Sunday, March 02, 2008

Fly in the Ointment

The Democratic party, while hoping for the best, is bracing for the worst from High Noon Tuesday. The best case scenario has Obama winning both Texas and Ohio and for all intents and purposes bringing the campaign to an end. They also wouldn't mind a split decision, with Obama taking either of the big states. The nightmare comes about if Hillary wins both states by very small margins. If this happens then she has the impetus to continue to contest the nomination even with no hope of actually overtaking Obama in the delegate count.

A win by 3-4 points won't make any difference in the overall delegate count, but it will make a difference in the perception of the press and the voters. Even with a win in both states and a win in Rhode Island, early projections have her picking up about 3-5 more delegates than Obama. However, if she does win three out of four, she will be better able to dictate the narrative of the coverage of the race. Currently most of the press is in a "death watch" over her campaign. A lot of the coverage focuses on when she might leave the race and what a potential Obama-McCain race shapes up in the fall. With the momentum of a few victories behind her, she can refocus the debate on her strengths versus Obama. Her campaign will talk about her resilience and the fact that Obama has been unable to close out the race.

Something I said earlier is that perception is reality in a political race. If the press begins to report about the new momentum in the Clinton campaign, then the voters will begin to respond. Just as the positive press coverage has allowed Obama to close 20%+ leads in Ohio and Texas, positive coverage of Clinton will allow her to better maintain her leads or cut into his. With McCain on the verge of wrapping up his nomination, the Democratic party would like nothing better than to have the race effectively come to an end on Tuesday night. No one in the party leadership would say any such thing out loud, but they know that the longer that their candidates fight each other, the less time they have to work against their ultimate foe in the fall.

So what happens on Tuesday night. I'll go this far and say that Clinton will win Rhode Island/Ohio and Obama will win in Vermont. The million dollar question mark for the Democrats is Texas. The polls have been unreliable up this point and while both Clinton and Obama have been shown with leads, the race remains a toss up. The fact that the state has a primary and a caucus complicates matters in even calling a winner. Is the winner the person who wins the popular vote? Or is it the person who ends up with the most delegates? Since 1/3 of the delegates are apportioned via the caucus, it is possible that the winner of the popular vote comes out of the process with less delegates. The Clinton's have already threatened legal action that may postpone the release of the caucus results. This would allow a Clinton win in the popular vote to not be over shadowed by an Obama win in the caucus.

It's amazing that the Democratic race has come down to a state that is solid Republican territory. The fact that the Texas race is an open primary may eventually end up making the difference. The ultimate irony of this Democratic primary season may very well be that Texas Republicans end up deciding who becomes the nominee of the Democratic party.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Texas scares the sh*t outta me. Open primary? What the GDF?! Our entire process is out of whack. -Republicans being able to vote for/determine a democratic nominee? That makes the electoral process look fair and unconflicted by comparison.