Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Thompson's out (Hunter too), the Myrtle Beach Massacre and more!

I don't think it comes as much of a surprise to anyone that Fred Thompson decided to hang it up to potentially return to playing Rudy Giuliani on TV. How does his departure affect the race for the GOP nomination though. I'm sure the folks aligned with Huckabee would have liked for the former Tennessee senator to drop out before South Carolina last weekend. Here's the take on the situation from The Fix over at The Washington Post.

Meanwhile they are still cleaning up the carnage from the debate hall in northeast South Carolina. If you missed the Democrats' debate from Myrtle Beach Monday night, you may want to go check it out (CNN still has the debate up and the transcript is also there.). You may also want to fire up your memory while you're at it because we'll see/hear some of this material again come general election time. The viable Republican candidates sure will once one of them emerges as the party's nominee. You can't complain when intra-party battles help your own potential opposition research for the fall campaign. What do you think? Will this debate bickering hurt both Clinton and Obama in South Carolina? And will that help Edwards? The CNN page linked above has a video with undecideds turned off by what they saw.

There are a few things to note as we approach the Democratic primary on Saturday:

1) Will Jim Clyburn make an endorsement? The influential South Carolina Democrat said he wouldn't (...until after Iowa), but there is some chatter out there indicating that a well-timed Obama endorsement could happen on Thursday. Thanks to The Caucus at the New York Times for that link. Hopefully this isn't a case of a runaway blog story, but there is some other speculation to "back this up."

2) What will turnout be like for the primary this weekend? Turnout for the GOP primary was down as compared to what the state experienced for the Republican primary there in 2000, but let's remember that South Carolina has an open primary system. Independents may have stayed home last weekend so that they could participate in the Democratic contest this weekend. But it could just have been the cold, rainy weather, a crop of unsatisfying candidates or that undecideds just couldn't decide and stayed home.

3) What do Clinton's trips to California yesterday and New York today mean (track daily visits at Is she ceding South Carolina to Obama or is her campaign focusing on February 5? The big win that Rob spoke about Obama needing in the comments section the other day may not mean so much if Hillary didn't give her all in the state.


Rich Clark said...

I don't think Hillary Clinton is ceding the South Carolina to Obama, but rather that she's sent in Bill to be her proxy while she focuses on Tsunami Tuesday. Just as Hillary would often serve as the heavy for her politician husband (who needed to stay above the fray), now it is Bill's turn.

Josh Putnam said...

That's a good point Rich (one I should have raised). And he's not a bad surrogate to have around either.

The language coming from the Clinton camp is curious though when questioned about the strategy for South Carolina. They've said that South Carolina is nothing more than a part of the national strategy heading into February 5. I still don't know quite how to take that.

I do know one thing: I'm interested to see this Obama/Clinton dance contest.

Rich Clark said...

The polls have SC pretty soundly going for Obama, so that sort of talk from the Clinton campaign -- downplaying the state's importance -- is prudent.

I still believe that we'll know who the candidates for each party will be by February 6th. Does anyone concur, or does anyone think we'll face a brokered (or two brokered) convention(s).

Josh Putnam said...

History (at least recent history) tells us that we won't see a brokered convention on either side, but this year continues to break with history. The sheer momentum of past Super Tuesdays makes me want to agree with your Feb. 6 point, but at the same time we are seeing fairly tight delegate counts through three (Dem)/six (GOP) contests. And that really wasn't the case in any of the other post-1988 Super Tuesdays through that point.

The key is the perception of inevitability. McCain will go a long way towards claiming that he has passed the inevitability threshold if he can break through with a win in Florida's closed primary before heading into Feb. 5. For the Democrats, if Obama wins in South Carolina, he interrupts this string of victories Clinton has had and potentially muddles the picture for February 5. If I'm in his camp right now, I'd advise him to look towards some of the lesser prizes on that date. If he can pick up some decisive victories in those states and keep the delegate count close in the big states where Clinton is bound to do well (CA, NY and NJ), then he'll go a long way toward staying alive for the Feb. 9 and 12 contests.

As Dell Dunn has pointed out time and time again though, the media plays a huge role in all of this. And this cycle they really seem to like the delegate counts in addition to simply looking at who won any given contest. Any emphasis on the closeness of the delegate counts makes it more difficult for them to then drive the inevitability argument though.

So McCain can get closer to that point with a win in Florida, but a win by Obama in South Carolina and no Florida contest for the Dems make for an interesting set of conditions heading into Super Tuesday.

While I lean towards the idea of both nominations being wrapped up by that point, there's enough evidence out there to make me question the likelihood of that actually happening.

Robert said...

I don't think the media is going to let Hillary away with ducking out of SC, but they may explain an Obama win away as the African-American vote. It will be important for Obama to do reasonably well with the white vote, particularly white males. I mentioned in the discussion yesterday that my wife was turned off by the Clinton-Obama squabble Monday night and is now leaning towards Edwards. There was some indication on NPR this morning that others may have had the same response. Hillary will take a hit if Edwards comes closer to her total than she comes to Obama's total. It will be disaster for her if Edwards comes in second behind Obama.

Rich, I do not believe that we will have a clear picture of the nominees on either side on February 6th, particularly with the proportional distribution of delegates -- more predominant on the Democratic than the Republican side. If McCain wins in Florida, it will help him. However if Rudy finishes third behind Romney and McCain (in whichever order), it comes down to a two and a half (Huckabee) person race like we currently have in the Democratic race. I believe there is much more anti-McCain sentiment in the Republican party than an anti-Romney sentiment. As I have said before Romney does much better when you see his ads and he doesn't have to speak, a bonus on Tsunami Tuesday where he will be running many more ads than McCain. Also, if Romney finishes ahead of McCain in FL, the case can be made that McCain can't win in a big state. HE will only have NH and SC victories going in to February 5.

Finally, have you seen that Hillary's people are now trying to get the early states (IA, NH, NV & SC) to release her from her pledge not to campaign in FL making that a real contest. If Barack doesn't nail her for wanting to go back on her word, he has no guts or backbone. I gues it depends on what the meaning of "pledge" is.

Josh Putnam said...

That Clinton move may be the result of this. In that case Obama has no hope of attacking her. He moved first (This is a perfect prisoners' dilemma game.). And why? Clinton has a clear advantage in FL and Obama should just leave well enough alone (especially with no delegates at stake).

Josh Putnam said...

Just to follow up:
Real Clear Politics has Clinton with a nearly 18 point edge in Florida averaging polls from Jan. 11-22.

Robert said...


Thanks. That is good information. It looks like he blew it, but Clinton can hardly blame him for breaking his pledge when she was trying to do the same.