Saturday, March 08, 2008

Race for the White House- 3/8/08

At long last, the general election is under way... sort of.

The past week saw Arizona Senator John McCain officially clinch the number of delegates in order to become the Republican Presidential nominee, in addition to seeing his last remaining credible opponent (or opponents if you count Ron Paul) end their races for President. The day after winning the last four states, McCain was officially embraced by the Republican National Committee and by President Bush as the new standard bearer of the Grand Old Party. McCain is now entering a several month period where he will need to raise money, define himself more to the voters, pick a runningmate, and plan a national convention and general election campaign.

There are many challengers for a Republican nominee for President this year and McCain, while having some strenghts that others may not have had, also may have some additional difficulties in the context of a general election. However, he has probably got to be marveling at his good fortune that the race to be his opponent is still undecided between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama and will remain so for at least seven more weeks and quite possibly five and a half more months. McCain will get to enjoy watching the two Democrats hammer away at each other rhetorically and financially in a contest that is far from over.

Tuesday night for the Democrats begin with Obama, as expected, easily being declared the winner in Vermont, his 13th consecutive victory over Clinton. As the night progressed however, Clinton rebounded with a solid win in Rhode Island, and then most signifcantly, a double digit win in Ohio followed by a 4 point win in the Texas primary. The fact that Obama may have won the evening's caucus portion of the Texas two-step and may not have really seen his lead in pledged delegates that serious eroded to are overshadowed by the media attention played to Clinton's comeback and two huge victories on a night when many were expecting her campaign to suffer a knockbout blow.

Clinton had begun the Ohio and Texas campaigns with a large lead in the polls but then was eventually overtaken by Obama in those public opinion surveys as he vastly outspent her on the airways and had such a perception of national momentum. But in the last two weeks or so, Clinton fought back hard, and often quite negative, against Obama and the Illinois Senator seemed to wilt under some serious media scrutiny for the first time regarding a controversy surrounding his position on NAFTA and what may or may not have been said in his campaign in a private meeting with the Canadian government as well as the beginning of the Tony Rezko trial in a federal courtroom in Chicago.

It is also worth nothing that the return of Saturday Night Live from the writers' strike may actually have helped Clinton a great deal. The past two weeks have seen the show parody the media's seeming love affair with Obama and a perceived inbalance of coverage between the two Democrat candidates. In a move that was initially viewed as highly suspect, Clinton actually referenced a SNL sketch in a face to face debate with Obama and then made a cameo appearance on the show the following Saturday. It just could be that the comedic depiction of media fawning over Obama made some in the media become a little bit more sensitive of their behavior and thus Obama faced greater media scrutiny on the campaign trail.

The end result to this is that with two wins in two big states, and the fact that she has won virtually every large state that has voted in a primary, Hillary Clinton has absolutely no intention of dropping out of the race at this point. Both candidates have plenty of money to use against each other, while Obama still has more, and political observers will point to the fact that Obama still has a lead among pledged delegates and that it would be virtually impossible for that to be erased, even after Puerto Rico finally votes in June.

So, the Democrats are basically in a standstill and the campaign marches on. Obama easily won Wyoming today as expected and he is expected to do the same on Tuesday in the state of Mississippi. The next really big contest will not occur until April 22 in Pennsylvania. The state will be subjected to incredible amounts of campaigning and media attention between now and then. Much of the discussion will also involve just what to do about Michigan and Florida, two states that voted for Hillary Clinton (with Obama either not on the ballot or not contesting the state) earlier in the winter, but are currently being stripped of all convention delegates by the DNC for breaking party rules in the scheduling of their primaries.

One could virtually write a book about all the intrigue that is occuring on the Democrat side and what may come in what could be a once in a lifetime political development which would culiminate with a contested convention in Denver and the prospect of multiple ballots. It is especially interesting since Tuesday to hear the Clinton campaign try to publicly make it seem like Hillary would be willing to make Obama her Vice Presidential selection. Of course, the Illinois Senator believes he would be the one to deserve a place at the top of the ticket and for a variety of reasons, these statements by both Bill and Hillary Clinton should probably be viewed more as a strategic political ploy with an eye towards future contests and unpledged superdelegates than a realistic "deal in the works."

In the meantime, John McCain will settle in for several weeks to several months of watching his final two opponents continue to go at it.


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