Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Super Tuesday Preview (Dennis)

So for all you politics addicts I decided to put together a guide to Super Tuesday. Hopefully you're less of a politics geek than me, so this will be useful.

First, the Republicans:

The Republican contest on Super Tuesday is pretty simple. John McCain has everything going for him and should sweep most states. If he does not, it will be a huge shock. Some people would say that it's all over for Mittmentum, but remember that the national press has wrongly buried McCain, Obama, Clinton, Obama (again) and, painful as it is for me to say, the Giants. So while Mittmentum appears to be dead, we shouldn't write any premature obituaries.

Now, the Democrats:

If the Republican primaries are shaping up to be like Desert Storm, where an overwhelming coalition defeated an out-gunned megalomaniac (hello Mitt!), the Democratic primaries are shaping up to be like the Napoleonic Wars, a long protracted struggle between two well heeled adversaries, with epic battles taking place across a continent and even around the world. Super Tuesday is merely the first major battle in the war. No matter who wins the battle or by how much, the Democrats' proportional system of allotting delegates guarantees that the delegate fight will continue into the spring at least.

The Scene

As Super Tuesday approaches we can be sure of very few things. Given the uncertainty of polls, the fluidity of the situation, and the unprecedented nature of what we will see virtually any outcome is possible in either direction. So, this preview won't attempt to predict anything, but rather put the event in context and assess the likelihood of certain outcomes based on what information we do have.

One thing we can be relatively sure about is that Barack Obama is (pardon the expression) surging. Across the board, in every state, and nationally his poll numbers are significantly up from a month or even a week ago. More than that, there is some evidence that Obama is out-raising Clinton recently. Obama reports raising $32 million in January whereas the Clinton camp reported that they had raised “at least $10 million.” This makes sense since so many of Obama's donors are small donors who he can repeatedly go back to, whereas Clinton's donor list has always been populated with a lot of people who have already maxed out. We may now be seeing the consequence of that.

With the incoming money and increasing popularity, time is on Obama's side. What makes this even more apparent is a look at the states beyond Feb. 5th . First off is Maryland, DC, and Virginia on Feb. 12th, where the Democrats are mostly yuppies, former yuppies, and African Americans: all are in Obama's base. Then the fight goes on to include a lot of Red States, and in the open primaries there Republican Hillary-haters will have nowhere to vote but in the Democratic primaries. (For a good visualization of the states and their schedules, go to electoral-vote.com)

This has made the goal for Clinton in this primary to have a good enough performance to put her impossibly ahead in delegates and to stop the Obama surge. The goal for Obama is to escape tonight with some states to hold up as an accomplishment and to not be mortally wounded in the delegate count. In keeping with the Napoleonic War analogy, Obama is Russia, able to keep up the fight in a long war, whereas Clinton is France, with many advantages in the here and now but seeking a decisive battle before winter makes things much harder. Though, here, the result is far from inevitable and both outcomes are possible. Now, let's take a look at the 22 states that will be voting on Tuesday.

The Home States

Illinois and New York, the home states of Obama and Clinton respectively will be voting on Tuesday. With proportional delegate allotment making any separation between the candidates difficult, they are both counting on blowout states (states where they can score a large victory) to put some daylight between them and their opponent. No blowout state for either candidate are as big as their home states, so its important for them to put up a large number there. Illinois is smaller with only 185 delegates (including super-delegates) to NY's 281.

If there were one thing that would keep me up at night if I were Mark Penn it would be the uneaten chocolate doughnut in the fridge. If there were another thing that would keep me up at night it would be that while Obama's Illinois numbers are holding, Clinton's NY numbers appear to be slipping according to the averages I saw on pollster. Now, there is almost no way either of these two lose their home state, but a victory by only ten points or so would be a bad hit in terms of the delegate count. However, Hillary has more of a margin to play with because she is in the larger state. So, as long as she doesn't slip too much relative to Obama, they should simply cancel each other out. Strong Clinton and Obama respectively.


California is the big delegate prize with stars, glitz, glamor, and, most importantly, 441 delegates. Polls show Obama has tied it up in the polls here or even in the lead. I would be surprised, however, if he won since voting there has been going on for about a month and Clinton held a double digit advantage earlier in the month. Obama's goal here has to be to hold the line. With so many delegates at stake there is a danger of getting blown out, but if the late move isn't an illusion he should make up enough ground to not get hurt too badly. Lean Hillamonster.

Eastern Time Zone:
Besides New York, 5 states will be among the first to close their polls, they are...

Delaware- Who the hell knows? Does anybody know anyone from Delaware? Has anyone been there outside of a train station and I-95? I mean really, this state could actually be Joe Biden and a bunch of corporations. Toss-up.

"Where am I from? um...I'm from New York!": Ah the New York's two moons, Connecticut and New Jersey! Given their close relationship with the Empire State the punditocracy have been putting these in Hillary's column, which is good news for Obama since they are actually tossups according to the polls. These will be two early states to watch for an indication as to how the night will go. If Clinton holds both and racks up points in NY she will be well on her way to victory. If Obama takes one he'll be on target. If Obama gets both it will be quite the story.

Massacusetts- Boston oh Boston, home of the bean and the cod, where the Lowells talk only to Cabots and the Cabots talk only to God. Despite all the endorsements Obama's getting from Senators McWhiskey and Frankenstein, my home state looks to be solidly in Camp Hillary. The only hope Obama has is rage from the Super Bowl loss being channeled at the New York based Clinton clan. There is precedent for this: In 1978 Michael Dukakis, the incumbent governor, lost the Democratic primary badly after being up significantly in the polls. The primary was days after the Red Sox were swept by the New York Yankees, completing a historic collapse in that year's pennant race. Many serious analysts actually attributed Dukakis' loss to the change in the mood of the electorate the loss caused. Strong Hillary.

Georgia: Georgia appears to be one of the states where Obama will be able to win big. It's basically South Carolina II: Barack Rides Again. Don't Tell Mama, Georgia's For Obama.

The next batch of States will be the nine states that make up the Central Time Zone in several catagories...

Cold Midwesterners Caucusing: Minnesota and North Dakota have caucuses on Feb. 5th. They are cold, have funny accents, and are gathering in caucus halls to determine their state's delegates. Is this heaven? God no, but it does sound a whole lot like Iowa, slight edge to Obama here in both states.

Old Stomping Grounds: Kansas and Arkansas aren't quite home states for Hillary and Obama, but they both spent some time there. Obama has the endorsement of Queen of Snooze, Kathleen Sibelius, in Kansas and in Arkansas Hillary has...well...do we even really want to know what kind of shit will be going down in Arkansas on election day? The woman might be our nominee, after all. Hillamonster and Huckaboom supporters will be voting early and often I'd imagine. Slight edge for Obama in Kansas, Big edge for Hillary in Arkansas.

Stuck Inside of Mobile With the Memphis Blues Again: Tennessee and Alabama are two states from the South voting in the Central Time Zone. Polls show them going for Clinton and Obama respectively, but if Big Pappy Flannigan were in this race, with his straw hat, string bow tie, and seersucker suit, well, this thing would already be over in both states. Alabama seems like demographically it would be like Georgia and South Carolina, but it hasn't been going as strongly for Obama in the polls. We'll see if demographics or polls triumph on Tuesday. Slight edge for Hillary in Tennessee and Obama in Alabama.

The Swing State: Missouri will be a real test for team Obama, I think if they can capture Missouri they will be doing pretty well. It's a big, important bellweather state that they can hold up as a prize at the end of the night if they've lost a lot of states or are behind in delegates. Polls show Obama tied with Clinton or with a slight lead. Slight edge to Obama.

Who the Hell Knows: I bet you didn't know Oklahoma has Democrats. Well apparently they do, and they prefer Hillary by a wide margin, at least one poll says so. I'll go with that, I guess. Slight Edge to Indifference.

Mountain Time Zone

5 states close their polls together in the Mountain Time Zone. They are....

What? Mittmentum Isn't a Democrat???: Utah will be holding it's Democratic primary on Super Tuesday, which will be exciting for Utah Democrats as its their first chance for their vote to actually count. Apparently Obama polls really well here, it's like Bizzarro Oklahoma. Again, slight edge to Indifference.

Lots of Potatoes, Very Few Democrats: Idaho is cold, and it has a caucus, edge Obama. It's also a Red State which is Obama friendly. It is also very possible they operate their caucuses in an Estates General type manner with a third of the votes going to the “gay agenda,” a third going to “feminazis,” and a third going to actual Nazis (this is Idaho, after all) and nobody has noticed since there has never ever been a Democratic Presidential caucus that has mattered here. Who knows? Let's move on.

Lou Dobbs is Checking Your ID: Ah now we get to some juicy states. Arizona is holding a primary whereas New Mexico is holding a caucus. In these states, the Latino vote will obviously be huge, so we'll get to see if Obama has made any inroads in that community. Conventional Wisdom says that Hillary has the edge here because of said Latinos, and I tend to agree, but there was one interesting poll that showed Obama ahead among Latinos in Arizona.

Because of the Latino vote, these states will be an interesting precursor to California, with the results coming out slightly earlier. If these states are close, it means that Obama has closed the gap significantly with Latinos, and that he has better than a puncher's chance in California. If he gets blown out in these states, he can probably kiss an outright victory in CA goodbye.

Helping out Obama in Arizona will be Janet Napolitano, who is a pretty popular governor there. Bill Richardson seemed to have Bill Clinton over to his house for the Super Bowl in a show of solidarity, but no endorsement was forthcoming (perhaps he was just lonely?). It remains unclear as to whether either of these endorsements/quasi endorsements will have an effect. I feel like a much stronger motivating factor will be who the Democrats in these Red/Purple states think will be able to win over their Republican friends. I'd like to think the constant bashing Hillary must get in those parts will push them to decide for Obama, but I think you can make a case for both candidates. With that part of the equation ambivalent, I think the Latino vote still gives a slight overall edge to Clinton in both states.

Colorado is holding a caucus on Super Tuesday. Cold caucus + Red State = Obama.

Way out West:

Alaska will be the last to report. Cold caucus....Red State.

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