Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Super Tuesday Fallout

The potential existed for both parties to lock up a solid nominee on Super Tuesday, although the polls generally showed that things might get close in the Democratic contests. What we saw yesterday was a potential clincher for Sen. John McCain and a near knockout blow to Mitt Romney. Sen. Hillary Clinton and Sen. Barack Obama used energized voting turnouts around the country to inject an excitement into the Democratic Party that hasn't been seen since Bill Clinton became the "Comeback Kid", and more appropriately, since the Kennedy era.

What does it all mean?

On the GOP side of things, I think the showing in the rural South by Mike Huckabee proved that McCain is vulnerable in that area and that he needs a true social conservative as his running mate to make up for his perceived shortcomings with that base constituency. Huckabee is a virtual lock for that honor, in my opinion, for a few reasons. First, if Hillary Clinton is the Democratic nominee, she figures to show very strong in Arkansas. With a big win in a southern state like Arkansas, others may follow including Missouri and perhaps Tennessee. Those states, in the Democratic column, might just tip the scales toward Clinton and may even portend a landslide. With Huckabee on the ticket, a former governor of Arkansas, that advantage is completely neutralized.

Second, McCain is considered a moderate by the party's ultra-conservative base, which is harmful to him in many circles, but helps him to stay competitive in the more purple states like Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Michigan. Huckabee would likely attract the South to the GOP column, where the Dems might otherwise strike a few upsets. A combination of McCain/Huckabee might carry the base in all the constituencies that HAVE to be won, while challenging in the contested areas as well. If Huckabee isn't McCain's running mate, there might be some trouble in GOP land. The other potential candidates won't have enough time to energize the crucial regions of the country that Huckabee has already captured with his presidential run. This campaign began 6 months ago in many ways and the groundwork has been laid for the symbolic association required of the presidential candidate that a running mate will only give a marginal boost. The VP candidate is largely a symbol assigned to fill in gaps in the perception of the presidential candidate. With McCain there are so many perceived gaps in his conservative resume that a last minute running mate can't completely cover. Huckabee has been on the scene the whole time and therefore carries a lot of weight as a #2. Stay Tuned.

The final piece of the GOP puzzle to discuss is the fall off of Mitt Romney. He took a lot for granted in his campaign. He assumed that attacking McCain as a "liberal" would ingratiate him to the conservative base. His rhetoric aimed at presenting himself as the conservative alternative to McCain, but the base knows Romney well enough to know that he was a "liberal" Republican during his tenure as governor of Massachusetts. His flip-flopping on core conservative issues left doubt about his credentials and sent most of the Right searching for an alternative to BOTH McCain and Romney. Whoops. Must have forgotten the other half of the equation when attacking McCain, huh Mitt? He is finished. There's no way he can make up for the failures he endured on Super Tuesday, but he'll keep spending his money for a little while trying to score in the next round. If he doesn't nearly sweep the next set of states, he'll drop out. (He might drop out in the next few days if his family wavers....something to watch.)

The Democrats will spin the results of Super Tuesday to suit their agendas, but both Clinton and Obama have plenty to think over. Clinton was winning most of the Super Tuesday states by double digits for months, and in many of those areas she had 20 or 30+ point leads. Obama's political machine has proved that it has energy, momentum, and a solid plan of attack. Clinton's name recognition and superb political skills set her out ahead of the field by 20 lengths as the campaign began. In fact, her New York Senatorial campaigns were largely seen as warm ups to this presidential run. She's been on the radar as a presidential hopeful for so long that the image has already been solidified in the public's mind. Obama is so savvy and so inspirational that he has closed the recognition gap to a dead heat in a matter of two months. Clinton managed to win the big delegate states, and can therefore crow about her Super Tuesday victory, but the fact is she should have won those states. Obama managed to nearly duplicate her delegate total by splitting the contested states, while racking up wins in the lower point locations.

The Democratic primaries are a much different animal that the GOP contests. A candidate may lose a state by 10, 15, or 20 percentage points, but split the delegates evenly if the local victories occur in the right places. In many cases, Obama managed to pull off that strategy. Clinton has to be very worried about the tremendous climb that Obama has made recently both in the polls and in the finance arena. Obama is out-raising her by $3 to $1 at this point and will have a huge war chest to blitz the remaining states with ads and on the ground volunteers. She may be worried about the momentum and the money, but the climb for Obama is still very steep. He will have to win the remaining big delegate states by convincing margins to catch Clinton. She's ahead and she is still the better known candidate. The Superdelegate situation also favors Clinton at this point. The way it works, Party officials and high profile members get a vote at the convention that equals the total of some Congressional districts. Not only do they get their personal vote, but they get a big enchilada 2nd vote as well. This seems hardly legal in a representative democracy, but that's the system until we change it.

Clinton is a Party insider with a lot of favors to cash in. When Bill Clinton was president he MADE a lot of the people in the Party hierarchy and can claim loyalty from them in support of his wife. That's the shady reality of this process. The hope for Obama is to swell the national tide in his favor, win the big states which remain and take the overall lead, and grab as many undecided Superdelegates as he can. It's an uphill battle, but he has a puncher's chance that could become much more than that in the next two to three weeks.

For my part, I will use this forum to officially endorse Barack Obama. You will find a link to his campaign website in the right column, and I encourage everyone to go take a look at his positions on the key issues of this election and watch some video of his inspirational leadership style. I've donated to his campaign and it was money well spent. If you can afford to drop a small amount of cash in his coffers, I guarantee he will use it well and make a run at representing all of us as president in a dignified and responsible manner. Go Obama!!!!

UPDATE: MSNBC is reporting that Barack Obama leads Hillary Clinton in the standard delegate count by a thin margin of 838 to 834 after the Super Tuesday count is finished. Of course, she has a 100 or so point advantage in the Superdelegate race keeping her the frontrunner, but this is meaningful.

No comments: