The Political "Brief"
It's all about today...until this November.
Today, nearly half the country will vote in primaries or caucuses across the country. Some states will vote just for Republicans or Democrats, but most will have the option of both ballots for its voters. Some major states are up for grabs, over a thousand delegates per party and possibly the lead or nomination in all but name. This is also a great test for the idea of several large-scale primary days opposed to a dragged on process that lasts nearly half the year. But there are arguments for both sides, and I want to eat lunch, not argue.
Moving on! Obama is closing fast to Hillary in not only key states like California, but also nationally. Did the Kennedy clan endorsement (strengthened by Maria Shriver the other day) actually do the good the media claimed it would? Or is this backlash against Bill Clinton's antics? Whatever the reason - and I think it's a combination of the two, as well as a great stump speech strategy and decent debate showing - Obama has pulled from a double-digit deficit in the national polls to a statistical dead head, according to CNN, USA Today, Gallup and CBS News. Others have Hillary up slightly, or Obama way up and past the error range. The running average over the last four days sees Clinton with a scant point lead. What is in both their favors (and counting against them) is the proportional awarding of delegates, where "losing" a state's popular vote by a few hundred might still net you the same number of delegates.
Is Hillary really on the outs? I doubt it. She has the experience card and the hard data that Obama lacks. He's running a far more ideological campaign, whereas Hillary sees it as a political horse race and tries to add some degree of substance to the themes of "change" and "hope." My prediction isn't really crazy, as I don't think the Democratic nomination will be decided today. It will rage for another month or so as each tries to reach the magic number.
On the Right side of the aisle, McCain continues to steamroll across the country, but Romney isn't going down without a fight. California is heating up to be the major battleground today between Romney and McCain, as well as Hillary and Obama. McCain held the lead there, tenuously at times, over the last week, but Romney's performance at last Thursday's Reagan Library Republican debate underscored his conservative credentials and he is seeing a boost in his standing. One poll has him seven points ahead of McCain. This might matter, if he wins California. Should he lose, it's over.
McCain has a solid block of states for him, including NY, NJ, CT and IL. He is giving the Huck a run for his money in Missouri, which has a great record for picking presidents. Nationwide polling is on Mac's side, but the downward trend in CA is troublesome for him. While there certainly is a strong conservative base in California, many Republicans are moderate, and there are also independents there attracted to McCain - ideally. Romney steals from Huckabee, who is spoiling Romney to begin with, and the conservative vote remains more/less intact against McCain.
An interesting point is brought up by Papa McFinney, the Hon. R. Slade: with certain candidates ahead by such leaps and bounds in many states, a vote for the opposition that you were going to cast, though in little way capable of changing the outcome, can tell the eventual victor, "I cast my vote for this person and for these ideas, so you remember in November that I disagreed with you on key points." Conservatives might vote for McCain in Nov., but Romney in a primary state where the Mormon has zero chance, in essence voicing a mild disapproval but not condemnation.
The states participating today:
American Samoa (participates in both primaries, but not the general election)
Of course, make sure to jettison cynicism before proceeding.
We should all be proud to have such a spirited contest - on both sides, Republican and Democrat. For many election cycles, they've been just that: our system stuck in a loop. A few times we see new candidates with ground-breaking campaigns that challenge our notions of politics. Even rarer is the introduction of a new party or independent candidate, like Ross Perot, the Bull Moose Party (for TR's 1912 bid) or to a lesser extent, the Green Party & Nader (who has filed, by the way). Savor the choices you have and the influence your vote brings.