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Monday, December 31, 2007
By Steven L. Taylor

–Rounding-up, analyzing and handicapping the 2008 election–

That’s right, it’s back! After having not been seen since the end of the 2004 elections, it’s time to gaze once again into the magic PoliBlog toaster1 to find out who’s toast and who will remain fresh to fight on another day2. There’s a lot to cover, so this will be a multi-part roll out for Iowa. First we need to heat up the toaster with some general news and information on the upcoming Iowa contest, as well as the nomination process in general. From there we will look to see who is feeling the heat in Iowa for the Democrats and the Republicans.

First, a brief intro to the T-o-M. The T-o-M had its origins in this post3 and my general predilection to dub Gray Davis “toast” (for example) during the recall elections back in 20034. The main goal is to roundup news and bloggage on the ongoing contests as well as to handicap and comment upon the races. In 2004 there was only the Democratic side to worry about, but the wide-open nature of the 2008 race requires two toasters, so this will be a challenge in terms of a weekly feature.

The basic scale for candidate comparison is as follows:

The scale:

  • Wonder Bread (The nomination is in reach)
  • Just Plain Ol’ White Bread (Still in the race; has a shot)
  • Toast (Pretty much done/a little scraping might make you look like bread, but you’re done)
  • Burnt Toast (Really, really done)
  • Burnt all the Way Through (Why are you still in the race?)
  • Crumbs in the Bottom of the Toaster (Why did you ever get in the race in the first place?)

As we go from week to week, the question of changes will be of relevance, so there’s the following (which I will skip this week):

Potential Movements each Week:

  • Dough is on the Rise
  • Heat’s Off This Week
  • The heat is on.
  • Got Scraped a Bit
  • Getting Darker

Part I: Heating up the Toaster

Here are some general stories and information to get you ready for Iowa (and beyond!).

  • Via the NYT are two great calendars of the primary/caucus season (one per party). These include not only the places and dates, but the number of delegates up for grabs per contest. Bookmark these, as they will be of use throughout nomination season.
    • The Primary Season: 2008 Democratic Calendar
    • The Primary Season: 2008 Republican Calendar
  • Along the same lines is CNN’s Path to the Presidency.
  • The LAT‘s has a nice Primary Tracker page.
  • Major election guides worthy of consultation for news and links.
    • The New York Times
    • CNN
    • Yahoo News’ election central.
    • The LAT.
  • In regards to Iowa itself, here are some useful links:
    • The Secretary of State’s caucus page.
    • The Des Moines Register‘s caucus page.
    • A discussion of the differences between the Democratic and GOP rules can be found here.
    • USAT: Hopefuls give Iowa a final push
    • Time: New Year’s Eve, Iowa-Style
    • LAT: Countdown to a new year, endorsements in Iowa
    • Newsweek: Undecided in Iowa
  • Polls and Such (Dems)
    • Three-way tie in Iowa.
    • The RCP Iowa Caucus page.
    • Via Reuters: Clinton leads in Iowa but Edwards gains.
    • Strategic Vision’s Iowa poll page.
    • The Democrat Daily: Polls and More Polls (with links to various other polls)
    • The LAT: Obama catches Clinton in N.H.; Iowa remains a 3-way contest
  • General Iowa Commentary
    • E.J. Dionne, Jr.: “Thunder in the Heartland.”
    • John Fund: “What’s the Matter With Iowa?”
    • Robert L. Borosage @ HuffPo: Closing Arguments in Iowa
    • ‘Second Tier’ Democrats Impress But Don’t Electrify

Part II: The Democrats

The Basic Reading of the Toaster: It is, of course, the first contest and therefore it is rather difficult to make any determinations as to how all of this is going to play out. Having said that, the current feeling of the toaster is that Senator Clinton will eventually emerge as Wonder Bread, but that’s not engraved into the toaster just yet. The real issue for Iowa and the Democrats is how it could shape the contest going into February 5th. If Clinton were to win Iowa, for example, that would be a huge blow to the Edwards campaign and would damage Obama significantly as well. Indeed, a Clinton win would return the chattering classes to the “Hillary is inevitable” thesis. However, Clinton can survive a loss in Iowa, even a third place finish. The questions for this contest as less about her than they are about Edwards and Obama, as well as about the order of finish (i.e., who is first, second and third?) and the numbers. At this point is all about perception—who won, by how much and so forth, as we head into New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina.

The Clinton camp is likely less concerned with Obama at this stage (although he is the more viable long-term threat) than they are with Edwards. If Edwards loses it brings him to the brink of elimination going into NH, so even if Obama wins as long as Edwards is damaged, this is good for Clinton.

At this stage, the ranking of the candidates is pretty straightforward—there are no clear winners at the moment, but several flavors of loser. Like the Iowa caucuses themselves, this version of the T-o-M is mostly set-up.

So, without further preface, here’s the first T-o-M rankings of the 2008 cycle, along with news and blog links for each candidate.

White Bread Seeking to be Wonder Bread
5 In other words, these are candidates currently positioned to make a serious run at the nomination, but no one is in a clear lead. The T-o-M currently ranks the freshness of the candidates as: Clinton, Obama and Edwards.

Senator Hillary Clinton

  • Newsday: Surging Edwards may be blessing for Clinton.
  • Reuters: Clinton leads in Iowa but Edwards gains.
  • Via CNN: Prominent Clinton backer criticizes Iowa caucuses.
  • Via the AP: Chelsea Clinton Guards Her Words.
  • WaPo: Hillary Clinton on Her Famous Spouse.

Senator Barack Obama

  • The LAT: Obama moves onto Edwards’ populist turf
  • Via the BoGlo: Obama, Edwards, and the undecideds.
  • Via the Swamp (Baltimore Sun version): Obama campaign touts crowd sizes
  • Michael D. @ Balloon Juice: Obama: “I’ll Be Too Out of Touch”

Senator John Edwards

  • Via the BoGlo: Obama, Edwards, and the undecideds.
  • The Nation: Edwards Wins the Mellencamp Primary.
  • Via the AP: Edwards sees cash bonus from Iowa win.
  • OTB: Peggy Noonan and John Edward’s Hair Poofing.
  • Glenn Greenwald: Peggy Noonan is a serious “grown-up”.

Toast. The nice thing about tier two is that you might be worthy of being considered for the Vice Loaf.

Bill Richardson

  • Des Moines Register: Richardson: I’ll work across party lines to change U.S. politics
  • Via CBS: Richardson Rallies The Troops In Des Moines
  • From the Times-Republican: Bill Richardson says his campaign has momentum (which, I suspect, is very much like Joe-mentum in 2004).

Burnt Toast. Quite frankly, one has to wonder why these guys are still in the race. They will make the list of veepables, but likely will just go back to their day jobs.

Joe Biden (Actually, I could see Biden in a prominent cabinet position in a Democratic White House)

  • He has, to date, had the best line in the entire campaign.
  • Via Delaware online: Crisis finds Biden in his element, even in Iowa

Christopher Dodd

Crumbs at the Bottom of the Toaster. It is rather difficult to distinguish burnt toast from the crumbs, although basically we are talking here about candidates who don’t even qualify for a Vice Loaf mention, and who (if they are mentioned at all) are typical noted for purposes of comic relief.

Dennis Kucinich6

  • An example of the comic relief part: on this week’s Chris Matthews Show the only mentioned he received was in the context of the UFO comment.
  • His home page can be found here.

Mike Gravel (If you said to yourself “who?” then you have a good grasp of the notion of crumbs at the bottom of the toaster).

  • Mike Gravel Answers 10 Questions.

~~Coming Soon: The GOP loaf~~

Update: The GOP edition of the Iowa T-o-M is here.

  1. If Sabato can use a crystal ball, why can’t I use a toaster? []
  2. If you can’t take a healthy helping of flippancy with your political analysis, then the T-o-M isn’t for you. Also, if you find bread-based metaphor offensive, move along []
  3. Wherein you can also see how wrong I was about Kerry… []
  4. Or, as I liked to call them, the ReCal []
  5. With apologies to Senator Obama, but the functional analogy here is bread types, so I’ll stick with “white bread” as generic bread. However, it does make me think back to Chris Rock’s Nat X character and his rants about The Man []
  6. With apologies to Matthew []
Filed under: Uncategorized | Comments/Trackbacks (11)|
The views expressed in the comments are the sole responsibility of the person leaving those comments. They do not reflect the opinion of the author of PoliBlog, nor have they been vetted by the author.

11 Responses to “The Return of the Toast-o-Meter!”

  1. Outside The Beltway | OTB Says:

    Return of the Toast-o-Meter!

    Steven Taylor brings back the venerable Toast-o-Meter, a staple of blogospheric election coverage. The 2008 inaugural edition focuses on the Democrats, pronouncing Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and John Edwards all “white bread.” Which …


    The Toast-o-Meter Is Back

    Steven Taylor brings back the Toast-o-Meter for the 2008 Presidential Campaign.

  3. B. Minich Says:

    Veepables . . . are those like lunchables? Mmmmm, veepables.

    Nice to see the toast-o-meter return! I can smell the toast from here.

  4. Political Mavens » Hmmm, Toasty! Says:

    [...] It’s The Return of the Toast-o-Meter! [...]

  5. MSS Says:

    Ah, no apologies needed. I actually believe in the real thing-representative (a.k.a. republican) democracy-so as an American, I am used to having nothing but crumbs.

    Besides, I come just this one small crumb away from endorsing Gravel over Kucinich today, anyway, in my post on the candidates’ positions on democratic (or republican) political reform.

    (Hmmm, can gravel be made of crumbs? Perhaps a different anaology would be in order. One would not want gravel in one’s toaster, presumably.)

  6. Dave Schuler Says:

    Ohboyohboyohboy. I’ve been waiting for this. Are we there yet? Huh?

  7. HappyPick Says:

    I sure am happy I found this Toaster - didn’t know it existed, but it sure makes me happy! LOL….The Toaster makes even this election fun! Thanks, Guys/Gals!

  8. Greg Says:

    Wow, I had forgotten about the toaster! This was the thing that kept me coming back here in 2003, when I was first getting into political blogs. Ah, memories: Howard Dean - Wonder Bread fortified with vitamins with yummy Vermont syrup on top.

  9. PoliBlog ™: A Rough Draft of my Thoughts » It’s the Iowa GOP Edition of the Toast-O-Meter Says:

    [...] (For Parts I and II of the Iowa T-o-M, go here). [...]

  10. Punditry Says:

    Return of the Toastmeter

    Political scientist and right-leaning blogger Steven Taylor brings back his Toast-o-Meter, his periodic evaluation of how the various candidates are doing. It was great fun (and often dead on the money) back in 2004, so I'm glad to see…

  11. Jan Says:

    Yay!! The Toast-o-Meter rocks!

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