The following piece was written by guest contributor Alejandro Penafiel, a friend and former student. Mr. Penafiel is a 2006 graduate of Houston Christian High School and a current student at American University in Washington D.C. He is majoring in three areas: Economics, Political Science, and History. Click here to read his previous piece.
Right now his chances are looking pretty good as his poll numbers in Iowa and New Hampshire have been steadily improving since September. He is currently in a statistical tie with Clinton and Edwards in Iowa and in a two way statistical tie in New Hampshire with Clinton. The three have taken turns leading in the polls. (A statistical tie is when the race is close enough to be within the margin of error given in the polling data) However, in national polls Obama is still trailing by double digits. This only signifies that Clinton has more name recognition nationwide, courtesy of her presidential spouse. Like her leads in Iowa and New Hampshire I doubt the lead will hold after heavy campaigning in an individual state basis by Obama. Okay, now that we have gone through all the boring facts, we can enter the fun world of political predictions. Obama has used a standard early state strategy and his campaign has been meticulous in carrying it out. This has put Obama in a strong position going into the Iowa Caucus next week. His path to the nomination is simple if not exactly easy. He needs to win in Iowa, no matter how his campaign tries to downplay it. A win there is essential to kick-start the momentum he needs to defeat Clinton.
Using that win and the media coverage it gives will propel him to win in New Hampshire five days later. Five days does not give Clinton enough time to stop his momentum in such a close race. Obama also does well among independents who are allowed to vote in either primary in N.H. and make up about 40% of the electorate. With this win he will have a great deal of momentum and will benefit from what is sure to be a flurry of news stories about how the Clinton Political Machine is unable to stop his campaign. This advantage will allow him to close with a South Carolina win. The all important black demographic in South Carolina will turn to him there which sets him up nicely to win a majority of the delegates or at least close to on Super Tuesday Feb 5. If he does all this he can even afford to lose Florida leading up to Feb. 5 and be okay, although I think that if he does all that he will have a large influx of contributions to make himself competitive there as well.
All this being said a win in Iowa is essential because a win for Clinton there will throw all the close races the other way with her being the comeback kid mark 2. She can afford a lose in Iowa as long as it is to Edwards and not Obama. Then she can really tire us all with that slogan in Mark Penn´s press releases. But I have a feeling Iowa will break for Obama because he is widely credited to have the most extensive ground game on the Democratic side there. He also has had his in place longer with Hillary having to play catch-up early this year. In a race this close it all comes down to a campaigns turnout operation. I am not 100% sure that he will take Iowa and anyone who tells you they are is lying, but I feel pretty confident that if Obama wins Iowa he becomes the odds on favorite to win the nomination. And in politics perception is everything.