Tuesday, 4 March 2008

Democratic nomination decided today?

The honest answer is that I would be absolutely amazed if it is. Clinton maintains a smallish but consistent poll lead in Ohio. Obama's poll lead in Texas is minuscule and may now actually have reversed in the closing stages of the campaign. It is down to turnout and how the early voting has gone. My gut instinct is that Clinton will win Ohio fairly comfortably and Texas will be almost a dead heat with Clinton winning by a squeak on the vote and Obama winning more delegates (it's to do with the apportionment- see my piece in Tribune this week for further background on that).

See also an analysis on www.mydd.com about early voting and the poll numbers that are coming through. It's inconclusive but tends to suggest a narrow Clinton win in Texas.

Where would the scenario above leave us? In a really bad situation for the Democrats. For five reasons:

i) Obama is still likely to win on pledged delegates but will have to endure months of the type of negative Clinton campaigning that he has experienced in Texas over the last few days. McCain can just sit back and enjoy.
ii) Obama will be drawn into battle over issue after issue. This will tarnish his reputation as the change candidate and make him look 'just like the rest.'
iii) Michigan and Florida. Clinton's people will try to get the Democratic National Committee to re-seat the delegates in Denver in August. There will be a row about this and the Democrats will look incompetent and undemocratic. As Bob Shrum described it, the primaries in Florida and Michigan were like 'a Soviet style election- there was only one candidate.'
iv) The nomination will be decided by the super-delegates. If they go for Clinton when Obama has more pledged delegates that will severely damage a Clinton Presidential bid. Perhaps fatally.
v) Clinton and Obama will start to drift leftwards as the key state of Pennsylvania becomes Obama's last chance at a knock-out and Clinton's final firewall. Eight weeks of hedging to the left will be a further gift to McCain.

Overall, if Obama fails to win Texas on both the popular vote and delegates it will be an awful situation for the Democrats. Whoever emerges as the candidate in August could and probably would be severely handicapped against McCain. Obama stands to lose the most. If the process 'normalises' him which it will start to do then his momentum is punctured. Should he win Texas, no matter how narrowly, I hope that the Clintons do the responsible thing. The chances of that? Start at zero then work back.

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