Thoughts about the 2008 Presidential race – the calm before the Pennsylvania storm

March 13, 2008

If one thing has been consistent throughout the topsy-turvy primary season, it is that a candidate’s fortunes can change as quickly as it takes for a new round of primary returns to come in. John McCain is now officially the Republican nominee, while Barack Obama’s glaring weakness with “downscale” Democrats keeps Hillary Clinton closely behind. We will discuss where the race stands at this point.

Democrats

The tide began to turn against Obama after his Wisconsin victory. Not only did Obama’s “hands off” media treatment begin to change, but Hillary Clinton made an issue of Obama’s fitness to serve though the infamous “3AM ad” that was aired  before “Super Tuesday II”. She also benefited from Obama’s attempt to play both sides of the NAFTA debate, as he vocally opposed the treaty in Ohio while privately reassuring a Canadian diplomat that his opposition was “political posturing.” Finally, prominent conservatives like talk show host Rush Limbaugh muddied the primary waters a bit by encouraging primary voters to vote for Hillary Clinton as a means of prolonging the Democratic contest and indirectly giving John McCain’s campaign time to prepare for the fall campaign.

In the end, Hillary eked out a 51-47% win in Texas, and a slightly larger 54-44% win in Ohio. Her strength with Hispanics, blue collar whites, and rural whites held, while Obama maintained his strong support with blacks, urbanites, and young people. These consistent patterns of support also enabled Obama to win Mississippi by a whopping 61-37% margin (blacks made up nearly half of the primary vote), and to take the Wyoming caucuses 61-38% (curiously, the exception to the established patterns of support has been Obama’s strength in the Mountain West and Great Plains states – his Kansas connection likely helps).

Interestingly, though the media hailed Clinton’s Ohio and Texas wins as a comeback, the two essentially tied in additional delegates received from Ohio and Texas because of the way Democrats assign delegates and by the fact that Texas has a system of caucus voting (an area in which Obama’s organization excels) after the conclusion of the primary voting.

So where does the Democratic race go from here ? As this article is being written, Obama leads in the delegate count 1618 to 1494 (2025 are needed to win). There are 566 delegates to be selected from primaries/caucuses, and 335 “super delegates” have yet to formally state their preference. Hillary needs to get about 60% of the remaining delegates if she wants to get the nomination. These figures, however, do not account for a possible “do over” of the Florida and Michigan primaries – at the time of this article, Florida was considering a “mail in” primary. Below are the remaining primary dates, the applicable delegates, and the predicted winner as of the time this article is being written:

April 22 – Pennsylvania (158 – Hillary 55%)
May 3 – Guam (4 – Obama 65%)
May 6 – North Carolina (115 – Obama 55%) and Indiana (72 – Hillary 52%)
May 13 – West Virginia (28 – Hillary 60%)
May 20 – Oregon (52 – Obama 55%) and Kentucky (51 – Hillary 55%)
June 1 – Puerto Rico (55 – Hillary 60%)
June 3 – Montana (16 – Obama 65%) and South Dakota (15 – Obama 65%)
??? – 366 stripped delegates from Florida and Michigan
??? – 335 uncommitted “super delegates”

It’s worth noticing that the large anti Hillary vote means there seems to be a ceiling of 55-60% from state to state as to what she can get.  At this stage in the game, Hillary Clinton’s odds of winning the Democratic nomination are 50%. The “triple threat” of the superdelegates, Florida, and Michigan means that she could conceivably make up her delegate deficit in these places before the convention. Here are the states each Democratic candidate has won.

Republicans

After Super Tuesday II in Ohio and Texas, John McCain attained the delegate count he needed to become the Republican nominee. Mike Huckabee finally bowed out, and Ron Paul essentially did the same by focusing on his Congressional primary, which he won overwhelmingly. Now McCain has the luxury of having several months to raise money and search for a Vice Presidential selection. The question for him now is, will he spend his time reaching out to the more conservative Republican vote (which is likely his), or will he try to make a play for “light blue” states like Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota ?  Here are the states each Republican candidate has won
 


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