Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Late observations on Super Tuesday

Round two of banter about projections, exit polls, momentum, delegate counts, and wall-to-wall television punditry:
  • Barack Obama has won 13 states thus far to Hillary Clinton's eight, but she claimed a big prize today in California, where early returns indicate she's building a margin that's larger than expected. Still, as the pundits have told us time and again, it's the delegate count that matters, and the early indication is that the national split will be about 50/50.
  • John McCain has taken 10 states, but today's biggest winner could be Mike Huckabee, who may well have shored up the Republicans' vice presidential nomination with triumphs in the GOP strongholds of Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, and Tennessee. The shock with which the talking heads have greeted the idea that a Southern Baptist preacher would do well in the South has been an endless source of amusement.
  • Clinton's campaign strategist called her Massachusetts win an upset. So it's supposed to be an upset for someone to win in a state where she has led from the beginning and had a seven-point edge in the polls going into today? Really?
  • Creatively named "upsets" aside, the biggest surprise on the Democratic side was Obama's win in Connecticut. The Northeast is Clinton's home turf, a region where she sewed up Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York with relative ease. Her campaign can't be comforted by a loss there.
  • Mitt Romney is done. So very, very done. Who ever would have expected Republican primary voters to reject a guy from Massachusetts who until recently was pro-choice and supported gay rights?
  • Caucuses are Obama's friends. The Iowa caucus vaulted him to prominence, and tonight he's rolled to enormous margins of victory in Alaska, Colorado, Idaho, Minnesota, and North Dakota. One possible explanation: Caucuses tend to attract parties' hardcore political junkies, and Obama's support is greater among them. Another possible explanation: Caucuses tend to happen in the West and Midwest, where Obama's support appears to be stronger. A third possible explanation: It's all just an accident of circumstance.
  • Regionalism has continued on the Democratic side. So far, Obama has dominated in the Midwest, and Clinton has swept all the Northeastern states except Connecticut. The wildcards are the West and South, where Obama seems to have a narrow edge right now.
  • Republican contenders keep dropping out, but Ron Paul's vote share stays about the same. As determined and fervent as his supporters may be, a second-place finish in Montana just won't be enough to make it happen.
  • The Clinton campaign made a tactical error by letting Obama have the last word tonight. Had they held off the speech until the media called California for their candidate, Clinton could have made a good case that she had the momentum going forward. As it is, they ceded the traditional "winner's slot" to Obama and helped ensure the narrative instead will be more about Obama's ascendancy.
  • Sure, you mock the American Samoa caucus now. But those three delegates will split 2-1 for Clinton, and as close as the race appears, who's to say that won't be the difference?
The race goes on and on and on. Wouldn't it be funny if this turned out to be the year when Alabama's primaries, for once, would have gotten more attention by staying in June?


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