After yesterday's Shove Tuesday, we now face the inevitable let down of Ash Wednesday. No more electoral pancakes like this in a long time. And speaking of ashes, it is clear one candidate had a really bad night: Mitt Romney.
The Republican race is clearing up. Conservatives aren't sold on McCain, but they are sure that they don't like Romney. Huckabee still has allure to voters in the South and almost pulled out a massive upset in Missouri, which would have revived his campaign big time had he pulled it off. While McCain has a commanding lead, he also has not closed the deal. He still needs to convince conservatives that he will hew the line if he becomes president. So look for him to talk a lot about judges, tax cuts, abortion, and cutting spending. Also, Huckabee might have played himself onto the ticket as a VP. McCain will need to pick a conservative, one that is a proven vote getter. He might want to pick a Sam Brownback, but clearly Huckabee is a much better campaigner and speaker than Sen. Brownback.
On the Democratic side, it is a virtual tie. Obama's folks will talk about winning more states (and, according to their estimates, more delegates) than Clinton, however, she still holds a narrow ( >100) lead in delegates when you include Super Delegates and even more if you count Michigan and Florida. Clinton's people will talk about how Obama won (except for Missouri) zero big states--Michigan, Florida, New York, New Jersey, and California all went her way. Moreover, they will point out that Obama is like the Democratic version of McCain--winning states that are in all likelihood not going to be in their party's column in November (for Obama, that is Idaho, Alaska, Utah, Kansas, North Dakota, South Carolina, Alabama, and Georgia; for McCain its New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Connecticut, and California). However, unlike the Republicans, Democrats are very pleased with their choices (71-72 would be very happy with either Obama or Hillary, even if they supported the other), so I don't think Obama's lack of winning California and New York is going to mean he will lose those states to McCain. However, maybe Obama has a case that he can make some red states closer (and maybe flip a some) and that he would be better for down ticket Democrats in states like Utah.
But neither Obama nor Hillary landed a knockout punch tonight. The only real surprise was Missouri...but even there, Obama had newly elected Sen. Claire McCaskill. Barack closed the gap in many states where he was far behind, but not enough to take the states, even when he had high profile endorsements and rallies. See Mass., NJ, AZ, and California. In states where there is early voting, Obama's surges are negated due to Hillary Clinton's superior absentee ballot operation. See California and Florida.
So who is ahead, who will win the Democratic nomination? Your guess is as good as mine. It seems Obama will have a good week coming up with Washington, Nebraska, and Louisiana in 3 days. The first two because they are caucuses, which he seems to always win, and the second because of the large African-American population. Sunday features the Maine caucuses, which also should be an Obama win. Then Tuesday is the Potomac Primary--VA, MD, and DC--where large African-American populations combined with big rallies in DC also look good for Obama to win those states. On the 19th, there are three more contests that favor Obama: Hawaii caucuses, Washington and Wisconsin primaries. Obama should crush Hillary in his home state of Hawaii, and he is up in Washington state. I don't know about Wisconsin but Obama has done well in Midwestern states thus far (IL, IA, MO, KS) and the Badger State is drivable from Chicago where he must have a large base of volunteers. And I think he has to win all or nearly all of these states to have any chance of settling this prior to the convention.
Because after that is another mini-Super Tuesday where he will not do too well. Ohio, Texas, Vermont, and Rhode Island are March 4th. My Obama-supporting friend who ran the Democratic parties GOTV in Rhode Island doubts Obama has a shot there. Vermont he has a chance, and maybe Ohio, but Texas looks problematic for him with the large Latino population and the general problem he has in big states. Obama needs to win these states as well to really knock Clinton out. While he won't have won the necessary delegates, there could be pressure for her to drop out if he wins all of February and early March...along with his growing financial edge. Both candidates strategies thus far have worked to a degree but they haven't been able to knock the other out of the picture. And baring an unlikely sweep like I outlined above, it is not going to happen.
Anyway, enjoy Lent, and congrats to Obama and Romney organizers in Utah. Oh and what is the deal with New Mexico's primary? Did bizzaro Bill Richardson told them to hold up the results so he could endorse Clinton or Obama?