US primaries open thread

Been a bit busy lately, so it’s past time for a new US elections thread. Since Super Tuesday we’ve had an anticipated string of Barack Obama victories from caucuses in Nebraska, Washington and Maine and a primary in Louisiana, along with a narrow win for John McCain in Washington and probably meaningless victories for Mike Huckabee in Kansas and Louisiana. Tomorrow US time we have both parties holding primaries in Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia.

Author: William Bowe

William Bowe is a Perth-based election analyst and occasional teacher of political science. His blog, The Poll Bludger, has existed in one form or another since 2004, and is one of the most heavily trafficked websites on Australian politics.

1,263 comments on “US primaries open thread”

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  1. Martin @ 1149. As I’ve said earlier, the SD’s will not vote as a block for either contender. Their reasons for voting will vary. Some will feel compelled (as you say) to vote for the one with the majority of pledged delegates. But the number who pledged themselves for Clinton (or Obama for that matter) before the primaries had even begun should indicate that this is not a primary consideration for many SD’s. Some will feel compelled to vote according to their states wishes – others will not. Some will vote according to self-interest or because of a philosophical or fillial affinity with one candidate over the other – or for a hundred other reasons.

    The problem, of course, is that if the matter must be decided by the Convention itself, then the final candidate’s campaign is already damaged…and will be damaged further when the final decision is made thus alienating the supporters of one candidate.

    I’d love to see an outcome prior to that – but I can’t see it yet.

  2. I think Martin B is right. If Obama up by 100 I think the SDs will have no choice but to follow the wishes of the party faithful or risk a huge electoral backlash and another four years out of the White House. If it’s less than 50, there will be lots of arguments about Florida and Michigan not being counted and she would probably win. If he’s up by 50-100, it will be a free-for-all.

  3. The Obama camp actually does share my optimism. They issued a conference call last week claiming a 1139 – 1006 lead which they claimed was inurmountable:

    “After the latest round of wins for Obama, his campaign is now putting forth the notion that it’s almost “impossible” for Clinton to catch him.”

    http://www.youdecide2008.com/category/obama/

    “After sweeping the past eight contests by large margins, it now appears that Senator Obama has an insurmountable lead in pledged delegates. Senator Clinton would have to get 56% of all the remaining delegates in all contests in order to take a pledged delegate lead. This appears extraordinarily unlikely given the history of contests so far.”

    http://my.barackobama.com/page/community/post/samgrahamfelsen/CmkF

  4. Pancho, that’s the Obama camp’s spin trying to put pressure on SD’s. His personal comments have been more circumspect. And I’m guessing that away from the crowds in the quietness of his hotel room, he knows Hillary is far from finished and he worries that he may have peaked too early.

  5. I agree that she won’t stand down and this will likely go to the convention. But I also think both teams know how grim things are looking for her, just from the numbers. Her team is now floating arguments that the SDs need to “exercise independent judgment”, which to me appears a concession that she will be behind on pledged delegates at the end. Add to this continuing line that Florida should be reinstated as is (from Harold Ickes, who was part of the DNC team that stripped the delegates in the first place: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/02/16/AR2008021602657.html), and I think they know that they are in it bad. It is far from a given that they will even win all of Ohio and Texas, and they will probably be further behind by then with Hawaii and Wisconsin coming. Not only do they need a win, they need several big ones and I just don’t see it happening.

  6. Is this the first of the bared fangs and drooling saliva? Beware the Alien mother as she fights to the death:

    Clinton’s camp has been circulating stories criticising the “cult” of Obama in the hope of portraying “Obamania” as a mass delusion. Media Matters, a watchdog organisation sympathetic to Clinton, compiled a report headlined, “Media figures call Obama supporters’ behaviour ‘creepy’, compare them to Hare Krishna and Charles Manson followers”.

    …nice huh?

    HK and Charles Manson?

    A ‘cult’?

    OMG, they’ve been reading Adam’s posts on Pollbludger! LOL

    Clinton will fight this to the last breath, of that there is no doubt, but she may have to transform herself into something quite repulsive in the process. It will not be pretty, that’s almost certain.

  7. Asanque…with 1000 delegates still needed and the task of convincing SD’s to go against the “Establishment” candidate – it’s still a long long way to go.

    Pancho I never said it’s not looking bleak for Hillary. Just that it’s too early to start handing out Obama cigars.

    I don’t see Hillary winning by enough in Texas et al to deliver a knock-out blow either. I fear that if it all comes down to the SD’s at Convention then there will be serious damage done to the final candidate’s campaign.

  8. Geez KR – first Hillary tells all those who voted for Obama in a caucus that their votes don’t matter because they don’t represent anyone. Now she’s telling them that they’re a deluded creepy cult!?

    Nice.

  9. FG: There is a long way to go, but in my view, you can’t peak early enough 🙂

    People love voting for a winner, especially super delegates. If you are the inevitable candidate, then you get votes.

    That’s why Hillary tried to position herself as the inevitable candidate and got many of the early superdelegates that way.

    Unfortunately for her, the early losses sapped her appeal to the democratic voters and she never got her momentum.

  10. Asanque, I hope you’re right – but for a lady who never got any momentum to be within striking distance of the guy with all the MO is a major effort, don’t you think?

    And here’s another interesting thing: according to CNN Hillary has raised more than BHO, has spent less and has considerably more than he in the kitty. Has there been a massive turn-around or are these figures dodgy?

    http://edition.cnn.com/ELECTION/2008/money/dems.html

  11. KR
    if true and able to be substantiated ,i this think spells the death knell for hilary,i will gladly say i am now pro obama.

    i personally think comparisions of that sort belong on blogs ,not coming out from the candidates office.

    manson was a creep-no-one deserves to be tarred with the same brush

    do you have a link to media matters

  12. Ferny:
    I consider it to be the opposite.
    For a gentleman with less money, less establishment support, less name recognition to be ahead of the lady with more of all the above, is a major effort.

    There is no doubt that comparatively the Obama campaign has done far better then the Clinton campaign from an initially uneven starting point.

    CNN is not updated. Clinton had more money up to the end of December, however Obama raised an additional $31 million in January compared to $15 million (including $5 million personal loan from Clinton). I’m not sure of current money totals but CNN does not have the latest update.

  13. Asanque, there’s absolutely no argument that Obama’s campaign has been Herculean. As I’ve said repeatedly, his success was just not in the script a few short weeks ago.

    I’m just counselling caution in popping the corks over Hillary’s carcass when she’s still alive and squaking.

  14. No worries Ferny 🙂

    I agree with your overall analysis.

    I believe Clinton is willing to destroy the Democrats if it means winning candidacy. She has shown through her relentless pursuit of the Florida and Michigan candidates (breaking her pledge), that she will stop at nothing to win.

    It will be an interesting few months ahead.
    Mathematically, Clinton can’t catch up on pledged delegates save a miracle. However, super delegates will hold the key to this one.

  15. Asanque, I’ll remain respectfully agnostic re the mathematics. I think it’s still possible (in spite of all that’s been written) for Hillary to thump the Big O in the big states. I doubt it will happen (I think she will win these primaries, though modestly), but it’s possible.

    Yes, Hillary will do everything to win. She expected it to be given to her, and still seems to think the nomination is rightfully hers regardless of what the voters think. Her claims re Florida and Miami are scarey. Those contests cannot and should not be counted. The only way to include them is to hold a new caucus in each…and Hillary may not win those.

    Yes, it looks like it will come down to the SD’s at a brokered Convention – and if that happens I’m not sure the Dems will beat McCain with the weakened candidate they will endorse.

  16. Ferny: I agree, and again I rely on Davidoff for the mathematics. However, I don’t think that Clinton can do any better then a 20 point win in Ohio, a 14 point win in Texas, a 16 point win in Pennslyvania and a 20 point win in Rhode Island.

    On those figures, Clinton remains behind in pledged delegates by about 50.

  17. The leader who dare not speak his name, at least not in McCain’s presence:

    Senator John McCain’s campaign advisers will ask the White House to deploy President Bush for major Republican fund-raising, but they do not want the president to appear too often at his side, top aides to Mr. McCain said Sunday.

    …and this is going to be the BIG problem that any Republican will have come November. Taking over the reins from GWBush, who let’s remind ourselves, has the lowest popularity of any president, will by necessity mean having to justify a lot of his policies.

    Good luck Macca, you’re sure as hell going to need it, because 8 years of Bush is not forgotten that easily, nor forgiven.

  18. kr
    cheers for the link
    interesting patter(n) of demonisation emerging towards obama

    my only concern has been the dem machine ,but from the tone the intent seems to broadside him with a pastiche of caricatures

    he must be rattling both sides of the divide to achieve this

    do you believe the dem machine will swing fully behind him if gets the nomination?

  19. Gusface, the Dem machine will need to swing behind Obama BEFORE he gets the nomination – or it wont happen. I’m guessing they’re waiting for the March primaries before making a move – but I can’t see them letting the uncertainty last till the Convention.

  20. “As I’ve said earlier, the SD’s will not vote as a block for either contender.”

    No, they will vote in one of two blocks 🙂

    “Their reasons for voting will vary… or for a hundred other reasons.”

    Yes of course, but electability will be the major reason for most of them. And that’s why a ~100 pledged delgate lead is crucial. To overturn that kind of a lead would fatally wound the democratic nominee, and the SDs will know it.

    I have absolutely no doubt that if such a lead existed, Gore, and to a lesser extent Pelosi and Dean, will make an intervention in the process between the primaries and the convention. Moreover I have litte doubt that most of the uncommitted SDs will follow Gore’s lead.

    It is of course, not unusual for SDs to endorse a candidate early and then vote differently at the convention. It’s just that normally that is because everyone has endorsed a single candidate by then.

    “Yes, it looks like it will come down to the SD’s at a brokered Convention – and if that happens I’m not sure the Dems will beat McCain with the weakened candidate they will endorse.”

    Only if the majority of SDs remain as intransigent as you seem to think they will. I don’t.

  21. The problem that the Democratic Party has is that there is a fine line here between ‘restoring party unity’ and ‘influencing the election and undemocratically pressuring future voters/current delegates to go against their will.’ Both would cause outrage amongst members.

    This is exemplified by the fact there really isn’t anyone left who can make an election-turning endorsement. Their last president is already on a bandwagon, Gore is taking the ‘party head’ role, Pelosi is bound to keeping her gob shut (although she has effectively endorsed the future winner of the pledged delegate count) and Kerry has already come out. The only person left is Edwards, whose silence is more than notable right now.

    As Huckabee has proved, it is nearly impossible for a party to close ranks around a candidate when their opponent is intent on not letting that happen. If Hillary was any other candidate, the party would be poking at her to go away, but her husband is kind of influential in these matters. The lesson remains though: if she refuses to back down then the party can’t move on.

    While I share asanque’s mocking of the ‘peak too early’ claim, it does have some merits. If Obama can’t take Clinton down in a state on March 4, then his chances of the nomination will diminish. Which is why, of course, the day has received so much hype.

  22. Max:
    I actually expect Obama to lose Texas, Ohio and Pennsylvania (one or more of them quite heavily).

    Despite this, he will still be the candidate in my opinion, as he will still have won the most states, the most pledged delegates and the popular vote (excluding Florida and Michigan).

    The only bumps in the road I foresee are:
    1. Edwards endorsing Hillary (unlikely)
    2. Reinstating Florida and Michigan delegates (unlikely)
    3. Superdelegates overruling pledged delegates (possibly)
    4. New primaries in Florida and Michigan (possibly)

  23. Bear in mind Asanque, that the whole purpose of having superdelegates is to insure against an unauthorised outbreak of democracy. And so I’ll maintain that it’s still way too early – and too close – to call.

    Though, I confess, I hope your optimism proves justified.

  24. 1176
    Max

    Obama went to meet Edwards yesterday in NC, and there’s been plenty of high level chatter around Gore, so it would not surprise me to see the deal done with Edwards given the AG slot and the heavies swinging behind Obama.

    Edwards cannot endorse Clinton without his voters puking and being so vociferous it would not do him any favours. Backing Obama is his only other option if he actually wants a slice of the action, or else he’s effectively dead, an ex-politician, gone to polly heaven, shuffled off the polly coil and gone to share his time with the Norwegian Blue.

  25. 1180
    Ferny Grover

    Oh, isn’t that the dead parrot in the classic sketch? You know, it’s only sleeping, pining for the fjords!

    Cheese? Well, if it’s blue it’s probably dead too! LOL

  26. get your heads around it people.

    the bush/clinton era is dead.

    just like the Howard era and the Blair era.

    the public have moved on to something a little less smelly.

    some of you Hillary huggers are sounding like Glen and other Howard huggers were sounding 12 months ago…..and 6 months ago….and 3 months ago.

    Obama will be the nominee AND the next POTUS.

  27. 1183
    HarryH

    Love ya enthusiasm there Harry, but it ain’t done and dusted just yet.

    Remember the smoke filled room? Looks like we need to wait until the smoke clears to see who’s been left standing.

  28. I repeat what I believe to be the most sensible position, yet held by the smallest of minorities 🙂 that although I have a slight preference for one of them, I think that either of BHO and HRC would be fine Presidents, and far, far bettter than the last 8 years (probably the last 10 years really).

  29. Can anyone name a Repug or Dem candidate who would have been worse than the last eight years of the “Worst President Ever”? I’m struggling to think of a worse leader in a developed country anywhere in the world. I’m open to any suggestions.

  30. Diogenes:

    In 2003, Samantha Power won a Pulitzer Prize for her book “A Problem From Hell: America and the Age of Genocide,” in which she chronicled the United States’ responses to the major genocides of the 20th century. But that’s just one of her accomplishments. Power, 37, is a Harvard professor and founder of that university’s Carr Center for Human Rights Policy

    http://www.salon.com/news/feature/2008/02/18/samantha_power/

    …oh, by the way, she’s working for Obama.

  31. 1189
    Diogenes

    There’s no shortage of rubbish politicians, unfortunately, that is NOT the problem. It’s finding the one or two each generation that can undo the mess the other ones make, that IS the problem!

  32. KR- Thanks for the recommendation. Sounds very interesting. I’m waiting for a similar one to arrive “Blood and Soil: A World History of Genocide and Extermination from Sparta to Darfur” by Ben Kiernan. One of ESJ’s recommendations arrived today In Power by Alan Clarke.

    BTW Any news on Pakistan. I’ve read they aren’t allowed to do exit polls. I imagine they might not be all that accurate anyway. “Oh yes sir, of course I voted for that wonderful General Musharref and so did all of my family.”

  33. 1192
    Diogenes

    I’ve had no time to read anything on Pakistan, but I did catch a comment on radio where someone was saying that turnout was going to be low because there’s a lot of fear about suicide bombers.

    It’s a pity that a country of that size with a huge middle class, and a vast swathe of moderate Muslims are being dragged down by the jihadis and their ilk. Musharraf has done so many deals to stay in power that he’s compromised the future of any secular civilian government that could emerge. Probably for a decade or more. How ironic that the dictator’s being supported by Washington but is essentially setting the country down the exact opposite path with his stubborness to relinquish power.

    Stuff happens, as Rumsfeld said, especially when you help it along with ignorant meddling and the inevitable ‘over-kill’.

  34. I read somewhere that the US State Department was absolutely shi*ting itself about the result, but not in those words. It sounds like the opposition parties will get more than 50% and be able to form a government of sorts but not get rid of Musharref by impeaching him, which they need 66% to be able to do. That all sounds about as stable as a powderkeg.

  35. ESJ- On looking that up I see its subtitle is The Ten Worst American Presidents.

    Actually, I’m glad you brought that book up as it also lists the two most overrated POTUS, namely JFK and Thomas Jefferson. I disagree with Jefferson, only because of his architectural and intellectual achievements but I think JFK, along with the Beatles and Elvis, is the most overrrated person in history.

    He gave us:
    1. Cuban Missile Crisis (made GWB look a pacifist re nuclear weapons)
    2. Bay of Pigs Invasion
    3. Vietnam War tipping point of no return
    4. The Baath party in Iraq
    5. Ruinously expensive space race

    He may have done a few good things but why is he deified?

  36. Early death or a well timed death is a precondition for deification. In JFK’s case its the myth that he would have got the US out of Vietnam. He was in fact a security risk waiting to blow up with the girls, mafia etc.

  37. 1199 ESJ I see Paul Keating had three wonderful weeks as Minister for the Northern Territory. Whatever happened to that job or was it synonymous with Aboriginal Affairs?

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