I believe Clinton was slightly favored in today’s Maine caucuses, but Obama is the winner. They caucus votes are still being counted, but at the moment it isn’t even close.
The Virginia primary is Tuesday. Obama is heavily favored, for what that’s worth. Can’t trust polls.
Here’s what we’ve got to look forward to in the near future, courtesy of About.com:
February 12: District of Columbia, Maryland, Virginia
February 19: Hawaii (D), Washington (R primary), Wisconsin
March 4: Ohio, Rhode Island, Texas, Vermont
Conventional wisdom says that Virginia, Ohio and Texas are must-wins. Clinton is favored in Texas, and Obama in Virginia, but I’m not sure about Ohio.
The big worry is about the superdelegates. We’re hearing that a majority of them are committed to Clinton, which leaves us with the possibility that the will of a clear majority of voters will be overridden by party insiders. This would be a disaster for the Democratic Party and the nation, IMO. No less an activist than Chris Bowers says that if the superdelegates throw the nomination to the second-place vote-getter, he will quit the Democratic Party. Oh the other hand — well, see Digby.
Also, although a majority of superdelegates may have declared for Clinton, my understanding is that there’s no rule that says they can’t change their minds. My sense of this contest is that if the two candidates continue to split caucus and primary votes, Clinton will be the nominee. I believe Obama is going to have to crush Clinton in the next few primaries. If he does, I think the superdelegates might look at that and decide to go with the winner.
I also agree with Anonymous Liberal:
There’s this idea out there that the longer it takes the Democrats to choose a nominee, the more of a disadvantage it will be in the general election. Indeed, the primary calendar was front-loaded the way it was in hopes of having the nominee selected as early as possible. The idea is that the sooner the nominee is chosen, the more time the party has to rally around that person, to raise money, and to come up with a campaign strategy for winning the general election.
I think is completely wrong-headed, and what happened in 2004 illustrates this perfectly. John Kerry was at the height of his national popularity when he was winning primary contests in a hard-fought Democratic race. He was getting lots of free media attention. People were coming out and endorsing him. He was on television every week giving victory speeches and in the newspaper under headlines declaring his victory in one state after another. But once he wrapped up the nomination, all that positive, free media disappeared and the Republican party started launching attacks and building its anti-Kerry press narratives. By the time November rolled around, Kerry had been called a flip-flopper so many times, by so many people, over so many months that even many Democrats and independents had thoroughly internalized this criticism.
The Republican party is very good at demonizing and building negative press narratives about whomever the Democratic nominee turns out to be. The sooner a nominee is selected, the more time they have to demonize him (or her). And those attacks are all the press talks about because the primary race is effectively over and there’s not much else to talk about.
The same thing has occurred to me. The last primaries are on June 3. Maybe it’ll ride until then.
Finally, for a historical perspective on the superdelegates, see Tad Devine, “Superdelegates, Back Off” in today’s New York Times.