Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The State of the Race--Post-Potomac Primary Edition

What did we learn from last night's results in the DC, Maryland and Virginia primaries?

1) Better than expected was not really part of the equation. Clinton was overwhelmed in all three contests and Huckabee, while drawing close to McCain during the vote tally, faded at the end to a near double digit deficit. And it has to hurt that McCain got all 63 delegates. It is difficult to win, much less prevent someone from passing the 1191 delegate threshold if you get nothing out of a 40+% showing.

2) Obama is starting to bring in more groups of people. Last night women broke for him. Population centers are going heavily for Obama too. And if you think back to those general election maps, the ones that break down support by the precinct level, those are areas where Democrats do well. The Missouri map from last week comes to mind. Obama won in Kansas City, St. Louis and Columbia (home to the University of Missouri) while the rest of the state (all but two counties) sided with Clinton. Virginia was like that last night, with the eastern (more urban) half going for Obama. The votes are there, so if Obama continues to out pace Clinton by large margins in urban centers, it will be to his advantage.

3) Good vs. Bad. On the Democratic side, I've had a tally of new stories from the last week or so floating around in my head.
Good: Obama raises $32 million in January.
Bad: Clinton loans her campaign $5 million.
Afterthought: Clinton raises $12 million since Super Tuesday.

Good: Obama sweeps the weekend contests following Super Tuesday.
Bad: Clinton shakes up her internal campaign; bringing in a new campaign manager.

Good: Obama sweeps through the Potomac Primaries.
Bad: Clinton's deputy campaign manager steps down.

This isn't really a good balance for the Clinton folks. And it certainly isn't hurting Obama's ability to begin indirectly using the M word. But all is not lost. Hawaii and Wisconsin are up next. Hawaii is a caucus state and one where Obama lived for a period of his life. Wisconsin however may offer an opening for Clinton. The most recent poll there (via Real Clear Politics) gives Obama only a four point edge. Yes, it is only one poll (the others are outdated--from 2007--and show Clinton in the lead), but it is something. While Clinton may be able to take advantage of the more rural areas of the Dairy State, Obama will surely do well in an open primary that allows independents to participate. The Fix has a checklist of things via a cadre of Democratic strategists that the Clinton campaign can shoot for if they want to regain the delegate lead and the upper hand in the nomination fight.

4) One thing not included on that list is the upcoming series of debates. Those may be key to Clinton shifting the underlying message and course of the campaign. And those will come after next week's contests during that two week lull until Texas-Ohio-Vermont-Rhode Island on March 4. That'll be a good time to attempt to that, but will the media be pushing the Obama momentum story during that time instead?

5) McCain still has some issues to iron out with those voters considering themselves highly conservative. But it doesn't hurt to have one of the Bush team's best fund-raisers on your side. That's a good signal that the party continues to unite behind his candidacy.

6) And what of Texas and Ohio? The first series of polls are up at Real Clear Politics. Again, like the Wisconsin poll above, there is only one recent poll to base things on. However, the first Ohio poll has Clinton up 17 points. Nothing yet has surfaced from Texas. Clinton was there last night and is there today by the looks of the candidate tracker on

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