The primary season begins in five months. It is hard to believe but not so long ago, primaries did not mean all that much. In 1960, JFK won the nomination despite announcing only in January of 1960 and entering only a few primaries. Granted the primaries were vital, his win in West Virginia over Hubert Humphrey showed that a Catholic could win a heavily Protestant state. In 1968, Humphrey won the nomination despite not entering a single primary. Even had RFK not been assassinated, Humphrey still probably would have won the nomination (on the date RFK was killed, Humphrey actually had a lead in delegates).
Now the South Carolina Republicans are moving their primary up to January 19, so that it, and not Florida will be first in the south. That means that New Hampshire will have to move their primary up, which in turn means Iowa moves their caucus up. Does that mean Iowa gets pushed into December?
In any event, on the Democratic side, baring some sort of tidal wave, I believe that Hillary Clinton is the easy winner. The Republicans are still open. McCain seems to be dropping while Giuliani retains his improbable lead. Romney remains a factor and then there is the Fred Thompson factor -- if as expected he soon makes it official, he could shake things up.
The Ames Straw Poll is Saturday and McCain and Giuliani have dropped out. Romney has a big lead in the Iowa polls and both Giuliani and McCain are not making much effort in the state. With New Hampshire in Romney's back door (though Giuliani is polling well), the real battle will be in South Carolina and Florida. Giuliani needs to win in the south and that is where Giuliani is making his big effort.
Conventional wisdom is that Giuliani's brand of conservatism will not play in Dixie. Yet, Giuliani is leading in Florida with Fred Thompson his closest rival. But Florida is not really the south -- it has many areas that are practically suburbs of New York. But South Carolina, home of rock ribbed social conservatism becomes Giuliani's key. The polls there show a tight race between Giuliani, Thompson and McCain. If Giuliani can win both Florida and South Carolina, the GOP nomination is effectively his.