Today I want to focus on strategy from here on.
For the Republicans things are a bit more clear. McCain has a good sized lead in the delegate counts and if you listen to the talking heads, can shore up his support among conservatives by pulling Mike Huckabee into the fold. At least that's what the talking heads keep saying. It makes sense. McCain can't do well with Southern conservatives; Huckabee has proven he can. End of story, right? It's always a game of wait and see with politics.
On the Democratic side there were a few things that popped out at me. First of all, and I talked about this ad nauseam last night during the live blog, Obama does well in caucuses. He swept all of them last night. Even when he lost Nevada to Clinton, he still managed one more delegate than she did. The other issue on the Democratic side is performance versus region. Clinton does better (on the whole) in traditional Democratic areas (West coast and Northeast) and Obama has done well in the South (especially the Deep South) and the heartland--red states. So when Obama says that he can do more than Clinton as nominee to pull in Republicans and Independents, there is some truth to it. Sure these wins in red states are among Democratic partisans, but he can still argue that he has won in red states. What can Clinton say? "I won in New York and California?" Well, the Democrat would win those states anyway.
Given these trends (this model if you will), how do the Democratic candidates stack up in the immediate next contests? This weekend there is a Democratic caucus in Washington and a primary in Louisiana.
Washington represents the confluence of both factors mentioned above, so it is more difficult to peg. First, it is a caucus. Advantage Obama...apparently. Secondly, it is a "traditional" Democratic state. It has voted for the Democratic nominee every year since 1988. Advantage Clinton. So Washington is tough.
Louisiana, on the other hand is a Deep South state. Say what you will about how Hurricane Katrina ravaged Louisiana's African American population, this is still a Southern state and one that could break for Obama on Saturday (if we're keeping with the proposed model).
After that (on Tuesday February 12), there are primaries in Maryland, Washington DC and Virginia. Well, those are traditional Democratic, heavily African American and red state respectively. Clinton, Obama, Obama.
This is all speculation (and based on a simple model at that), and could change at the drop of a hat. Things have changed a time or two during this cycle. But it is a first pass at what to look for in the next week.