BUFFALO, N.Y. -- University at Buffalo political science
professor James E. Campbell has studied presidential campaigns for
more than three decades and says this year's race for party
nominations is the "most peculiar" he can remember.
"I've never seen anything like it; this nomination campaign is
raising more questions than it has answered," says Campbell, author
of "The American Campaign," released this month in its second
"There are so many candidates and so many angles on both sides.
It's very unusual that we haven't seen a thinning of the field to
In his blog
on the Encyclopedia Britannica Web site , Campbell notes that
neither party has a candidate with close to half of his or her
The big question right now, he says, is who will win South
Carolina and Florida before February's onslaught of primaries.
"I still count Hillary Clinton as the candidate to beat on the
Democratic side, but it's a bit of a stretch to call John McCain
the Republican frontrunner at this point," says Campbell, who for
the past three presidential elections has produced an election
forecast based on economic data and Labor Day polling numbers. His
presidential vote forecast was within two-and-a-half points of the
vote in both the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections.
According to Campbell, these key questions remain to be answered
as the primary season hits full tilt:
* Who will drop out when, and where will their support go?
* Can Mike Huckabee draw beyond the Evangelicals?
* Can John McCain win over conservatives upset about his
immigration and tax stands?
* Can Hillary Rodham Clinton convince voters she really is an
agent of change?
* Can Rudy Giuliani revive his candidacy with a Florida win?
* Can Fred Thompson's campaign be revived in South Carolina?
* Can Barack Obama satisfy skeptics questioning his experience
for the job?
* Will the truce between Clinton and Obama hold?
* How much of the African-American vote can Clinton draw away
After the parties have selected a candidate, the big question
will be whether the election becomes a referendum on the Bush
presidency, Campbell says.
"With Bush's low approval numbers it may be impossible for a
Democratic candidate not be elected," he speculates. "Certainly the
Democrats seem to have an advantage; how much of an advantage may
depend on how quickly the Republicans can unite around one
Campbell, chair of UB's Department of Political Science, is
co-editing a special issue on election forecasting for the
International Journal of Forecasting due out in May.
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