Wednesday, March 5, 2008

And the Race Goes On...

...and on, and on...

What if they held a presidential nominating contest and nobody ever won?
Actually, I don't know what the big hurry is. Whoever decreed that the arbitrary date of March 4th is when we should determine our presidential nominees - when the general election isn't for another nine months? I find this primary season rather exciting, and fascinating, and it appears record numbers of voters do, too, so why not let it entertain us for a few more months? As Oscar Wilde once said, "The suspense is terrible. I hope it lasts!"

Hillary Clinton came dangerously close to ending it Tuesday, but instead pulled off the Clinton family's latest miracle comeback, turning Sort of Super Tuesday into just another milepost on the long 2008 campaign trail. She won a predictable landslide in blue collar Rhode Island, took Ohio by a surprisingly impressive margin, and pulled out a nailbiter in the Texas primary. At this writing (almost 2am in California; it's been a long night!), the Texas caucus results are coming in by Pony Express or something, so all I can tell you is that Barack Obama has a narrow lead in the after-hours portion of the Texas voting. Obama did wallop Clinton in Vermont, but that too was a foregone conclusion. For his trouble there, I think Obama wins eight delegates, a new bong and a lifetime's supply of Ben and Jerry's Chunky Monkey.

(By the way, we have a lifetime's supply of sound from last night's festivities, including Hillary Clinton's rousing victory speech, Barack Obama's tepid "But I'm still winning" speech, John McCain's nomination-clinching valedictory, and Mike Huckabee's farewell comedy routine, er, I mean, concession speech. Not to mention analysis galore, from the likes of San Francisco State whiz Joe Tuman. By morning, I'm sure we will have heard from Marc Sandalow, Carla Marinucci, Phil Matier and many others, so check the KCBS home page or Sovern Nation Featured Audio for the very latest interviews).

(And while I'm on this ADD digression, did you know you can download all our audio, including our hit songs, on iTunes, for free? If you subscribe to the Sovern Nation podcast there, they even download automatically to your computer so you never miss any...)

And now back to our primary.

Later today, John McCain will go to the White House, where he will be anointed with oil by President Bush, officially commencing the fence-mending portion of the Republican primary process. You can bet the Democrats will TiVo every bear hug and smile-for-the-cameras grin of the Bush-McCain lovefest, to display this fall for the 70% of voters who think Bush is a lousy president. But for now, McCain has no choice but to gladly accept the endorsement of the man who savaged him in 2000 with some of the lowest blows in modern American politics. He still needs to reassure the conservatives who don't trust him. He will also gain instant access to the apparatus of the Republican National Committee, including the Bush family's fundraising database, which will be invaluable to McCain if he's able to opt out of public financing.

Meanwhile, Clinton and Obama go on to Pennsylvania, for what amounts to Iowa and New Hampshire redux, except this time in a state that is much more representative of the rest of the nation. It's big, it's diverse, it's urban, it's rural. It's got manufacturing and farms, street gangs and Amish, Polish Catholic steelworkers and patrician Main Line WASPs. If the Dems brawl like Eagles fans, it will certainly help McCain, who will be busy marshaling resources for the fall and honing his November message. If they can stay civil (say, more like Packers fans), then at least the Democrats will benefit from an awful lot of free media attention and the concentrated focus of all these engaged voters. They will have the spotlight to themselves, so they'd best use it wisely.

But no matter who wins Pennsylvania - I assume Obama will win Wyoming this Saturday and Mississippi next Tuesday, but they're not that consequential - this thing probably won't be settled, even after the last Democrat in Puerto Rico votes June 7 (please write to my news director, urging him to send me to P.R. to cover that one!). By our reckoning, there are 1088 delegates left to give out - but only 745 of them will be determined by the voters. The rest are uncommitted superdelegates. At this hour, Obama needs at least 513 to win the nomination; Clinton needs 602. That makes it virtually impossible for either one of them to clinch this at the polls. If they split the remaining delegates, and the supers divide evenly, then Obama wins. But if Clinton gets on a little bit of a roll, she could easily claim enough delegates to keep Obama from being the nominee, while still falling short herself. You can see how the math could work for either of them still - or, more likely, neither one - leaving the nomination in the hands of the dreaded superdelegates.

Is the bloom off the rose for Obama? Did he peak too soon? Are the voters having second thoughts? I was going to explore those questions here, but it's long past time to put me to bed - even if we can't say the same yet for the Democratic presidential race.


Anonymous said...

All of a sudden the superdelegates are super once again. The shift in momentum gives those who favor Hillary another reason to stand their ground against the argument that Obama is the people's choice. If Obama still leads but it's close at the end, party politics may trump popularity.

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