Saturday, February 02, 2008

Nomination Countdown- 2/2/08

While composing these entries in a disorganized, steam of conscious fashion, I need to be mindful not to attempt to write a novel every week or cover every single detail. I do think it would be interesting though to look back on these one day, perhaps very far down the road, and reminisce on how everything came together in the historic and unprecedented political year of 2008.

Allow me a brief rant though:

It is ridiculous that as February begins, the primary season is about to end and not about to begin. I am all for long general elections and for the parties (particularly the GOP) having ample time to come together, but this whole front-loaded calender is terrible. Of course, if my candidate were in better position at the moment, I might like it, but on principle, there should have been more time for people to actually take the time and start focusing on these contests. I do not believe that was going on during or immediately after the Holiday Season. In my view, the Iowa Caucuses could have been held on February 11 and all the same states could have voted, with Super Tuesday occuring on March 18. As it is now, we may not have decided nominees by then, but a calender like that would have been much better for our democratic process.

Anyway, moving on to reality, on the Republican side, John McCain is now the undisputed frontrunner, after a competitive victory over Mitt Romney in Florida. Rudy Giuliani immediately dropped out and backed his friend from Arizona, as have many other establishment figures. Had Romney won Florida, he would have been the frontrunner and would have had serious momentum moving into Super Tuesday. But now, political realities are that persuadable voters like to go with a "winner", and since the media has annointed McCain, it is probably going to be very difficult for him to be stopped. With so many states voting this coming Tuesday, McCain will probably win most, if not all of the larger contests, and should win the lions' share of delegates, particularly in winner take all states such as New York. Mike Huckabee remaining in the race, only helps McCain, by taking conservative votes away from Romney, and Huckabee has an outside chance to win a couple southern staters (or Missouri) outside of his native Arkansas, but more likely, Huckabee could make the difference for McCain in those states.

Of course, the candidate I support is Mitt Romney and he definitely has the potential to capitalize on the right's near-panic over the prospect of a McCain nomination due to differences on the issues, and a personal dislike that so many conservatives have for the self professed "straight talker's" personal and political tactics. That may have already been seen today by Romney's extremely strong showing in the Maine caucuses, even though most of the state's GOP establishment was behind McCain.

On Tuesday, Romney is expected to win at least a couple of states to which he has a personal connection and may be very competitive in others. He will especially focus on some of the smaller states that are holding caucuses, as opposed to primaries, thinking that a more conservative electorate will be to his favor. Additionally, other states such as California and Illinois are not winner take all, so Romney should definitely win a fair amount of delegates on Tuesday. However, they are likely to not be on par with what McCain will rack up, and unless Romney has a stronger night than most now expect, there will be calls for him to drop out in the name of party unity and healing.

Many others will implore Romney to open his checkbook more and stay in the race as long as he can in order to try to eventually curtail McCain or at least to send a message of protest. Whether Romney would choose to do that remains to be seen, but his campaign is talking about looking ahead to contests in places like Virginia and Texas. No matter what happens on Tuesday, the nomination will not be mathematically clinched for any Republican candidate, so it seems very possible that the campaign moves on, at least into March.

Moving on to the Democrats, Hillary Clinton won an expectedly solid, but perhaps not exceedingly so, victory in the Florida primary, in which no Democrat campaign had occured. Late deciding voters went for Barack Obama though and there is much reason to believe that he is the candidate with national momentum, in the wake of John Edwards's campaign withdrawal. While neither remaining candidate will probably have a great advantage from that development, conventional wisdom is that Obama might benefit more. After a couple weeks of brutal personal back and forths between the rival campaigns, Clinton and Obama attempted to play nicer in last weeks' final scheduled primary debate, but the race will probably get nasty again after Super Tuesday as there will either be pitched competition between the two or one of them may be feeling some political desperation.

I do believe though that Hillary's organizational strengths in the several states that will be voting, as well as an advantage with Hispanic voters, will give her at least a slightly more Super Tuesday than that of her opponent. Clinton will easily win New York and Obama will easily win Illinois, the state he represents. California will be the biggest contest though and Clinton probably has a slight advantage there as well as an advantage in Massachusetts, despite the fact that the state's Governor and both nationally prominent Senators are on board the Obama wagon. A potentially damaging blow to Obama's aspirations may occur if he were to lose either Georgia or Alabama, two states in which African-Americans will make up a large portion of the electorate. Obama appears to have a slight edge in Georgia, but interestingly enough Alabama appears to be a dead heat. Obama has certainly fallen behind Clinton among white voters in most states that have already voted, and if he is not able to continue domination among the black community, he is going to have a very hard hill to climb.

Another focus of the Obama campaign is similar to Romney on the Republican side, in which he will hope to win some of the smaller, conservative states, such as Idaho and Utah on the Democrat side. The thinking is that Obama might be more appealing personally to more conservative Democrats and independents in "red states", in spite of the fact that he was recently judged to be the most liberal Senator in the country, and has now been endorsed by the far left orginization

As previously mentioned, I think we will wake up on Wednesday to a conventional wisdom that Hillary Clinton is back in the drivers' seat for her party's nomination, despite the curious fact that national momentum seems to be with Obama. It would be very surprising though if either candidate gives serious thought to dropping out though after Super Tuesday.

While John McCain may very well be the last man standing for Republicans a week from now, the Democrats appear content to perhaps battle it out all the way until the Pennsylvania primary in April, and maybe even to this summer's convention.


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