Super Tuesday is fast approaching and the candidates are in full court press mode. The candidates are bringing out all their big guns and hoping to stake a claim as the front runner after next Tuesday. It is still a muddled campaign on the Republican side with the four major remaining candidates all looking to score points against their opponents.
Rudy Gulliani faces his Waterloo tomorrow night in Florida. He is counting on a comeback for the ages and the early voters in the state to provide him with a seemingly impossible victory. If Rudy loses (and all signals point to that fact), his campaign will be for all intents and purposes at an end. NY Republicans will start to abandon him faster than rats off a sinking ship. His departure from the race will leave a more defined race, but not necessarily a race that's any closer to being wrapped up. I can't say that I'll be sorry to see Rudy go. As someone who was in NY city on 9/11, I find Rudy's constant reference to that date extremely tiring and apparently so have the voters. It was quite something to see him try and mention 9/11 in every speech he game. Even when asked questions that had nothing to do with terrorism, he somehow would manage to shoehorn some reference to the fact to his leadership after the worst terrorist attack in US history. I always thought that Rudy would fall apart during the campaign. It seems that the more people see of him, the less they like him. His numbers in every state bear that out. He spent money in New Hampshire on TV ads and his numbers went down. He has spent almost 2 months in Florida and his numbers have decreased from over 40% to under 15%.
John McCain and Mitt Romney are engaged in a war of words. They are in a pitched battle for the top spot in Florida which is a winner take all state. A close second place gets you no delegates, so the the gloves are off in their race. McCain is trying to keep the focus on the War on Terrorism, while Romney is trying to make the economy the focus of the debate. I really can't read the Florida race. McCain's endorsement by the Governor will probably add to his vote totals, but I'm not sure that it will be enough to overcome the TV money of Romney. I find myself going back and forth on this one, but if I were a betting man, I'd probably have to put my money on Romney for the main reason that he almost has to win here. If McCain were to win, he would probably be unstoppable. He would steamroll through most of the super Tuesday states and build up an unassailable lead in delegates. While Romney will certainly have the money to continue, it would probably be a futile effort. Romney has to draw a line in the sand in the beaches of Florida.
The Democratic race is just as unsettled as their opponents across the aisle. Barack Obama scored a huge victory in South Carolina over the weekend and has backed that up with endorsements from Ted and Caroline Kennedy. The Clinton campaign has had to spend time defending statements from Bill Clinton and refuting claims that they are playing racial politics. While the win on Saturday and the endorsements are a boon to the Obama campaign, this may very well be the high point of his run for the nomination. He trails by large margins in many of the big states in play on Super Tuesday. He trails in NY, California, Massachusetts and New Jersey by double digits in the latest polls and there simply isn't enough time to make up the gap. His strategy at this point to try and compete on an individual district basis in order to split the delegates with Hillary. Basically, if he can manage to get 30% of the vote in most districts, he will end up splitting the delegates with Hillary. He might win in about 5 of the states (Illinois, Georgia, Alabama, Colorado and Minnesota being among the most likely, with a chance that he might be very competitive in New Jersy and Missouri) and be competitive in the delegate count, but Hillary will certainly come out of the night with a huge advantage in the number of states won.
In a race where perception is reality, Hillary will come out of the day as the front runner. Obama will then have to fight an uphill battle from there on out with very few primaries that he would enter as the favorite. John Edwards has said that he's in this for the long run and that will help Obama, because he hurts Hillary more than I believe he does Obama. The question is whether after Super Tuesday, Edwards will have the money to compete going forward. If he loses badly across the board, his support and coverage will dwindle. Edwards' best hope seems to be a major mis-step by the Clinton campaign where he then becomes the most viable alternative to those who are not inclined to vote for Obama.
The prospect of a brokered convention is exciting to a lot of political pundits, but it's a longshot that it would happen. I believe that Clinton express will start to roll after next Tuesday and it will take them all the way to the nomination. I think that Hillary Clinton is a very good candidate for President, but she also the most divisive figure (with the exception of George Bush) in politics today. Her negatives which have remained consistently in the 40-45 % range make her an easier target for the Republicans in the fall. They won't have to work very hard to stir up their base of support with tales of the Clinton White House years. There is nothing that will fuel the fire of conservative Republicans more than the possibility of two Clintons occupying the White House for the next four years.