Last summer most political prognosticators, myself included, thought John McCain’s campaign for the Republican nomination and the White House was dead. He seemed extremely tired as he lumbered along. The “Straight Talk Express” seemed to be anything but comprised of straight talk or have enough energy to be called an express. The Iraq War continued to go badly yet he continued to defend President Bush and America’s involvement and he spoke strongly in favor of the “surge.” His poll numbers were terrible. At the same time, Rudolph Giuliani, “America’s Mayor,” was glibly making the rounds, talking tough, leading handsomely in the Republican candidate polls, and even garnering some political support from the right, most notably from Pat Robertson.
On the Democratic side, most prognosticators felt that Hillary Clinton would very likely secure the party’s nomination, not because people loved her but because her opposition either lacked her financial resources and reach or, in the case of Barack Obama, appeared to be a political novice who lacked the gravitas at his young age to legitimately run for President.
How wrong could the pundits and other political observers be, including yours truly?
We’re now on the eve of Super Tuesday, February 5, 2008, when more than twenty states will hold either primaries or caucuses to determine delegates to the two party conventions. Fresh from victories in New Hampshire, South Carolina and Florida and endorsements from Rudy Giuliani and Arnold Schwarzenegger, McCain appears poised to win big and likely either secure the Republican nomination or become the clear, inevitable candidate. Mitt Romney, his only challenger with an outside chance of catching him, has apparently decided not to invest millions more of his own fortune to run massive advertising in key states that will vote next Tuesday.
The Democratic race has boiled down to a nail biter between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. John Edwards bowed out on Wednesday after finishing badly in South Carolina, the state whose primary he won in 2004 and his place of birth, and Florida, a state denied delegates by the national party and in which no candidate campaigned but which nonetheless held a real primary. Obama, who has raised at least as much money as Clinton, has emerged as a very popular candidate among young and liberal voters, as well as African-American voters, and has garnered key endorsements from Caroline and Senator Ted Kennedy and other senators and politicians who no doubt did not expect him to emerge as a definite prospect to win the nomination.
Most who normally don’t hold back from making predictions are biting their tongues given their poor track records this political season. Many of the Republican primaries are winner take all, which should help McCain tighten his grasp. On the other hand, most, if not all, Democratic primaries are based on proportional representation, assuming a minimum number of votes are won, or on apportionment by Congressional district. In other words, Democratic races are not winner take all so that, for example, even if Hillary wins the popular vote in the California Democratic primary, she will not win all of the delegate votes but only a percentage, reflecting her victories in statewide and in Congressional districts. Most now agree that this will probably insure that neither Obama nor Clinton will secure the nomination this Tuesday. One may emerge as the clear frontrunner but that too remains to be seen.
At one time, Super Tuesday was seen, including by me, as Hillary’s firewall, particularly after her thumping in Iowa. The thought was that she would definitely win big on February 5 so that even if Obama did well in New Hampshire and South Carolina she would be able to stop him and go on to victory. Now most seem to feel that even were Clinton to win the popular vote and the majority of delegates in New York, New Jersey and California, she would still not be the inevitable Democratic nominee given the system of allocating delegates and that many other states, including Illinois, will also be choosing delegates and that Obama should fare pretty well too.
My own predictions for Super Tuesday?! Assuming nothing unusual or untoward occurs between today, January 31, and next Tuesday, an assumption that is far from guaranteed, I expect Clinton to win the popular votes and the larger number of delegates in New York, New Jersey and California, to do better overall than Obama, but nonetheless not to win so impressively that there will be significant pressure on Obama to concede in order to preserve a semblance of party unity. Rather, I expect him to continue his campaign in a rigorous way, particularly given the animosity that has developed between both Clintons and Obama and their respective camps; Obama’s charismatic style, inspirational speechmaking and the significant following Obama has amongst the younger generation and blacks of all ages; and his sense that this is the best chance for him to secure the nomination, not what might possibly be eight years in the future. Increasingly people are talking about Obama as the center of a movement rather than merely a candidate and I think that whole development will assure that the contest goes on and possibly result in his nomination.
But, as for me, I will be voting for Hillary. While a bit more than a year ago I said that I would never vote for Hillary Clinton, that prediction too has proven inaccurate.⌂