We May Now Have A Four Way Race For The Democratic Nomination

Pollster.com and Political Forcast argue that we have a forth candidate in the top tier. Bill Richardson has been moving up in the polls in both Iowa and New Hampshire, and there’s plenty of time for him to move further, especially if the media also treats him as a top tier candidate and provides increased coverage.

Any predictions this far out are very risky. The first question is whether Hillary Clinton can be beaten. Typically front runners win in the Democratic race if they are a sitting President or Vice President, but otherwise they have had a rough time. We’ve seen this with Ed Muskey, Howard Dean, and front runners who wound up being defeated. The one exception is Walter Mondale, who had the advantages of recently being Vice President as well as firm support from the party regulars. My suspicion is that Hillary Clinton will fit more in the Mondale pattern, but she also has enough negatives to provide a chance for her challengers.

Obama has been number two but it remains unclear if Obamania can continue or if Obama’s inexperience will trip him up. John Edwards is even more inexperienced than Obama, but his early lead in Iowa keeps him in the race. Edwards will probably need an outright win in Iowa to remain alive.

Richardson has a long way to go, but then John Kerry came back after trailing Al Sharpton in the polls in the fall of 2003. Strong showings in Iowa and New Hampshire, as well as Nevada which he is also concentrating on, could make Richardson a true top tier candidate going into the larger primary days. Richardson has the advantage of having his strength in a different region from the others, and if his western support allows him to take California it is a whole new race. Richardson has a tremendous advantage over Edwards and Obama in experience, but so far the oratory skills of Edwards and Obama have led to better showings for them in the debates. Richardson’s upcoming book on energy and the environment might help his credentials after its release this fall.

Richardson might also have an advantage on some issues if he can distinguish himself from the other candidates. There is a growing number of “small-l” libertarians who now vote Democratic after seeing the Republicans become increasingly authoritarian and anti-libertarianism. Richardson has attracted the attention of some libertarian-leaning voters, but has not fully capitalized on this potential.

While the big question remains whether Hillary Clinton is beatable at all, Richardson might have the best chance to follow in the paths of previous winners such as Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter in coming from obscurity to win.

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