1 ’08 Prediction below) and Barack Obama, so a victory over Hillary Clinton is far preferable to me than loosing to her.

The other big news of the night was a huge win for Republican Mike Huckabee, with a 6 point win (leading by as much as 16 points, but never trailed) over Mitt Romney. Huckabee’s lead was so commanding all night long that the GOP race was called after just 40% of precincts were in. I predicted in last weeks column that Huckabee will go on to win the Republican nomination thanks to Evangelicals that can’t bear any of the other GOP candidates, and tonight’s strong win for Huckabee… who was out-spent 10-to-1 by Romney… seems as good an indicator that I’m on the right track.

It bears repeating that both Bill Clinton and George W. Bush both came in second in New Hampshire… the first official primary which will be on January 8th this year… so finishing second/third in the early races does not mean the race is over for Edwards or Hillary. However, after John Kerry defeated longtime favorite Howard Dean in both Iowa and New Hampshire, he coasted on to the nomination. Second place finisher John Edwards, despite wining several early primaries, was never able to overtake John Kerry’s lead in the polls… a lesson that shaped the Edwards campaign strategy this time around: take the lead early and ride the momentum on to victory.

Now where did I put the chips & dip?

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