News from the Votemaster
Today is F-day. Florida is holding its renegade primary in violation of both the DNC and RNC rules. Normally, herding Democrats is like herding cats, but for the most part all the Democrats obeyed orders and didn't campaign in Florida. Hillary Clinton looks like she will pick up an easy win and get the 0 delegates (but see below). Herding Republicans is usually more like herding dogs--they pay at least some attention to their master--but not this time. Mitt Romney and John McCain are engaged in a fierce name-calling match while Rudy Giuliani is hopping up and down and yelling "Hey, don't forget Mr. 9/11." Mike Huckabee is off in Georgia campaigning hard in a state he might win next week.
The polls show a very close race between Romney and McCain. This primary is of crucial importance to both of them. A McCain win, especially if it is a big one, establishes him as the front runner. A Romney win of any kind throws the race completely open heading into Superduper Tuesday on Feb. 5. Here are today's polls.
As you can see, there is no clear leader on the Republican side. In addition to the margin of error (about 4% for most of these), there are two other factors to consider. First, primaries always have lower turnouts than general elections, so pollsters try to figure out who will actually vote. They have different secret formulas for doing this, none of them very accurate. Typical questions used in the screen are:- Are you planning to vote in the primary?
- Did you vote in the 2000 primary?
- Are you following the primary closely?
- Do you think your vote matters in the primary?
and so on, but none of these are perfect predictors of voting behavior. One huge plus they have about Florida in they don't have to worry about a sudden snow storm that depresses turnout. Hurricanes are another matter, but this is not hurricane season.
The second factor that complicates Florida is early voting. In response to the 2000 election fiasco, Florida has liberalized its voting procedures. Voting began 2 weeks ago and over 800,000 Floridians have already voted. Thus all the nastiness of the past couple of days doesn't affect their vote and the pollsters have to deal with it. In theory, a question like "Have you already voted?" should do the job though.
Florida's primaries are closed. Democrats get to pick the Democratic nominee and Republicans get to pick the Republican nominee. Up until now, McCain has won primaries with a huge boost from independents. Now he has to win among Republicans. If he can't do that, Romney will batter him on the head with that all week long. If he pulls it off, he has a case that his fellow party members also like him.
As a punishment for moving its primary to before Feb. 5, the DNC stripped Florida (and Michigan) of all its delegates to the convention. The RNC stripped half of them. Don't bet on it. When convention time rolls around, all the stripped delegates are going to show up and asked to be seated. If the nomination has been sealed at that point, the credentials commitee will vote to seat them all, but give them a warning not to do this next time. If the nomination is still up in the air, there will be a huge credentials fight. Since The Democratic delegates from Michigan and Florida are likely to be largely Clinton supporters, she will fight to have them seated and Obama will oppose this. Romney won Michigan and will likely fight to have them seated. If he also wins Florida, he will fight hard. If he loses Florida, the obvious compromise will be to seat the full Michigan and the full Florida delegations. Both he and McCain will probably accept that, no matter what the exact balance of delegates is. Nobody wants to insult two major states. We discussed this issue in detail on Jan 24.
Lost in yesterday's announcement by Sen. Ted Kennedy that he was supporting Barack Obama was the endorsement by his son, Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-RI). This puts pretty much all the visible Kennedy players on Obama's team. Ted is going to campaign for him this week. He has a large following among older Democrats and union members who see him as an unrepentant old-school liberal. Republicans also see him that way. If McCain becomes the Republican nominee, a lot will be made of McCain's working closely with Kennedy on the immigration bill that would have granted amnesty to the 12 million illegals in the U.S. and put them on the path to citizenship if they jumped through a few hoops. Of course, during the general election campaign, McCain will be proud of the fact that he works across the aisle, even with the most partisan of Democrats. It will get him votes among independents, no matter how much Rush Limbaugh froths at the mouth.
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