News from the Votemaster
If you have been here before, you might have noticed the new map with bright pretty colors. If you have a feeling it may be up there for the next few months, you're probably right. Barring very unforeseen developments, the Democratic race will go on well beyond today and if Mitt Romney can pull off an upset in California, it might go on for the Republicans, too. The rules are a bit complicated since in some states it is winner-take-all statewide, in others it is winner-take-all per congressional district, and in still others it is strictly proportional to the vote. In most cases, the PLEOs, superdelegates, unpledged delegates, etc. are allocated by yet other rules.
We have polls galore today. All the major polling firms are working overtime to crank out the data. Actually, Rasmussen and SurveyUSA are probably not working overtime--they are completely automated; computers make the calls and prerecorded messages from professional radio announcers are played. ("Press 1 for Clinton, press 2 for Obama".) Few, if any, human beings are in the loop, yet both firms have good track records. For more on polling technology, click on the FAQs link above. Below are the latest polls.
There have been so many polls this past week it is hard to know what to do with them. Below is a straightforward analysis: just take the most recent poll and all other polls taken within a week of it and average them all equally. The partisan pollsters like Strategic Vision (R) and Lake Research (D) have been ignored as they are in the business of getting candidates elected, not sampling the public's mood. Here are the averages. The "Tot. delegates" column includes the PLEOs, superdelegates, unpledged delegates, etc. See the Jan. 31 posting for the breakdown. More analysis below the tables.
So, what's going on? Obama is definitely surging everywhere, but whether this will be enough to overcome Clinton's lead remains to be seen. Romney is also moving up in California, but it might be too little too late. Here are some things to watch for. First, California is the big enchilada. The GOP primary is winner-take-all per congressional district. A big win here and someone is on the road to the nomination. The Democratic primary is proportional by congressional district. It is likely that the number of delegates won by Clinton and Obama will be close, but the psychological factor of "winning California" is huge.
Missouri is another state to watch. It is a genuine bellwether, picking the winner in nearly every presidential election since WWII. Also important is the turnout there. If one party has a massive turnout and the other does not, that says something about what might happen in November. Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) has been campaigning her heart out for Obama this week, which may help him with women there.
Watch the South. Voters go to the polls in Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee and Arkansas today. How do Obama and Clinton play there? Obama will probably get most of the black vote in those states. The South is also of critical important to the Republicans--it is their base. Watch McCain's percentage there. If he can barely muster 35% in the South, that doesn't bode well for November if he is the nominee. Many southern conservatives may stay home on election day. Actually, McCain has achieved a lifetime rating of 82% from the American Conservative Union (vs. an 8% rating for Obama and a 9% rating for Clinton). But some people accept nothing less than perfection.
Something you can't watch, but is still important, are the PLEOs, superdelegates, unpledged delegates, and the like. For the Democrats, these make up 20% of the delegates. For the Republicans, somewhat less. These are party activists and elected politicians, who tend to have a keen sense of which way the wind is blowing. If you are a congressman and you back the wrong elephant, you may come to regret it. Elephants never forget. Donkeys aren't much worse, though.
Watch the Spin Dept.: Tomorrow everybody is going to claim they won. Depends on the meaning of "win." You could define it as (1) the most votes nationwide, (2) the most delegates, (3) the most states, (4) the most electoral votes, or maybe something else. Huckabee will claim victory on the basis of most votes per dollar spent campaigning. Ron Paul will claim victory on the basis of most money raised in Dec. Everybody will think of something. In some cases, the declaration of victory may occur in the same speech announcing that the candidate is dropping out, although probably no one will drop out. It might make sense for Huckabee to drop out since it will be clear tomorrow that he has no chance of winning, but he is doing McCain a huge favor by staying in and splitting the conservative vote, probably allowing McCain to get the nomination with only 40% of the vote. McCain may remember this favor when it comes time to pick a Veep. Huckabee, who is currently unemployed, would appreciate a job, especially one that pays $208,100, is indoor work, and requires no heavy lifting.
Finally, Cook/RT Strategies just released some head-to-head polls for the general election. Here they are.
If McCain is the GOP nominee, he beats Clinton but loses narrowly to Obama. If Romney is the GOP nominee, it will be a rout. But November is a LOOOONG ways away. A lot can change.
CNN is keeping track of the delegates for the Democrats and for the Republicans. Note that other sources may differ because CNN is trying to count the PLEOs (Party Leaders and Elected Officials) and other unpledged delegates. When different reporters call a PLEO and hear "Well, I like Hillary, but Barack has his charms too" they may score it differently. Here is CNN's count:
-- The Votemaster