Thoughts about the 2008 Presidential race – Louisiana aftermath

February 10, 2008

In the space of two weeks, the Presidential race has been simplified on both sides. We will discuss where the race stands in the aftermath of the Louisiana primary.
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Democrats

Super Tuesday was essentially a draw, with Obama posting some impressive wins from Connecticut to Alaska. And while Hillary won most of the larger states, Obama was competitive enough to where he pulled within 100 delegate votes of Hillary. Now the race enters a new phase, as states either with a large “latte liberal” or black populations are holding primaries. In the February 9 primaries, Louisiana, Nebraska, and Washington voted, and Obama swept all three states. Despite the networks calling Louisiana “too close to call”, Obama eventually swept Louisiana 57-36% and carried 44 of 64 parishes, while Hillary only carried rural parishes and/or parishes with low black populations. As expected, Obama rolled up huge majorities in black majority parishes, but he also performed surprisingly well in upscale suburban areas like St Tammany and Jefferson Parishes.

While the “Hillarycratic” coalition of “downscale” Democrats, older women, organizational Democrats, and Hispanics is formidable, it will be interesting to see whether expected Obama victories in up to six states between today and “Super Tuesday II” on March 4 will begin to fracture that coalition and give Obama a victory in Texas or Ohio. A victory in either of those states would be a crippling blow to Hillary’s campaign.

At this stage in the game, Hillary Clinton’s odds of winning the Democratic nomination are 5:4 favorable.

Republicans

While there is considerable grumbling from movement conservatives, those in the blogosphere, and those in talk radio, John McCain remains in a commanding position to get the delegates he needs to get the nomination, and the Republican organization has begun to coalesce behind him.

Still, libertarian Ron Paul and Mike Huckabee remain in the race, and some interesting patterns have begun to emerge. Huckabee is the “favorite son” in the Southern states, especially those without a large population of northern migrants. The rest of the vote is now going to McCain by default, with his strongest support being in the Northeastern/Midwestern states that would likely have voted for Rudy Giuliani. In the February 9 primaries, McCain (as of the time this article was being written) clung to a narrow lead in Washington, while Huckabee swept Kansas and narrowly won Louisiana.

The Louisiana results were interesting as well: while Huckabee carried the state 43-42%, he did so by carrying 43 parishes mainly west, north, and northwest of Lafayette, some by large margins. McCain carried the more moderate areas around Lafayette, Baton Rouge, andNew Orleans; interestingly, these patterns of support were similar to areas where Jay Dardenne (the “McCain moderate”) and Mike Francis (the “Huckabee conservative”) performed well in the 2006 special election for Secretary of State.

While Huckabee and Ron Paul have vowed to remain in the race, the question becomes whether Huckabee can expand his base beyond that of more rural evangelical voters so he can be competitive in remaining primary states. Since nearly all of the states of the former Confederacy will have voted by the time Super Tuesday II rolls around on March 4, it is essential that Huckabee “break through” in Texas or Ohio if he wants his candidacy to survive.

In Louisiana, as in most of the primary states so far, there was clearly more enthusiasm on the Democratic side, as 384,000 (or 25%) of registered Democrats voted, while only 161,000 (or 19%) of registered Republicans voted. The Democratic turnout is numerically more than twice what it was in 2004, while the Republican turnout is 60% more than it was in 2000.

At this stage in the game, John McCain has a 90% chance of winning the Republican nomination.

Conclusion

The real questions at this point are: (1) How much fight does Mike Huckabee have left in him, (2) to what extent will Obama sweep the primaries between now and March 4, and (3) what kind of momentum (positive or negative) will these primaries create for Barack Obama as he faces the “Hillarycrats” in Texas or Ohio on March 4 ?


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