Mike Berman’s Washington Watch

May 18, 2008 11:57 PM

2008 Presidential Campaign - Act VII Has Begun

Your editor has experienced every Presidential campaign nce 1964. Each of those campaigns had its own moments, and its own memories. But there has never been anything quite like the 2008 Presidential campaign.

Democratic Primary

Act VII of the Democratic Presidential primary campaign has begun.

During Act I the major candidates, for the most part, played quite nicely together and were basically positive.

During Act II the gloves came off.

Act III ended with the Iowa caucus and the New Hampshire primary, after which the field narrowed to two.

Act IV played out on Super Tuesday. The play was supposed to effectively be over by then, and the Democratic nominee would be known. It didn't end that way.

Many thought that Act V would be Hillary Clinton's last stand. It didn't work out that way, as she won Ohio and the popular vote in Texas.

Act VI ended on May 6th. During this act, Clinton won Pennsylvania (Delegates: HRC 85 - BO 73 ). Barack Obama won North Carolina (HRC 50 - BO 65). Clinton narrowly won Indiana by 14,500 popular votes (HRC 38 - BO 34). Adding elected won in the 3 contests Clinton had a net +1.

Act VII opened on May 7th, and will finish on June 3, give or take a few days. It includes scenes in West Virginia 5/13, Oregon 5/20, Kentucky 5/20, Puerto Rico 6/1, Montana 6/3, and South Dakota 6/3. [217 pledged Delegates to be elected.]

This act has opened with a bang. On May 13th, Clinton overran Obama by 41 points in West Virginia, a state that every successful Democratic candidate since 1912 has won in the general election.

Then on May 14th, just about 24 hours after the polls closed in West Virginia, John Edwards stood with Barack Obama on a stage in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and announced that he was supporting Obama over Clinton.

While he premised his endorsement of Obama with strong and positive statements about Clinton, his support of Obama was unequivocal. Notably Elizabeth Edwards was not with him.

The big question now is whether Edwards' support will provide new impetus to Obama in Kentucky on May 20th, a contest that Clinton is currently scheduled to win.

There will be an Act VIII. It will end no later than August 28th. Some argue that it will be anti-climatic, but they are not thinking about Thursday August 27th.

On that night, for the first time in the history of this country, a woman or an African American man will accept the nomination of a major political party, the Democratic Party.

Here is a summary of the first 6 acts and the first moments of the VII [as of May 15th].

Here is the status of the Democratic race as of May 15th:

Senator Obama leads in every category

Obama Clinton Obama's net
Pledged Delegates 1599 1447 +152
Super Delegates 286 276 +10
Total 1885 1723 +162
Delegates needed to win 132 303
[Source: MSNBC 6:00 a.m. 5/15/08]

  • Total pledged Delegates still to be elected - 189
  • Super Delegates who have not yet announced -234
  • Number of primaries and caucuses to be conducted - 5

Percentage of total votes to be elected or announced needed to reach the magic number of 2026 (minus Florida and Michigan):

  • Obama 31%
  • Clinton 72%

  • Total popular vote cast, including Florida and Michigan: 33,391,725 [not including IA,NV,ME,WA]

Popular vote margins

  • Obama + 793,610 (not including Florida or Michigan)
  • Obama + 298,838 (Florida in)
  • Obama + 29,471 (Florida and Michigan in)

States won, not including contests not in States or DC:

  • Obama 28
  • Clinton 17

Delegate and Super Delegate totals are the only official results needed for nomination under Democratic Party rules. The popular vote is used as part of the persuasion campaign directed at Super Delegates.

And then there is Michigan and Florida. While the situations in Michigan and Florida are quite different, the net result is the same.

The delegations from both states will be seated at the Democratic National Convention. However, as a practical matter, the Delegate results from neither state will have any impact on the outcome of the nomination fight.

Best estimate is that, if Clinton's position was to prevail (that the results from Florida be accepted as is [Clinton and Obama were on the ballot] and the uncommitted vote in Michigan be treated as if it had been cast for Obama), Clinton would net an additional 55 pledged Delegates.

The Democratic Party's Rules and By-Laws Committee will meet on May 31st. The Committee has jurisdiction over the Florida and Michigan cases until June 29th. Thereafter, the Convention Credentials Committee will have to make the decision.

Betting is that the matter will be resolved on May 31st. Critical to the decision is finding a solution that both candidates will endorse or at least not oppose.

The Obama campaign is not likely to accept any proposal that results in Obama having a lead of less than 100 pledged Delegates overall. And it would not surprise if the Clinton campaign accepts a result in which the relative results of the two primaries are accepted, but each Delegate has less than a full vote.

It makes little difference at this stage, but it may be rth remembering that Obama, Joe Biden, and Bill Richardson withdrew from the Michigan primary in October 2007. They acted at the request of the four states who were allowed to conduct primaries or caucuses before the Democrats' primary window opened.

Senator Clinton, Chris Dodd, Dennis Kucinich, and Mike Gravel chose to stay on the Michigan ballot.

Both groups made political decisionwere intended to be to their benefit.

Continuing from the last newsletter is a listing of Gallup's rolling 3-day sample (the oldest day of interviews is dropped as a new day's interviews are added).

Here is what it has been reported since March 20th.

March 20 Clinton 48% - Obama 43%
March 21-22 Obama led
March 23 tie
March 24-April 17 Obama led
April 17 Obama +3
April 18 Clinton +1
April 19-24 Obama led
April 25 & 26  tie
April 27 Obama +1
April 28-May 1 Clinton led
May 1 Clinton +2
May 2 tie
May 3-13 Obama led
May 13 Obama +6

It is likely, that Barack Obama will be able to claim the nomination, by any standard, following the May 20th contests in Kentucky and Oregon. He will be able to claim to have acquired more than half of the pledged Delegates and sufficient numbers of Super Delegates to hit the magic number.

And even if Michigan and Florida were fully counted, as the Clinton campaign is requesting, the net Delegates which Clinton would achieve would not be enough to block Obama.

Among Democrats and persons who did or would have voted in the Democratic primaries, 51% would enthusiastically vote for either Clinton or Obama. 17% say they would not vote for Obama and 14% say they would not vote for Clinton. [NBC/WSJ 4/29]

The Obama campaign, any economist that was asked (and some that weren't asked), and various media commentators announced... often and loudly...that Clinton's proposal for a summer gas tax holiday was at best a bad idea and at worst pandering.

Well, average Americans do not seem to share their view. By 54% to 42% they favor the idea, and among lower-income households the margin grows to 65% to 30%. [Gallup 5/08]

What is the impact of race on this election? That will be a subject on which commentators will comment through the general election and beyond.

WW has looked at the results of the various primaries and caucuses completed to date in light of the size of the African American and Hispanic populations in each state.

Obama has dominated in those states (+DC) that have the smallest percentage of African Americans and in those states that have the largest percentage of African Americans.

He has won 12 of the 15 contests in which the African American population is less than 4%, and 10 of the 11 contests in which the African American population is greater than 16%. In those 18 states where the population ranges from 4%-16%, Obama won 8, while Clinton won 11.

In those states in which the Hispanic population is less than 4%, Obama won 10 of 17 contests. In those states in which the population ranges from 4%-16% Obama won 17 of 22 events. And in those 6 states where the population is greater than 16%, Obama won 2, while Clinton won 4.

Complete charts of these breakdowns are available through the following links:

The Republican Primary

John McCain has begun his general election campaigning. He has gone to places that national Republicans generally avoid because their potential for Republican votes is so low. McCain is making clear that nothing is off limits.

The General Election

When thinking about the general election it is important to remember that the contest has not really been joined. Prospective voters are not really faced with their final choices or any pressure to make a lasting decision about who they will support.

The NBC/WSJ survey (4/08) found that potential voters prefer to see a Democrat elected President by 51% - 33%, an 18 point margin. But Democratic euphoria was destined to be short lived. When McCain is matched with the two potential Democratic candidates the results are quite different.

McCain Obama McCain Clinton
NBC/WSJ (4/29 43% 46% 44% 45%
CBS/NYT (4/29) 45% 45% 43% 48%
ABC/WP (5/11) 44% 51% 46% 49%

Here are a series of characteristics by which Americans judge the following candidates for President.

Positive Negative
Clinton 42% 44%
Obama 46% 37%
McCain 40% 30%
(NBC/WSJ 4/08)

Does the person have a background and set of values with which the respondent identifies? [NBC/WSJ 4/08]

Does not have
Clinton 48% 48%
Obama 45% 48%
McCain 54% 39%

Do you view the person favorably or unfavorably? [CBS/NYT 4/29]

Favorably Unfavorably
Clinton 36% 42%
Obama 39% 34%
McCain 33% 34%

How confident are you that the person has the ability to deal with economic issues? [NBC/WSJ 4/08]

Confident Somewhat/
Not Confident
Clinton 40% 59%
Obama 35% 62%
McCain 34% 60%

The more you hear about the candidate the more or less you like him/her? [ABC/WP 5/11]

More you like Less you like
Clinton 15% 23%
Obama 26% 24%
McCain 14% 20%

The question on many lips is whether any of these candidates has a personal characteristic which makes them unappealing to voters. That does not seem to be the case. [ABC/WP 5/11]

  • 84% are comfortable with a woman President
  • 88% are comfortable with an African American President
  • 60% are comfortable with a person entering the office of the President at the age of 82

Americans are about equally divided, 47% to 43%. as to whether it is more important for a candidate for President to have "strength and experience" vs "new direction and new ideas". [ABC/WP 5/08]

Independents prefer Obama to McCain by 44% to 42McCain over Clinton by 46% to 41%. [Gallup May 08]

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