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Thursday, January 10, 2008

Some Musings on the Democratic Presidential Primary

George Wenschhof

What effect endorsements have in a race is always debated but a candidate will always rather receive them than not. Senator Kerry joins former Senator Bill Bradley in endorsing Obama. I wonder if Al Gore who was the 2000 Democratic Party nominee will weigh in on this race. In 2004 he endorsed Governor Howard Dean early in the race.

Now there is a little breather prior to the next Democratic primary in Nevada on the 19th, the campaign wonks will be thoroughly examining all the details of the results from the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary.

Don't believe all the media hype about the Clinton comeback in New Hampshire or the Obama blow out in Iowa. On the Democrat side, this will be a race between a more institutional (establishment) candidate Senator Hillary Clinton (N.Y.) and Senator Obama and former Senator John Edwards (N.C.) who are challenging the status quo.

As I explained in earlier posts, the vote in Iowa was unique due to the caucus manner of recording the vote while New Hampshire voters who were registered Independents could request a Democrat or Republican ballot.

However, several trends of note are the much higher voter turnout of Democrats versus Republican voters, the split of the women vote, and the turnout of the youth (under 30) vote.

The high turnout of Democrats to the polls in the primary shows the frustration level they have after losing two close elections to President George W. Bush and living with his administration's failed policies over the past seven years.

The woman vote, after a higher split went to Obama in Iowa then went by 13 points in Clinton's favor in New Hampshire. This shows they are seriously examining the candidates and will continue to do so as the election calendar moves forward.

The youth vote turned out in record numbers in Iowa and showed considerable support toward Obama and then their turnout tailed off in New Hampshire. The youth vote can make a difference in the outcome of this election and let's hope they continue to go to the polls in record numbers in the upcoming primaries.

Other factors to consider are what effect the withdrawal of candidates have on the race. Both Senators Joseph Biden (Vt.) and Christopher Dodd (Conn.) dropped out prior to New Hampshire. Did their 2-3% support go to Senator Clinton? Who will Governor Richardson throw his support to? He received about 4% of the vote in both Iowa and New Hampshire. My guess is he will support Clinton as I mentioned in an earlier post.

Another big factor is national and international events that unfold as the primary campaign continues on? Will the sluggish economy turn into a recession in the U.S.? International events such as the recent tragic death of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto in Pakistan bring the spotlight on even more failed foreign policy decisions made by the Bush administration.

The primary schedule itself is also not conducive for any kind of reasonable campaign strategy. How does a candidate campaign in twenty-three states at one time? Super Tuesday on February 5th is a mistake as was the stripping of delegates from Michigan and Florida by the DNC.

Now it's on to Nevada on the 19th - remember Michigan on the 15th no longer counts.


Anonymous said...

As always thanks for the commentary. Would like to see the race between Edwards, Clinton and Obama to remain close all the way through the primaries. I miss the old conventions where you didn't know who the nominee was going to be until after a few rounds of delegate voting.

Anonymous said...

Kerry's endorsement is bigger than people say. Kerry has a good e-mail list, but more importantly, he has the best voter file in the country. That helps identify people for the campaign.

Gore may or may not endorse. He may think that it's too risky to endorse. But at this point, it may be the only way to unite the party. (After the campaign she's run, I don't see how Clinton can do it).

There's another election before the 19th--the seemingly meaningless Michigan primary. Not the campaigns, but Obama and Edwards supporters are colluding to try and get "uncommitted," which is an option there, to win the primary. Since Clinton is the only major name on the ballot, losing to uncommitted--basically none of the above--would be embarrassing for her. The Mayor of Detroit and Congressman Conyers are spreading the word about uncommitted--even taking out ads apparently, which is legal because they technically don't support a candidate. That'll be interesting to watch. Clinton should win big there, but one never knows. Last poll: Clinton 45, Uncommitted 28, but this was before the campaign started.

If Michigan follows the national polls, and if Edwards and Obama supporters vote for uncommitted instead of Clinton, uncommitted may win.

Further, of note is Nevada and South Carolina. Obama got the SEIU and Culinary Workers unions there to endorse him. That is a really big deal there. Clinton was way ahead in the polls there. But that union support could help Obama close the gap (last poll in early December before Obama caught fire). South Carolina is a state that should play in Obama's favor because of demographics. Further, while Edwards probably cuts into Obama's vote nation wide, I believe he plays spoiler to Clinton in South Carolina. South Carolina is the last state that votes before Super Tuesday. Current polls--for whatever they're worth--show him 12 percent ahead. If Obama can win by a large margin there, New Hampshire is a distant memory headed into 2-5; if he can win both Nevada and South Carolina, Clinton is again in trouble headed into 2-5.

Finally, losing may have been a good thing for Obama. His crowd of previously not involved voters needed to learn that you have to show up, work hard, and vote to win. They may understand that. He got a very unexpected surge in his fund raising on Tuesday, when 20,000 people donated to his campaign on-line without much prompting. That alone probably raised $300,000.

Clinton has burned through cash. And though she is probably raising more, I don't think she has Obama's resources (he raised $25 million in the last quarter). Rumor has it she spent $85 million of her money before a single vote was cast. If true, that means she'll have a difficult time running a national campaign on Super Tuesday.

Because of all these things, I still think it is more likely than not that Obama gets the nomination. I put it 60% Obama 39 percent Clinton, 1 percent Edwards (because I suppose that's still possible, but highly unlikely).

*Full Disclosure: I support and intend to vote for Senator Obama.