Fanning the Flames: The Freedom Project Blog


Crystal Ball, Take II

By Shawn Healy
As Lou Dobbs prepares to go live at the Freedom Museum tonight, CNN is ready for the second edition of the YouTube debates immediately following his show. I promised a reading on the Democratic field today, but must revise Monday's posting as Massachusetts has discarded its March 4th primary date and joined the Tsunami Tuesday crowd on February 5th. I still contend that this proves problematic for Romney, as he'll be forced to devote attention to the Bay State to avoid an embarrassing defeat, opening the door for Rudy's success elsewhere.

Now, back to the Democrats...

I woke up this morning with the feeling that the nomination of Hillary Rodham Clinton is no longer inevitable. I've made this contention for months, but will offer two blueprints of the more simplistic Democratic race. One has Hillary winning Iowa narrowly, steamrolling her opponents in New Hampshire, besting Barack Obama narrowly in South Carolina, by a wide margin in Florida, and clinching the nomination on Tsunami Tuesday. This is the blueprint I have consulted for the last several months, but recent developments urge caution and suggest a plausible alternative.

Notice how I mention only two candidates in the first scenario. My second narrative doesn't involve a broader field with the exception of John Edwards. For all intents and purposes, this is a two-horse race, and Edwards is a mere sideshow who provides a significant opening for Obama in Iowa. Bill Richardson boasts an impressive resume, but his message fails to resonate on the trail given the rock star status of his opponents, and Biden and Dodd, the savvy Senate veterans, have yet to find any traction in Iowa or elsewhere. It is in the heartland where the second scenario takes root.

According to recent polls, Obama has taken the lead in the Hawkeye State, eclipsing Clinton and Edwards, although in a statistical dead heat. Edwards' presence is critical here. He finished second in the 2004 caucuses, and led in the polls for most of this year. Yes, his $400 haircuts was his downfall, but his bevy of support remains in tact, and many of these folks actually caucused for him four years ago. A top-three finish is virtually guaranteed, and it seems as if he hurts Hillary more than Obama, as the former VP candidate polls in single digits in other states where Clinton has 20-point leads.

Edwards could win Iowa, and Hillary is prepared for this with New Hampshire as her firewall. Edwards lacks the financial resources to compete elsewhere short of a resounding victory in the caucuses, and he must abide by federal spending standards as he agreed to accept matching funds, limiting state-by-state spending, New Hampshire included. An Obama victory is more threatening, for it convinces voters elsewhere that the amateur is a viable candidate.

Assuming Obama wins Iowa, New Hampshire voters, particularly the independents who can vote in either party primary, are known to shun establishment figures (see the Clinton dynasty) and search for mavericks (McCarthy, McCain...Obama?). A Granite State surprise sets Obama up for South Carolina, where half of the Democratic electorate is African-American. If the Illinois Senator runs the table here, he'll close the gap with Clinton in Florida, and be well-positioned for success on Tsunami Tuesday. Indeed, in some ways he is already more organized in the February 5th states, the Prairie State included. Moreover, only Obama has the financial wherewithal to compete with the Clinton machine in what is essentially a national primary.

Obama probably doesn't clinch the nomination on Tsunami Tuesday, but I could see the contest concluding on February 19th when Wisconsin and Washington voters flock to the polls. These states have a similar affinity for anti-establishment mavericks, and Obama may be their man.

I know, I'm taking the easy way out here with separate scenarios, and my refusal to pick a winner. If I were a betting man I'd stick with Clinton, but the NY Senator let her guard down in the Democratic debate last month and provided the opening the upstart Obama has been searching for all along. Regardless, the narrative will have real-life authenticity in five short weeks...


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Managing Director

McCormick Freedom Project

Shawn is responsible for overseeing and managing the operations associated with the McCormick Freedom Project. Additionally, he serves as the in house content expert and voice of museum through public speaking and original scholarship. Before joining the Freedom Project, he taught American Government, Economics, American History, and Chicago History at Community High School in West Chicago, IL and Sheboygan North High School in Wisconsin.

Shawn is a doctoral candidate within the Political Science Department at the University of Illinois at Chicago where he received his MA in Political Science. He is a 2001 James Madison Fellow from the State of Wisconsin and holds a bachelor's degree in Political Science, History, and Secondary Education from the University of Wisconsin at Madison.

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About Fanning the Flames and the McCormick Freedom Project

Fanning the Flames is a blog of the McCormick Freedom Project, which was started in 2006 by museum managing director Shawn Healy. The blog highlights the news of the day, in hopes of engaging readers in dialogue about freedom issues. Any views or opinions expressed on this blog represent those of the writers alone and do not represent an official opinion of the McCormick Freedom Project.

Founded in 2005, the McCormick Freedom Project is part of the McCormick Foundation. The Freedom Project’s mission is to enable informed and engaged participation in our democracy by demonstrating the relevance of the First Amendment and the role it plays in the ongoing struggle to define and defend freedom. The museum offers programs and resources for teachers, students, and the general public.

First Amendment journalism initiative

The Freedom Project recently launched a new reporting initiative with professional journalists Tim McNulty and Jamie Loo. The goal is to expand and promote the benefits of lifelong civic engagement among citizens of all ages, through original reporting, commentary and news aggregation on First Amendment and freedom issues. Please visit the McCormick Freedom Project's news Web site, The Post-Exchange at

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McCormick Foundation

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Senior Journalist
McCormick Freedom Project

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