Predictions: Who'll still be in the race by this time next week?

We’ll save the predictions about the caucus for tomorrow. Iowa on Thursday and New Hampshire a week from today: Who survives both and is still alive and kicking come next weekend? Among the Democrats, only Richardson and Biden are anywhere on the grid in any of the early primary states and even then just barely at around 3-5%. Hard to see any reason for them to hang around absent a surprise in one of the first two primaries. That leaves Silky, whose only chance is to win Iowa and then ride the bounce there to a surprisingly strong finish in NH, where he’s 10-15 points behind. If that doesn’t happen and he finishes third in both, does he get out? I’m guessing no, that he’ll push his southern pedigree as hard as he can and hope for the best in South Carolina on the 19th. But Obama desperately needs him out so he can pick up Silky’s lefty supporters. I asked this once before but I’ll ask again, is there anything he could offer Edwards to get him out of the race before then?

As for the GOP, Hunter was done months ago and should be out already. Paul’s got too much money to quit and will be there to the bitter end. Huck’s not getting out before South Carolina even if he craters in Iowa since he’ll have both southern and evangelical support there. That leaves Ol’ Fred, who’s guaranteed to finish poorly in New Hampshire but may yet surprise in the caucus. If he finishes a strong third he’s in it until SC; if he finishes fourth or lower, he’s probably out by this weekend since he’s scheduled to participate in the Fox News debate on Sunday and won’t want to do that when he knows he’s got another bad finish coming up in NH next Wednesday. What if he finishes a weak third, say, 12 percent or so to McCain’s 10? In or out? And what if Maverick finishes second in New Hampshire instead of first? That’ll be enough to keep him in the race for awhile, but for how long? Probably all the way through Super Ultra Mega Tuesday, I’m guessing.

Rudy’s in it until then too, of course, but take a good long look at the results near the end here. The Giuliani camp’s counting on Floridians to shrug at the early primary results and give him a clean slate on January 29. It’s not that simple. And what if everyone stays in and the primaries split two or three ways? Good news indeed, my friends:

That instability has fueled fears that if a winner does not quickly emerge in a primary calendar loaded with contests in January and early February, a prolonged primary fight could delay the GOP’s focus on election day in a campaign in which Democratic voters already have contributed more money and, according to several polls, expressed greater satisfaction with their choice of presidential contenders…

History is not on the side of a party that takes a long time to winnow its field to one candidate. In almost every presidential campaign over the last generation, the party that settled on its nominee first won the general election, said Rhodes Cook, an expert on presidential campaigns.

“If the nominating process is going on for a while, it shows the nominee is having some problem pulling his base together,” Cook said. “That does not bode well for the general election.”

But back to Iowa. Here’s a little preparatory reading for you about how painfully ridiculous the caucus system is. If you can’t get away from home or work during a very small window of time tomorrow night, you’re hosed and that’s all there is to it. Tomorrow’s forecast: Mostly sunny, highs in the high 20s. Tonight’s forecast: -1.

Update: Oops. New Hampshire is next Tuesday, not next Wednesday. Apologies for the error.