Few people in Western New York watched the Republican presidential primary returns from New Hampshire more closely a few days ago than Barry Zeplowitz of Amherst.
The veteran pollster, who has worked for Republican candidates in Erie County and across the country for decades, knows a lot about numbers in places like New Hampshire or South Carolina or Florida. Zeplowitz's firm polled those states four years ago for Sen. John McCain, and he sees similar patterns in 2012.
He recognizes the success of former Sen. Rick Santorum in Iowa, and credits Rep. Ron Paul of Texas for a strong second-place finish in New Hampshire. But he also thinks Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, is treading the same path McCain traveled four years ago.
"It's very clear to me that Iowa is neither here nor there," Zeplowitz said, recalling Mike Huckabee's big and ultimately irrelevant -- victory in 2008. It was all to be eclipsed by McCain in New Hampshire, South Carolina and Florida over the next few weeks.
"Based on that, it seems to me that if Romney succeeds in South Carolina, he'll be able to outspend all the others," he said. "And if he wins Florida, it will be done. There will be nobody around except Ron Paul, and he'll be there for his own reasons.
"There's a pattern here," he continued. "It becomes a function of who's got any money."
Zeplowitz has some involvement with this year's presidential campaign. He conducted early polling for Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, and later for Texas Gov. Rick Perry. So he has a pretty good handle on how voters are thinking, and on the dynamics guiding the GOP contest.
He's basically on the same page as most primary pundits as they view the rest of the Republican race. It's tough for anyone to say Romney's lead is threatened when he appears to be on a roll. Indeed, Zeplowitz says he sees only one way for the Romney express to be derailed.
"That's if they all get in a room and say one [Republican] will run against Mitt Romney," he said.
And because Zeplowitz has been around the presidential polling game for a while, neither he -- nor anybody else -- expects that to happen.
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Oh yes, Democrats will pick a presidential candidate this year, too. And it will be Barack Obama -- no muss, no fuss.
So far, a number of Western New Yorkers will be part of that process as delegates to the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte. From the 27th Congressional District, Democratic sources say among those expected to serve as delegates are Ellicott Council Member Darius Pridgen, attorney Anthony Colucci III and Cindy Abbott-Letro, who was a member of County Executive Mark Poloncarz's transition team.
From the 28th District, delegates expected to attend the convention include Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes, former Common Council president George K. Arthur and Rosalind Hampton of Buffalo.
The 26th District includes Linda Berman, an Amherst committee member, and John Dukesbury of Williamsville, who is active with the Obama campaign.
At-large delegates are expected to include Poloncarz, Mayor Byron Brown and Reps. Louise Slaughter, Kathy Hochul and Brian Higgins.
One insider confided that because forming the state delegation is under the direction of Charlie King, executive director of the state party and point man behind efforts to oust Len Lenihan from Erie County Democratic Headquarters, the chairman has had little input in the process.
Lenihan contends input has stemmed from many sources, including King, the congressional representatives and the Obama campaign.