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Handicapping the Second Tier

Des Moines Register story:

During most political campaigns, attentions naturally drift to the front-runners.

After all, these are the people seen as mostly likely to win the office being contested. As a result, media types and politicians put more focus on them for clues as to who they are and what they'll do when elected.

Obviously, this frustrates the second-tier candidates trying to break out. Nowhere is that more apparent than in Iowa this year, where lesser-known presidential candidates are working for an upset finish that will thrust them into the limelight.

That could happen, too. Throughout caucus history, second-tier candidates have sometimes upset the leading ones here. (Remember how George H.W. Bush beat Ronald Reagan here in 1980? While Bush didn't win the nomination that year, his Iowa victory made him a leading candidate and helped him become Reagan's vice president and later president.)

So let's forget Mitt Romney, John McCain and Rudy Giuliani. Let's set aside John Edwards, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. How is the second tier shaping up in Iowa this time?

Richardson will be a force to contend with sooner or later. The Clinton and Obama campaigns are very slick and polished, but that's not what a lot of folks are looking for in their politicians and I still think there's a very good chance they could wipe each other out. On the Republican side, Fred Thompson is the elephant in the room, but since he's not declared, he's not really a factor. Yet. Huckabee is probably the most legitimate candidate from their second tier, but the longer people keep talking about Ron Paul, the more bold the PaleoCon branch of the party will become.

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Comments (4)

Thompson is probably going to declare sometime in the next 15 days, is my best guess, and I'll also guess that Ron Paul will not live up to his Internet-hyped popularity, and Paul's rocket will fizzle as Thompson's rocket gains altitude.

I suspect that Thompson's rocket will eventually fizzle as well. I just think there's more potato then meat on that plate -- but the big splash Thompson will make as he jumps into the pool will empty said pool of the water that's keeping second-tier candidates like Paul afloat. It'll just take several months for America to figure out that Thompson is just a poseur, and the folks like Paul will have faded into the background by then.

But I'm probably all wet, so what do I know....?

Paul Hamilton:

Thompson's strength is the weakness of the rest of the field. But I agree with you that his high-water mark will be the day he declares because in his case, there's just no "there" there.

Of course you could have said the same thing about Ronald Reagan, and we all know how that turned out. If his campaign is managed properly, he could obfuscate himself all the way to the White House.


i'm curious why you guys are dismissing Thompson so quickly.

Paul Hamilton:

No dismissal from me. He's still got a lot of work to do -- less than half the people in a recent poll even recognized him, but he also has very low negatives, which cannot be said of the three frontrunners, so he'll be building from a fresh start.

If he plays his cards right, he could win the nomination.


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Editors: Lee Ward, Larkin, Paul S Hooson, and Steve Crickmore

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