Yesterday was a remarkable day for the American democratic process. While at first it looked like both sides of the aisle had relatively similar stories, the narrative shifted dramatically with the western/heartland states.
We’ll start with the Republicans. What started as an unsurprising day with McCain dominating the blue states became much more compelling in two ways. First, John McCain’s complete domination over the populous states continued, which is amplified by New York being a winner-take-all state for the GOP. Naturally, this put Mitt Romney on his heels to a degree. This trend was compounded by Mike Huckabee taking control over the Deep South. The long run impact of today (besides the burial of Mitt Romney’s GOP chances in 2008) is the massive increase in Huckabee’s political capital, especially as it affects the VPship. The other X-Factor here is that the necessity of strength in the South beyond McCain (assuming he is the nominee) varies dramatically with the nature of the Democratic primary. If Obama gets the nomination (or possibly the VP, depending), the GOP may need a Southern force to be sure that states like Georgia do not become in play. Should Hillary get the nomination, there would appear to be less urgency here, especially since the divisive nature of the Democratic primary probably would lead to a decreased African-American vote if Obama is not on the ballot.
On the Democratic side, the dominant story is the shift that has happened in the past few weeks. While Hillary’s crew can rightly assert that they helped to stem the tide in states like NJ and MA, the fact of the matter is that she lost significant portions of her lead in most Super Tuesday states incredibly recently. While she did win Massachusetts by 15% or so, Obama was polling around 18% lower about two weeks ago, which is both dramatic and telling. However, her popular vote victories in the most populous states do give her the narrative of being strong in those important places, though I find that wholly irrelevant considering that the Democratic Party will win CA, NY, NJ, and MA in the general election regardless of who is the nominee. The argument can be had that Obama won states that the GOP usually takes, but he seems to have “purple appeal” that could shift a few states, especially given the mobilization of Democratic voters around the nation this primary cycle.
Obama needs to slam Hillary on the issue of delegates if he wins, because she has been touting that for the last week. If she was about the delegates then, she sure should be now, and changing tune could lead to some amazing soundbytes.
The remaining Democratic X-factor is how momentum is carried through the next 6 states that vote over the next week (strong for Obama overall) coupled with the growing possibility of a brokered convention. Rahim has already made the astute comparison to 1968, and it seems likely that we will be headed down that road again. What makes this year different (though the similarities are more significant and discussed in great detail) is the nature of the Michigan and Florida primaries. Clinton has a decent argument for Florida getting their delegates seated, but there is simply no argument for Michigan considering HRC was the only candidate on the ballot. It was simply not a fair representation of the voting populace there.
Of course, there’s lots more fun for both sides in the coming days and weeks, and it will be the definitive test of the Clinton strategy vs. Obama’s 50 state strategy.
May the best candidates win.