This Is Going to be a Long Process

I’m writing this early on the morning after the Michigan Primary. It was a strange primary for the Democrats as it didn’t mean anything in terms of the delegate count: only Hillary Clinton, Dennis Kucinich, and Mike Gravel appeared on the ballot (along with Christopher Dodd who has since dropped out). Also, because the Michigan Democratic Party tried to defy the national party in picking an early date, these delegates won’t be seated for the convention. That said, Hillary won 55% of the vote with Uncommitted coming in second at 40%. You have to wonder how Dennis and Mike are taking the news that they placed lower than “I don’t know.” As a footnote, Dennis’ campaign page is now his re-election to Congress and his presidential bid has moved here.

The Republican race has gotten more complex. Mitt Romney won Michigan; this is good for him not because it gives him a boost but because he needed to win it. He grew up here and his father, George Romney (1907-1995) was Governor from 1963-1969. To use his imagery, he now has two golds (Wyoming and Michigan) and two silvers (Iowa and New Hampshire).

In the Republican race, the four states that have had either a caucus or a primary, there have been three winners: Mike Huckabee in Iowa, John McCain in New Hampshire, and Mitt Romney in Wyoming and Michigan.

The other Republican candidates appear to be staking out states where they think they can (or have to) win. I believe the interesting story is there. Rudy Giuliani was supposed to be be much stronger at this point, and he has staked out Florida (January 29th). Fred Thompson has staked out South Carolina this Saturday. I’m not sure exactly what happened to Rudy’s campaign, but the word on Fred Thompson all along has been that he is a poor campaigner. This is not exactly new: nearly every campaign has some group wringing their hands looking for the candidate and I think Fred thought he was that man. Perhaps he was but he never got the word that he would still have to campaign. The Christian evangelical movement may have been looking for someone like him but it doesn’t mean they were prepared to proclaim him king just on his entry into the race.

Super Tuesday is February 5th; even the best case scenario sees it a longshot that either party process is over.

New Hampshire: Some Expected Outcomes, Some Surprises

I’m writing this about 8:00pm Pacific Time and 11:00pm Eastern Time. The polls are closed in New Hampshire and the winners have been declared: John McCain is currently carrying 37% of the Republican vote and Hillary Clinton carries 39% of the Democratic vote. Just under 80% of the vote has been counted.

John McCain’s win isn’t much of a surprise as he bypassed Iowa to concentrate on New Hampshire. The news is that Mitt Romney did not win. He has been spending a great deal of money in both Iowa and New Hampshire; New Hampshire is also adjacent to Romney’s home state of Massachusetts. He was expected to win Iowa because of his presence and the money he poured into it and he was expected to win New Hampshire because, frankly, they know him from living next door. Mitt faces an uphill battle; two of the next three primaries are in the South (Michigan, South Carolina, and Florida) whose populations contain a high percentage of evangelical Christians who will have trouble voting for a Mormon. The next few weeks should be good for Mike Huckabee but he needs to sew things up pretty quickly or miss his chance. The evangelical message plays well only in those states with high evangelical populations.

The results of the Democratic primary surprised me a little. Until a few days ago it appeared to be neck and neck between Senator Clinton and Barack Obama but a poll a few days ago had Senator Obama pulling ahead. Tonight it appears that this last poll was dead wrong. That happens: polls always have a margin of error. Interestingly enough the vote count is close enough that they will both end up with 9 delegates (John Edwards takes the other 4). Things would have gone much better for Senator Obama if he had won. As he heads into the South he carries with him an uphill battle of his own. There is a segment of the population in South Carolina and Florida who simply will not vote for an African American and won’t necessarily admit it. He won’t be able to fully trust the polls because of this. I’m originally from Virginia and remember L. Douglas Wilder who was governor from 1990 to 1994. He learned during the race to factor out a certain percentage of people who said they would vote for him but really wouldn’t. Senator Obama may face the same thing.

John McCain may have something to say about this. In the now famous election of 2000 he beat President Bush in New Hampshire and was doing well in South Carolina. The Bush campaign in South Carolina did something called “push polling.” They called Republicans in South Carolina under the guise of taking a poll. They started the call by asking who the person intended to vote for in the primary; if the caller said he or she would vote for John McCain the poller would ask: “Would you be more or less willing to vote for John McCain if you knew he secretly fathered a biracial child out of wedlock?” Of course Senator McCain had done no such thing (though, interestingly enough, South Carolina Senator Strom Thurmond had) but that wasn’t the point. The point was to imply to the voter that McCain had, and enough voters were put off because of this that Bush won the South Carolina primary and went on the win the nomination.

In any case, stay tuned. The primary season is just beginning and should prove to be an interesting ride.