Saturday, January 19, 2008

Hillary and Romney in Nevada, McCain in South Carolina

The Republican race got just a little tighter, with a decisive victory for Romney in Nevada and a squeaker for McCain over the Huckster in South Carolina. The only Democratic race today was in Nevada, and that one turned out to be a pyrrich victory of sorts for Clinton.

The next scheduled primaries are January 26 in South Carolina for the Democrats and then January 29 for both parties in Florida. Those votes are followed by February 5 Super-Tuesday, with 22 states in play.

Now, to read the entrails, consult the oracles, and make my own SWAG's:

On the Republican side, the field probably just narrowed to three viable candidates - Romney, McCain and Giuliani.

Romney stays viable and very much in the running with his victory in Nevada. And as the economy becomes more of an issue, Romney's stellar economic credentials may be a decisive consideration to many voters.

McCain has two big wins in New Hampshire and South Carolina - but both wins have relied heavilly on independents and cross-over votes. As we move into states that have strict party primaries, the question is will the base still hold McCain's previous heresies against him? I'll tell you on February 6. I happen to like McCain for his national security credentials and his promise not to approve any spending bills that contain earmarks.

Giuliani - the wild card. A win in Florida puts him very much back in the running. And I have no idea whats going to happen in Florida.

The Huckster - He just lost in a friendly Southern state with a very high concentration of Christian fundamentalists, which has been his only demographic to date. He will join Ron Paul as a side show from here on out.

Fred - On July 3rd, the Republican race was Fred's to enter and win. He looked like the strongest possible candidate to me. But he has fumbled and bumbled ever since. It really is too bad, but Fred is no longer in the running.

The Democratic primary in Nevada was pretty fascinating on several counts:

- Hillary won the "caucus" count pretty decisively, despite the strip's biggest union coming out for Obama. What does this say about the power of the Unions?

- Obama may well spin this as a victory - and with some reasonable basis for so doing. While Hillary may have won the "caucus" count, the way votes are weighted by region in Nevada, Obama actually won one more delegate than Hillary.

- The allure of Obama until ten days ago was that he was an African American candidate who transcended race. Then, ten days ago, he embraced the race card against Bill and Hillary. Was that a fatal mistake? It may well have been. While white progressives have spent decades joined with the black civil rights establishment in portraying as racist any conservative criticism of their post-civil-rights-era agenda, its probably another thing entirely when the penultimate white progressives - Bill and Hill - are getting carded. I am not of the white progressive persuasion, so I can only speculate on this one.

Obama will likely take South Carolina, with its large black population. And if Obama stays as far away from the race card as possible between now and 5 February, perhaps this might still be a race. Otherwise, after this bit of drama, I think Hillary retakes the mantle of inevitability.

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