Friday, January 11, 2008

Whirlwind wonkiness

Maggie says:
My head is spinning with all the political upheaval around us. It's fascinating and dramatic, and I love it. It worries me that this game is so fun, though - it's too serious to take so lightly, I sometimes think. But then, those of us who find this fun are a rare and beleaguered breed, aren't we? And finding it this much fun implies a seriousness on some level, at least for those of us outside of the mainstream media. Oh anyway, I'll stop rambling. Here's what's keeping my head spinning about the Democrats:

  • Michigan. The Dem primary is January 15, but only Clinton is a real player: Edwards and Obama aren't on the ballot because the state party violated national party rules by moving its primary up early, and they sided with the national party and agreed to a boycott. With only Clinton on the ballot (although she is not campaigning there), the question remains: how much bounce does a win create, however one-sided it may be? Is a win still a win? I would have loved a real Dem debate in Michigan, one that might finally dig into candidates' views on trade and the economy. South Carolina, although embodying some of those issues, is a different kind of primary, never as economy-based as a Michigan one would be. Oh well. (Real question: can we all agree that Michigan and Florida have screwed themselves by trying to get out in front of the pack with their primaries, given that their state makeup only really matters for the general election and not the primary? "Realer" question: how soon can we all agree that Iowa and New Hampshire are lovable, but it's time for the country to grow up and move to a regional primary system that prevents more of this nonsense?)
  • Nevada. This is a biggie. On January 19, we're going to see how Hillary's bounce from NH and MI fares against the state labor machine, the vote-getter for Dems in Nevada. This year, all endorsements have gone to Obama and Edwards. Obama just landed two of the most powerful endorsements in the state - Unite Here (representing 60,000 casino, hotel, and restaurant workers) and the Service Employees International Union (about 17,500 workers). Unite Here is a huge deal, and they were privately supporting Edwards until, in their words, it became a "two-person race," and they wanted to have influence. So frustrating. Edwards has the endorsement of a variety of smaller unions, totaling about 28,000 Nevadans. What would a third-place Clinton finish in Nevada mean?
  • South Carolina. I'm the first to admit my total bias against South Carolina (I could listen to my mom bash SC all day, it's so good), but that's really played out in the Republican primary. For the Dems on January 26, we (finally!) get non-whites voting in numbers that matter (I know Nevada is similar in that respect, but for some reason my head separates a labor vote from a non-labor minority vote). This year SC's going to be fascinating. James Clyburn, godfather of black Dems in his state, is considered the gatekeeper of this vote. He is friendly to the Clintons, due mostly to Bill Clinton's huge popularity in the state, but has not officially endorsed anyone yet. Word is, he's considering endorsing Obama. That would be enormous for Obama, and I think he has a huge shot of winning it should that happen. Even without Clyburn, he has a strong chance given a predicted bounce from winning Nevada, being a black candidate (duh), and the fact that Unite Here has a presence in South Carolina as well. Also interesting to ponder is how Edwards will fare in SC, because the death of the textile industry in the Carolinas is the framework for Edwards' views on trade and the economy. It's very real there.
  • Florida. This state's a mess because they moved their primary up to January 29, and all of the major candidates promised the early states they wouldn't campaign or spend money in Florida as retribution. Playground politics at its best. The advantage in this is clearly Clinton's, who should do well with the state's older, more traditional Dems. I'll be tuning into the Republicans this night, hoping to laugh at Giuliani's failed Floridian strategy.
  • Super Tuesday!!! Finally, a Super Tuesday that really matters. On February 5, nearly two dozen states are holding races for one or both parties, including New Mexico! Marj, how are GOTV efforts looking there? It's going to be huge, and will come down to every single state, and I will surely be up all night watching returns. I think Richardson bowing out is going to open up the West in a lot of ways - we're already seeing Arizona governor (and ABQ native) Janet Napolitano endorse Obama, for instance, which I don't think would have happened with Richardson still in the mix. Labor will be big here, but bounce is going to be bigger. Whose story is going to play best come Feb 5? I'm sure Edwards will stick it out until then. (Man, I can't help but think what could have been if labor had held out for him. And if you think I'm wrong to discount his chances - and this is me, an Edwards supporter - speak up. I'd love to hear your thoughts. But given his public financing approach that caps his money on top of how the races have played out so far, I'm reticent about hoping for a better outcome.) What's exciting about Super Tuesday is that it runs the spectrum of the country. For the first time (and let's forget these useless national polls), we'll get to see how candidates have been "playing" in areas they haven't specifically campaigned in. National media is huge here - how have they told the story? How are candidates coming across? Who appeals the most outside of a small, targeted audience? Most of us have yet to see a campaign commercial - that's going to start changing. I love the culmination that Super Tuesday will bring, and it makes me even more excited about developing a regional primary system that will bring equity to the game of shaping the presidency.
What did I miss? Get wrong? Get right? What has your mind whirling about the race?