Dateline: 02 January 2008
At this time of year it is traditional to either make predictions for the coming year or review the year just gone. You are not going to get any predictions. By the time most of you read this, the results of the Iowa caucuses will be known Ė which they are not at the time of writing. It would be excessively foolish of me to make predictions in these circumstances. I could predict a stellar year for someone who has just quit national politics Ė as Dick Gephardt did after Iowa four years ago.
Itís been a good year for:
Iraq. Everyone now accepts that the surge has worked, even if some, such as Barack Obama, add that they are glad they opposed it anyway. Levels of violence are difficult to measure definitively, but the declines from last year have been spectacular.
Mike Huckabee. As I write he remains a leading candidate for the presidency. Itís a crowded field, and he will probably not make it, but chat shows beckon for this pastor turned politician with an easy style.
Rudy Giuliani. He has, so far, defied the pundits who predicted his campaign would implode as primary voters became aware of his liberal views. For virtually the whole year he has led the field in GOP national polls. He has been briefly rivaled by John McCain, Fred Thompson, and latterly Mike Huckabee. He may yet be defeated, either by one of these or by Mitt Romney, but his campaign has outlasted predictions of nearly all the beltway pundits.
John Edwards. Both the Clinton and Obama campaigns have been surprised by the resilience Edwards has shown, especially in Iowa. Both thought he would have collapsed by the middle of year. There is every chance that he will yet do so, but, like Giuliani, he has defied predictions of an early death.
Hillary Clinton. She stands exactly where she did a year ago: still the single most likely person to win the presidency. She remains formidable and has major campaign resources. She has already seen off better qualified candidates such as Evan Bayh and Mark Warner. The only remaining Democrat who plainly trounces her experience Ė Bill Richardson Ė has proved a weak campaigner.
Barack Obama. If this is a bubble, it has lasted well so far.
Itís been a mixed year for:
John McCain. At the beginning of the year he was the joint favorite. By midyear the obituaries were being written on his campaign. Now he is the comeback kid. A triumph of hope over experience? Or masterly political timing? One thing he has proved: itís dangerous to underestimate him.
Mitt Romney. Still the best funded and best organized of all the GOP candidates, he now finds his longstanding leads in Iowa and New Hampshire under threat. If it doesnít work out, he can always return to business.
It has been a bad year for:
Fred Thompson. His star briefly shone and then dimmed. But there are indications of a revival in progress, so 2008 could prove a better year.
George Bush. The predicted crash in the economy hasnít come and even the New York Times concedes that Iraq is on the mend. So why does he remain unpopular?
But for all these people, 2007 was a year of preparation. It is 2008 that will really test. And as to how that will go, you may know better than I do.