Early '08 Handicapping
Over at MyDD, Chris Bowers has the best early analysis of the '08 presidential contest I've seen so far. He understands that Obama's rise, by muddling Clinton's front-runner status, ironically liberates HRC to run a campaign-by-attrition in which her money and broad base of support may mean she doesn't have to win right away. He notes how important winning in Iowa is for Edwards. He suggests that beating expectations may be critical for Obama. And he rightly indicates that for the "rest of the field," the token of their seriousness as candidates is whether they have a plausible chance to win or come close to winning anywhere in the early going (Vilsack's target is Iowa; Richardson's is Nevada; Dodd's is New Hamphsire; Biden's, apparently, is South Carolina).
It's obviously early, and lots could change. For one thing, threats by California and Florida to move up their primaries could alter the landscape crucially by tossing two expensive, delegate-rich states into a mix now dominated by small, inexpensive states. The rumbling in New Hampshire about moving up its primary to protect its ancient status could produce a nightmarish leapfrogging process (both Iowa and New Hampshire have state laws aimed at guaranteeing their one-two positions) that could start the whole show crazy early. And most obviously, what the candidates say and do, and that ol' devil, external events, could trump everything.
I don't agree with Chris about the real possibility of a brokered convention. Just about everything about the nominating process makes that a science fiction proposition; remember that the last multi-ballot Democratic Convention was in 1952, when most delegates were still selected by home-state poohbahs and many delegations remained uncommitted until the convention.
But lots of other unusual contingencies are entirely possible, including one that's always right under the surface: an early running-mate deal between a top-tier and lower-tier candidate with strength in a particular state.
In general, Chris' handicapping is a lot better than most of the stuff being published in the MSM at this stage of the campaign.
Incidentally, I don't personally have any dog in the hunt at this point. If that changes, I'll shut up about '08. --