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News Analysis: November 26, 2007

posted on November 26, 2007 at 6:01 PM

Henderson: It feels like the edge of the news in Iowa with this caucus campaign.

Mundt: It's the edge of everything for everyone. Everyone is watching. What they're seeing right now is some higher poll numbers for Mike Huckabee.

Henderson: Right. The republican race is really fascinating. Mike Huckabee has not spent a great deal of time here, but he is really closing in on the front-runner, which has been Mitt Romney for months and months and months, so much so that Romney himself is sort of downplaying his own expectations, saying that he'd be happy to finish first, second, or third.

Mundt: Why is Huckabee rising the way he is?

Henderson: Well, those of us who have been covering this race for a while have known that Iowans have an affection for him. I just don't think he had closed the sale until the final weeks. I think people had been waiting to see what kind of a candidate Fred Thompson would be. And I think when Fred Thompson came out, many Iowans may not have been comfortable with him, and they finally settled on Huckabee as their conservative alternative.

Mundt: Much of this happened without Huckabee here, in fact without many of the Republican candidates.

 

Henderson: Right. I think one of the most fascinating things, if you look back to November, is how few candidate visits there have been among the republican candidates; whereas, the democrats on any given day, I mean there you have four or five or even six of them here. So it's been fascinating to watch how Huckabee has managed to sort of catch up to Mitt Romney by not investing much of his personal time here.

Mundt: Is there a strategy that you can divine from what the Republicans are doing, or are these individual campaign decisions?

Henderson: I think they're individual campaign decisions. In John McCain, you have a candidate who is I think starting to focus really heavily on New Hampshire because he was obviously successful there in 2000, so he's going to let Iowa sort of go by the wayside. In a campaign where you have scarce resources, you make those kind of decisions.

Rudy Giuliani has been here a surprising amount of time for someone who is rumored to be sort employing the skip-Iowa strategy but, yet, boy, he's been on the offensive in New Hampshire against Mitt Romney over the past weekend, so that's really sharpened the focus of the race in New Hampshire. And I think by virtue of that, we may not see Mitt Romney here in Iowa as often because he needs to sort of shore up his base in New Hampshire which, of course, is right next door to Massachusetts where he was governor.

Mundt: So he may have assumed at some point that that was going to be a little bit easier, focus more on Iowa, and now is pulling back.

Henderson: Exactly.

Mundt: Let's go to the Democrats for just a moment. Hillary Clinton has been a front-runner here in Iowa for some time but, I think we’ve even noted this on the program and certainly you can see it in the poll numbers, Obama is coming up and Hillary is aware of it.

Henderson: She is certainly aware of it. I mean she is swinging. This past weekend she went to Obama's, in her words, weaknesses. She attacked him on the experience issue. And she also attacked his health care plan, suggesting that it was crafted with politics rather than people in mind. And what's really fascinating about this is Clinton herself seems to be taking all of these criticisms that have been logged at her, not only by Obama but by Edwards, and sort of turning them back and saying, "You're just as guilty as I am."

Mundt: How would you define Obama's rise in the state? Is this a point where he can look confidently at the caucuses and think, you know, maybe I'm going to have this thing wrapped up?

Henderson: It's way too early to say he’s got things wrapped up, but he made some very smart decisions in Iowa. He spent a lot of time here. He invested heavily in the infrastructure of the caucus campaign. He has a lot of people here. They know what the caucuses are like. They've been training their supporters. He, among all of the Democrats, ran more radio advertising in Iowa than a lot of the others and, of course, I work for commercial radio and may have a small bias there. But that's really the way you reach rural Iowans, people who don’t live in Des Moines and Iowa City and Cedar Rapids and Council Bluffs. You reach them through their radio. He has had a repeated message on the radio for weeks and months, and I think that's paying dividends for him now in the rural areas of the state.

Mundt: I wanted to talk to you a little bit about Hillary Clinton and the electability issue and some other pieces there, and we've run out of time. We'll have you back and talk a bit about that, because we obviously have a few weeks left before this thing is all wrapped up at least for Iowa.

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