Sunday, February 03, 2008

Super Tuesday

It's two short days to the closest thing we have to a national primary. Will someone on either side emerge from Tuesday as the nominee, or will things be just as confused as they've been after all the voting so far?


I think the Republicans have a much better chance of having a presumptive nominee on Wednesday. Romney may have won the minor Maine caucuses yesterday, but John McCain certainly seems like he has the momentum. That's particularly important on the Republican side because they have winner-take-all primaries in some of the biggest states, such as New York and New Jersey. Remember that a winner-take-all system is also a plurality-take-all system -- John McCain won Florida's entire delegation last week with only 36% of the vote. Even where they don't have winner-take-all primaries, the GOP systems generally favor the candidate who wins the plurality within a state or a congressional district, exaggerating the margin of victory.

So all McCain has to do is finish ahead of Romney and Huckabee in several big states and he should pretty much wrap things up. Huckabee's running 3rd place nationally, and if he dropped out it would consolidate the anti-McCain vote to Mitt Romney, but he's in this at least through Tuesday because a lot of Southern states will be voting then. He may even pick up more delegates than Romney on Tuesday. Romney may like his chances in a two-man race against McCain, but it's not a two-man race, and the way things are structured puts things very much in McCain's favor. Romney will need several big wins to stay alive; if he doesn't get them, it's over.


The Democratic side is likely to be indecisive after Tuesday because the party mandates proportional delegate allocation. That means that close wins really only mean a difference of relatively few delegates either way, and if different states break for different candidates, the delegate allocations are likely to balance each other out. I think the only way one Democratic candidate wakes up on Wednesday as the presumptive nominee is if they come out ahead in the vast majority of contested states on Tuesday. Not because they'd necessarily have enough delegates to push them past the post, but because it would mean they've won the rhetorical war, and the media would treat them as the winner.

Helpful sites

This AP article does a good job explaining the vagaries of the delegate allocation process, particularly the proportional- within- congressional district system on the Democratic side. Wikipedia can help you keep track of things on the Republican or Democratic sides. This website will help you keep track of just who these Democratic "superdelegates" are, and who they have or haven't endorsed.

Looking ahead to November

As to the implications of the results, I think that a Clinton-McCain matchup in November is probably the Democrats' worst-case scenario. Clinton hasn't shown much appeal beyond her party's base, and McCain has for his. Obama would bring more young voters to the polls and also attract more independents than Hillary.

Of course, the running mate also counts to a certain extent. If Hillary wins the nomination but she and Obama make nice and run together as a ticket, he might be able to retain some of his appeal to voters who wouldn't otherwise vote for Clinton.

If Obama wins the nomination, on the other hand, I don't see Hillary becoming his running mate. Who would he pick? Kansas governor Kathleen Sebelius, who delivered the Democrats' response to the State of the Union Address, is considered a top candidate, since she's shown crossover appeal as a Democrat able to win in a "red state." John Edwards might help Obama pick up some white voters in the South. Bill Richardson has also been touted as a possibility, but his poor showing in the primaries show that he wouldn't be much of an asset on the campaign trail. Joe Biden would be good as an attack dog in the campaign, and would help get things done in Congress if he were elected. Any one of the above would also work as a Hillary Veep, too. Oh well, we'll see.

Republicans in November

I don't like McCain by any stretch of the imagination, but I suppose he'd be a lot better than the guy in office now. Being honest, though, the VP candidate matters a lot for a guy his age. Will the neocons have a conniption if he chooses Huckabee to shore up the Southern vote? Or will he choose Rudy "Il Duce" Giuliani, who looks worse and worse to the American people the more they see of him (and rightly so)?

And will Ron Paul run on the Libertarian ticket, siphoning off Republican votes the way Ralph Nader did to the Democrats in 2000? The danger there is that he might siphon off Democrats not enamored of Hillary, also, but overall a Paul third-party run would probably be a good thing for the Democrats.


At Monday, February 4, 2008 at 12:19:00 AM PST, Anonymous Victor said...

There's a Podcast of me discussing Super Tuesday for a Canadian newspaper, which pretty much tracks what you say, here (and then scroll for my name).


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