The Makings of an Upset

All eyes were trained on the stage at the Kodak Theater in Los Angeles for the first one-on-one debate between Hillary and Barack. After the fireworks at the last debate, and the hype the Clinton campaign tried to generate after Edwards dropped out the day before ("This is the one-on-one match-up we’ve been waiting for"), the debate was shockingly bland and polite. From the moment that Barack pulled out the chair for Hillary as they sat down, both candidates kept their evident dislike for each other in check. They disagreed on a few points, but they did so without rancor. Both spent much of the first five minutes delivering encomiums to John Edwards in an obvious play for his supporters. In an early question about immigration, both gave adequate answers, but both failed to address the principal concern of Latino voters, which is to keep families together. Focusing immigration reform around the need to keep families together as well as to protect the border, as noted earlier in the week, is a genuinely distinct approach from that of the GOP and one that will appeal to both ethnic Catholics and evangelical voters, as well as Latinos. Also, in case you missed this NPR essay on the diversity within the Latino community, this is worth a listen. Truth be told, no one knows how Latinos will vote next Tuesday. If this were a debating society, Hillary won on points. Her answers are always lucid and filled with policy particulars. And when Wolf Blitzer tried to deliver a cheap shot, she called him out on it. But, Hillary needed to change the dynamic of the race tonight, to halt the momentum that is moving to Obama, and she did not do that. Earlier in the day, the latest Rasmussen poll in California showed that Hillary’s consistent double digit lead (one poll had her 37 points up in October) had shrunk to 3 points. The latest poll in Connecticut, adjacent to Hillary’s home base in New York, had the race tied. But the biggest news did not come from the pollsters nor from the debate stage in Los Angeles. The biggest news was that Barack raised $32 million in January. That staggering figure has allowed the Obama campaign to run ads in 20 of the 22 states that have primaries or caucuses next Tuesday. The Clinton campaign is running ads in only 12 states. The most likely scenario next Tuesday is some variation of a tie. She will win New York and New Jersey, and he will win Illinois and Georgia. She may win California, and more delegates, but he may win more votes and more states. But it is also possible that the momentum towards Obama will continue from coast to coast. The map next Tuesday night may be filled in mostly with whatever color CNN assigns to Obama. If he wins the most states, the delegate count and California to boot, he is on his way to pulling off one of the great upsets of modern political history. Michael Sean Winters
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11 years ago
I agree that Obama may pull off "one of the greatest upsets of modern political history." In California, one-fifth of of the population is Latino. Obama's stand on giving drivers' licenses to illegal immigrants, which he clearly stated last night, is bound to help him with Latinos who are registered Democrats. Also, in California, one-fifth of the registered voters are independents, called "decline to state." They will have only the Democratic nominees on their ballots. The Republican party, for reasons of its own, asked that its nominees be left off the decline to state primary ballots. According to professors of public policy out here in San Francisco, that will help Obama because "decline to state" voters are younger and more liberal than those stating a political preference. If they vote for a presidential candidate in the primary they must choose between Obama and Clinton.

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