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A lot on line for interest groups

From NBC's Chuck Todd
DES MOINES, Iowa -- An email from the Club for Growth this morning criticizing John McCain over his declaration last night that if given the chance he would again vote against the Bush tax cuts reminded me that a number of third-party special interest groups (on both sides of the spectrum) have a lot on the line in Iowa, New Hampshire and beyond.

The Club, in particular, is watching a potential nightmare scenario brewing in the two early states as the GOP candidates they like the least -- Mike Huckabee and John McCain -- have a shot at sweeping the first two states. The Club went negative on Huckabee early and often and all that's happened as his numbers have shot up. That said, the negative economic info the Club has provided for the public record has been used by Romney so they have to feel pretty good about that.

That said, if Huckabee and McCain win Iowa and New Hampshire and then end up having a 2-way showdown for the GOP nod, it could spell the end of the Club's effectiveness as a conservative third party advocacy group. They Club knows how to make waves but they've always struggled to notch victories outside of House races. If the Club ends up with Huckabee and/or McCain egg on its face in 2008, will that mean some other Republican candidates stop taking their calls?

But the Club isn't the only special interest group with a lot riding on the results of Iowa and New Hampshire. On the Democratic side, three groups in particular have put their money and resources where their mouth is, including: AFSCME, SEIU and EMILY's List.

Nobody probably has more to worry about than AFSCME's Gerald McEntee. A second straight losing endorsement could seriously jeopardize McEntee's clout in the union movement. Maybe that's why McEntee is doubling down by shipping some 200+ organizers to Iowa on Clinton's behalf and being the only Democratic-leaning group to go negative on any candidate (in their case, Obama's the target).

SEIU didn't endorse a candidate nationally but many of the state and local affils have poured money into a 527 on behalf of Edwards. Should Edwards not win Iowa or should his effort not catch fire post-Iowa, this could also hurt Andy Stern's influence in the labor movement, particularly since, like McEntee, he backed the wrong horse in 2004 (Howard Dean).

And then there's EMILY's List. Early on, there was an expectation that they would be a serious player for Clinton here in Iowa. But we're having a hard time finding out exactly how they are helping. Some Clinton partisans I've talked too have been disappointed by the group's efforts. But in defense of EMILY's List, this is there first time making a serious effort on the presidential level and they may find out they are far more effective sticking to their House and Senate bread and butter.