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State of the Race

State of the RaceWith the primary elections beginning next month, Tufts political expert Jeffrey Berry analyzed the status of the 2008 presidential campaigns.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [12.10.07] In recent weeks, the race for the presidency has grown more heated on both the Republican and Democratic sides. Speaking to host Jim Braude on New England Cable News (NECN), Tufts professor of political science Jeffrey Berry talked about the shifting dynamics in the race.

With the primary elections coming up, candidates are beginning to hone their arguments and distinguish themselves more sharply from their rivals. On the Republican side, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee has closed fast onformer New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani in what Berry called a failure on the part of Giuliani and others to "make the sale."

Related: Tufts graduate and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson is running for the Democratic presidential nomination. Read more about his campaign

"I think [Huckabee's] a breath of fresh air," Berry told NECN.

Meanwhile, on the Democratic side, Berry said that New York Sen. Hillary Clinton's strategy may need some revision as her competition against fellow Sen. Barack Obama heats up.

"I think she needs a second act," Berry said. "The first act was, 'I'm very experienced, I've been there, I'm very knowledgeable.' She did very well in the early debates. But she needs a second act that says, 'This is why I'm running for President, and this is what I'm going to do if I'm elected.'"

One area in which this is most pertinent is foreign affairs. Berry noted that a recent U.S. National Intelligence Estimate revealing Iran to have halted nuclear weapons production in 2003 may further hurt the campaigns of Clinton and Giuliani. Clinton, the Tufts expert explained, voted for a resolution in the Senate to brand Iran's Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist group, claiming their were involved with the Islamic nation's nuclear program.

"She got hammered in the [National Public Radio debate] in Iowa [on that issue]," he explained to NECN. "That's the text. The subtext is that it reminds people of her vote for the Iraq resolution."

Meanwhile, Berry said the intelligence report also contradicts Giuliani's past "saber-rattling" against Iran, which the Tufts professor claimed will hurt him if he wins the primary.

"In the general election, should he win the nomination, I think [such saber-rattling] will reflect his lack of experience in foreign policy," Berry told NECN.

Another issue that has received much attention this year is the question of religion. In the interview, Berry contrasted the approaches of Republican candidates Huckabee, a Baptist, and former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney, a Mormon, to this topic.

"[Huckabee] has what Romney lacks, which is authenticity" Berry told NECN. However, he also said that he did not expect Huckabee's comparatively more pronounced religiosity to play well in New Hampshire.

"New Hampshire's brand of conservatism is more libertarian than it is moralistic," Berry said in the interview. "So, I wouldn't expect that... if [Huckabee] wins in Iowa that automatically makes him the front runner in New Hampshire."

Romney, on the other hand, has taken a more subtle approach to his Mormonism. In a speech on faith delivered on Dec. 6 at the George Bush Presidential Library in Texas, for example, he carefully avoided the direct use of the word "Mormon." This approach, Berry said, is risky.

"There's going to be a lot of follow-up stories asking whether or not he believes in the Book of Mormon. He already says he believes in the Bible as the New Testament," says Berry. "I think that what he wants to do is to convey a sense that he's been treated unfairly, without going into any theological differences between Mormonism and mainstream Christianity."

While Huckabee may seem like the current Republican favorite, Berry cautions that his lack of campaign funds will eventually hurt him.

"[Money] has a lot to do with staying power," said Berry to NECN. "When [Huckabee] gets to Feb. 5, with [as many as] 22 states holding primaries or caucuses, he's going to be in deep trouble with an empty bank account."

To have the Republican front runner unable to finance his campaign, says Berry, may harm the party's chance at election. In that situation, he said, there would be "five people all doing poorly. That's the Democrats' dream."

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