Clinton, McCain lead:
[X]press' post-primary analysis
Democratic race far from over, GOP front-runner emerges
February 6, 2008 7:20 PM
While the Feb. 5 primaries provided plenty of excitement for pundits and voters alike, “Super Tuesday” did not yield a clear front-runner for Democrats, but the Republican nominee is all but established.
The two Democratic candidates, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama and New York Sen. Hillary Clinton, traded key victories, but it was the former first lady who captured the most coveted states, New York and California, giving her a huge boost as the race slogs on. Despite losing the popular vote in the most populous states, however, Obama is still very much in the race for delegates and far from out of what has shaped up to be the most competitive democratic nomination since 1984.
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“The conventional thinking was that the front runner would be decided by now,” said Francis Neely, a political science professor at SF State. “[The race] could go all the way to the [Democratic] Convention” in August. “Neither campaign is going to slow down.”
Clinton’s win in New York and California, though, could give her a boost in fundraising. In January, Obama raked in more than twice as much money in donations than Clinton, $32 million to her $13.5 million, according to the Associated Press.
For a glimpse of the Clinton headquarters in San Francisco, click the multimedia link on the top right of this story...
On the Republican side, Arizona Sen. John McCain all but wrapped up the GOP nomination with a huge victory in California, garnering all 173 delegates in the winner-take-all primary and 40 percent of the total 1,191 delegates needed. The win leaves former Governors Mitt Romney (Mass.) and Mike Huckabee (Ark.) trailing far behind, though Huckabee had a surprisingly strong showing despite being heavily outspent by his rivals.
As expected, California played a key role for both parties, particularly for McCain. But it was the Democratic race that captured much of the attention, with a historic battle between the first African American male and the first woman for the nomination far from over.
Obama was the clear winner in San Francisco—and at SF State—with a 52-to-44 percent win over Clinton among registered Democrats in the city. He fared equally well throughout most of Northern California, but it was not enough to overcome Clinton’s wide swath of support among Latinos and working-class voters in Southern California.
While the win for Clinton doesn’t assure victory, she now has the perception of being the most electable Democrat, and will benefit from extensive media coverage that depicts her as the winner, said David Tabb, also a political science professor at SF State.
“I see that they are close in delegates, but Clinton has been given a media boost in California with the popular vote win. The framing of the win by the media in California will make it harder for Obama,” Tabb said. “She has been able to withstand his surge in California.”
Heading into the Feb. 5 primaries, Clinton had a projected 10-point lead in the polls, but Obama was able to close the gap, though not enough to make up for her strong support among the Democrats traditional voting base: women, working-class liberals and Latinos. Clinton garnered support from seven out of 10 Latino voters in the state, according the A.P.
Clinton won the state by a margin of 52 percent to 42 percent, according to the Secretary of State’s office.
“[Obama] has not been able to broaden his support among people within the [Democratic] party,” Tabb said.
But Neely cautioned that no lead—even in public perception—is strong enough to predict the outcome of the hotly contested Democratic race. The hunt for delegates remains wide open, with the state’s 370 Democratic delegates to be distributed proportionally to the candidates, in contrast with the winner-take-all Republican parties. Clinton leads the decisive delegate count with 668 to Obama’s 557. The total needed for the nomination is 2,025, so the race is far from decided.
Several key primaries in the coming weeks could easily go to Obama, and a surge in voter turnout could work in his favor, Neely said.
“On the Democratic side, the fact that it’s an open seat creates more competition. They don’t have to fight incumbency,” Neely said, adding that the historic battle between a woman and an African American male has younger voters energized. And both candidates have mass appeal throughout the party, giving the Democrats a “happy problem.”
For McCain and the Republicans, different factors are at play as the Arizona senator takes a commanding lead. Huckabee, whom many expected to be eliminated after Feb. 5, siphoned votes away from Romney, which helped McCain collect several key victories.
Neely said that with McCain as the likely nominee, the GOP base could be in trouble, though he was careful to note that the party is not as fractured as it appears. Nevertheless, McCain has drawn much ire from conservative talk show hosts and much of the core religious right. Such infighting could hurt the party in a general election.
“Although they have a bigger problem than usual,” Neely said, “it’s a bit more divided then they’d like. They’re not as excited about their choices as Democrats are.”
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