The Potomac Primary

The results from the Potomac Primary are in. Obama and McCain swept all three races. But, the most important result was in Virginia where Independents can vote in either primary. Obama has been beating Hillary handily among Independent voters but in Virginia last night, he also beat McCain among Independents. In fact, Obama won almost twice as many votes in Virginia as McCain. The last Democratic presidential candidate to win Virginia was Lyndon Johnson in 1964. There is still a long road ahead. Even with lopsided victories, neither Obama nor Clinton can win enough delegates in the remaining contests to win the nomination outright without relying on the votes of super-delegates. And once the contest includes the super-delegates, all bets are off. A recent, thoughtful analysis at the Loewe Political Report argued against the possibility of the super-delegates overturning the people’s verdict because they are "cowards." No one is going to win an argument that politicians are more likely to display courage than cowardice, but my quibble is different. Even the press corps seems unable to agree on any way of measuring who is winning. It seems entirely possible that Barack could end the primary season winning more pledged delegates and more states. But a graphic on MSNBC showed that Hillary Clinton had "won" Michigan and Florida, even though no one competed in those races. Still, if you count their votes, Hillary leads the national popular vote. And, if she does register big wins in the remaining big states – Ohio, Texas and Pennsylvania – she might reasonably claim the popular vote mantle. The super-delegates would then face equally compelling arguments and they would have to choose. Clinton’s campaign points to their victories in large states like California and New York as the reason to see her as more electable, but that’s spin. Any Democrat is going to win California and New York next November. Obama’s campaign spins that he has won, and won by huge margins, in traditionally red states like Idaho and Alaska, but frankly, no Democrat is going to win one of those states in November. Winning a Democratic primary now tells us very little about how a state will vote in November unless that state is purple. The November election will be decided by the unaffiliated or Independent voters in key purplish states like Iowa, Kansas, Arkansas, Ohio, Arizona and Colorado. Super-delegates, many of whom will be sharing the ballot with the nominee, will have noticed how Barack did among Independents in Virginia last night and they must be viewing his candidacy more favorably. If he wins next week in Wisconsin, and can pick off either Texas or Ohio on March 4th, the nomination will be within his grasp. Unless, of course, there is a banana peel in his path, and you can bet the Clinton campaign is busy tonight looking for that peel. The operative phrase in the Clinton camp tonight? Opposition research. Michael Sean Winters
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