Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Roll With It, Baby

Super Tuesday has come and gone and we are no closer to anointing a winner in the Democratic primary than we were on mundane Monday. Both camps are claiming a victory after yesterday's showdown. The Clinton camp can point to the big states of NY, NJ and California as proving that their candidate is the one who has appeal to voters on both coasts. The Obama campaign can point to Missouri, Illinois, Connecticut and Georgia as good indicators of their candidates appeal.

My pre-vote predictions (of Hillary winning 13 of the primaries) took a hit when Obama eked out a win in Connecticut. That state along with Delaware and Missouri provided him the margin of victory in the "states won" category (although I did point out in my predictions article that those states were among a group of five that he could win). It was very important for the Clinton camp to hold on to NJ and Massachusetts because some late polling indicated that Obama might actually have overtaken her in those states. If Obama had been able to pull off the upset in either one of those states, he would have been anointed the front runner. His campaign prefers the underdog role, so it would not have been a label that they would have been comfortable with, but the press would have done so anyway.

The delegate count will be fairly even between the two candidates when all the dust settles. Obama may actually come out with a very small lead in actual pledged delegates from Super Tuesday. The Obama camp will point out that it is all about the delegates and at the end of the day; they performed better than Clinton did. The Clinton camp will say that he built that small advantage in small states that traditionally vote Republican in the general election and where they didn't spend any money to try and compete. However those delegates count just like the delegates in California do (however unlike the delegates in Michigan and Florida).

The next group of primaries and caucuses may in fact provide Barack Obama with the momentum that he needs heading into the next "Super Tuesday" in March when Ohio and Texas voters will head to the polls. There have been no polls taken in those states recently, but Hillary should have a natural advantage given the make up of the states. Obama's hope is to build up a significant head of steam with victories in Louisiana, Washington, Nebraska, Virginia, Maryland, D.C., Maine, Hawaii and Wisconsin in order to try and cut into Hillary's lead in the Texas and Ohio primaries. It is possible that he could sweep all those states, but Hillary will try to make a stand in Virginia and possibly Wisconsin in order to blunt his charge. At this point her campaign will try to focus their resources on the March states. They will depict themselves as the underdog and try to minimize any victories that Obama racks up, while making the most of any "upset" that might occur in Hillary's favor.

The race still has a long way to go, but for the first time I can actually see a way for Obama to win. It has been proven that the more time that he has in front of the voters of a state, the more support he picks up. Given the lag time between the remaining primaries and his significant lead in fund raising, he may be able to simply overwhelm the Clinton campaign. If he were win both Texas and Ohio (an extreme long shot), I believe the chorus of people calling for Hillary Clinton to step aside would become too loud for her to ignore. I still think that Hillary will find a way to win. She is certainly competitive with Obama in all the states before March and if she can win a couple she can stem his momentum. Also, Obama has yet to show his ability to beat Hillary in a big state where the African American vote is not decisive (Texas, Ohio, Pennsylvania would all fall into that category). She can parlay her wins in those big states to corral as many super delegates as possible in order to win the first vote at the convention.

It is starting to look like this may very well go all the way to Denver and the democratic convention (In fact I see that as the best bet for Hillary Clinton to win the nomination). I think every political reporter and political junkie would feel like they had died and gone to heaven if that were to happen. A brokered convention is the stuff of legend and hasn't happened in over half a century. It's probably not the best thing for the Democratic Party, but at this point it may be inevitable. And while the back room deals are being cut with the super delegates, the future of the country could be decided on which side is willing to give out the better deals.

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