Tuesday, March 11, 2008

M.I.S.S...Oh, it's time for Mississippi (...before the long layoff)

Well, off we go again for the last time before the Pennsylvania primary rolls around on April 22. With no debates scheduled and obviously no contests to be waged, it will be an interesting time in this race. Not since before Iowa on January 3 have we had such a span between events (...and even then it was in July 2004. We can thank North Carolina for having an extended court debate over congressional districts for pushing that primary-turned-caucus to that late date. So, at least the wait won't be that long).

It will be an interesting stretch simply because the frontloaded system wasn't suppose to allow for this sort of contest. Super Tuesday had proven the decisive primary day since at least the 1996 cycle. [And one could argue, as I have, that, even though the race wasn't wrapped up in the way that McCain finished things off in Texas and Ohio last week, the nominations for the GOP in 1988 and the Democrats in 1992 were all but over on Super Tuesday.] As we go forward then, both the campaigns and those political junkies following them will be in for a different sort of battle. The "backloaded" system of cycles past yielded breaks more like what we saw between Wisconsin and Texas-Ohio than what we will witness from Mississippi to Pennsylvania. Of course, the campaign started in late February instead of early January then, so that accounts for the six weeks to be endured starting tomorrow. In other words, there is quite an unprecedented void to be filled.

Tonight we have Mississippi on the menu. As we saw in last week's post, the state fits the profile of the other deep South states that have gone thus far (and have gone to Obama).
The average margin of victory in those other contests (Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana and South Carolina) was a hair more than 25%. That is the number to keep your eye on tonight. If Obama clears that hurdle then it is on to Pennsylvania with an argument of "He was supposed to win that one" from the Clinton campaign. If she can get the margin under 25 or even 20 points then she may be able to say that she did better than expected. Granted, that's a tough argument to make when that type of margin will yield a pretty big disparity in the delegates won from Mississippi. However, there's a long time until Pennsylvania (Have I mentioned that yet?) and the Clinton folks could try out that line of argument. The polls (via Real Clear Politics) are indicating that something under 20% is possible for Clinton. The average of the five polls taken since last Wednesday is a bit more than 15 points. Turnout was expected to be lighter than what it has been in other states this cycle. Much will depend on how much of the electorate tonight is comprised of African Americans. The bigger that percentage, the better Obama is going to do.

Early on (8:22pm) no results have come in from the Magnolia state (polls closed at 8pm eastern).

Speaking of results, Obama managed another caucus win in Wyoming over the weekend. There's nothing too shocking about the win. However, some of the results were interesting. No, not the 10-10 vote tie in Niobrara County. Teton County in the upper northwestern part of the state (just under where Yellowstone is) began its meeting at 4pm (mountain time). This was after nearly 90% of the caucus results were in (and reported--leaning toward Obama). And how did Teton County come out? It was an 80-20 split for Obama; by far his largest margin and in the county with the third highest vote total. Now I know how those Californians feel on presidential election night. We'll call it the west coast (of the Yellowstone River) bias. That may not have been the cause (Hey, Jackson Hole is in Teton County.), but that is a pretty drmatic shift in what had been a 55-40 race to that point. That pushed Obama over 60% across the entire state, giving him an extra delegate at Clinton's expense.

Still nothing out of Mississippi at the 8:40pm mark. Time to check the exits over at the Drudge Report. From the AP report, Obama won the black vote 9:1 with that group making up about half of today's voters in Mississippi. That's a recipe for success but also one that speaks toward a racial division within Democratic primary voters. Obama does do well in red states, but in the South, the racial polarization could potentially hurt efforts for the Democrats to make inroads there. In other, more homogeneous red states Obama does well also (among the select few who caucus), but will that be enough to make gains in those states? Those are the questions that Clinton's wins last week planted in the minds of Democratic primary voters (at least those who haven't voted) and as long as the narrative continues along this path, the longer the race will remain at a stalemate.

8:48pm: I've got to stop following the results on the New York Times site. There's something to be said about being cautious about making a call, but at the same time, everyone else has already (presumably at 8:01pm) call it for Obama.

What does that seemingly inevitable result mean for the race?
"He was supposed to win there."

"But remember the delegates."

And so it goes on the march to the Keystone state.


Robert said...

I'm back!

It is curious to me that before the Clintons injected race into the campaign, she had 60% of the African-American vote in SC. I don't think she could have maintained that number after his success in Iowa and New Hampshire (lots of white votes even though he did not win), but I do think she could have kept 30-40% of the African-American vote if she hadn't made the MLK/LBJ statement and Bill hadn't trashed BHO with his race-baiting. With that percentage there and comparable ones across the South, she would be the frontrunner and possibly the presumptive nominee! The Clintons, not Obama and company, have injected the race and gender cards.

I know Rich disagrees with me on the MLK/LBJ comment, but I think there would be a greater uproar from the Clinton campaign if Obama made the similar statement about gender. Her statement was “Dr King’s dream began to be realised when President Lyndon Johnson passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It took a president to get it done.” See http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/
article3173652.ece (Sorry for the unpretty link). I think Obama would have been challenged if he had said something to the effect "Susan B. Anthony's effort to get the women's right to vote began to be realized when Woodrow Wilson passed the Nineteenth Amendment. It took a President to get it done."

Ferraro's statement, the latest attempt to play the race card, reinforces the notion advanced by conservatives for years that African-Americans can only achieve things through the help of white liberals or quotas. If that is still the case, then Democrats have failed in their attempts to bring gender and racial equality to the workplace. That means that the conservatives were right. I think you are right, Josh, that the campaign has revealed some dangerous racial divides in the Democratic party, but it has been the Clintons and their surrogates who have been divisive and are now reaping what they have sown.

On another topic, it looks like an Obama-Spitzer ticket is less likely than Clinton-Obama.

Josh Putnam said...

Here's Rob's link from above.

Josh Putnam said...

I totally agree with you that the uproar from the Clinton folks would be huge compared to the current fracas (or the King/LBJ comment fallout) if Obama played the gender card. Then again, that might be warranted since that sort of ploy wouldn't fit his image as the one to change the politics as usual.

The racial and gender issues probably need to be spoken about on a national level in some way, but this probably isn't the way women, African Americans or the Democratic party would have liked for it to have played out. Pitting one group against the other is not a recipe for Democratic success in November.

Steny Hoyer's comments sum that sentiment up well.

No, I don't think that Spitzer will make an appearance on the Democratic ticket in the fall. Meteoric rise, meteoric fall. But the racial/gender issues have kept everyone from devoting too much attention to the Clinton/Spitzer relationship. Well, probably shouldn't have used the word relationship there, but oh well.

Good to have you back, Rob.