The March of the Nominees
First of all, you have to understand that America is not a democracy, at least not in the traditional sense of the word. This November I am going to vote in my 4th presidential election, but I have never voted for the President. America is what is called a “Representative Democracy"...
First of all, you have to understand that America is not a democracy, at least not in the traditional sense of the word. This November I am going to vote in my 4th presidential election, but I have never voted for the President. America is what is called a “Representative Democracy”, and that is where it all starts. Back in the 18th century when the Founding Fathers were trying to determine the future of an infant country they had to decide how leaders would be chosen. Obviously a monarchy was out of the question, but they didn’t trust the general people of the new United States either. So they decided to protect the people from the people and created an elaborate electoral system where people vote for a group of people who vote for the President. In the Presidential elections we elect delegates to the Electoral College who vote for the President. In the nominee selection process we elect delegates to the nominating conventions who vote for the Candidates. It is the reason that a candidate can win the popular vote of the people and still lose the election. After every election, there is talk about changing the process, but nothing ever happens. It is a complicated system, but it has served us for over 200 years. Please note, I am going to use the terms “right” to describe the Republican Party and conservatives, and use “left” to describe the Democrats and liberals/progressives. These terms refer to which side of the congressional chamber the party sits on. The Republicans sit on the right side of the room and the Democrats sit on the left side of the room. When I refer to the “right wing” or someone needs to run to the “right”, I don’t mean that they are correct.
The Republican race is much clearer and the candidate has already been decided. Senator John McCain will be nominated this coming September by the Republican Party and will run against either Senator Barak Obama or Senator Hillary Clinton. The Republican race had some interesting aspects to it. First of all, not many people believed that Senator McCain would win the nomination. He has never been close to the conservative wing of the Republican Party and he breaks ranks with the Republican leadership on many issues. Senator McCain was one of the primary champions of election reform and the attempt to take some of the money out of politics. He also led the fight on our immigration policies. He advocated a centrist position and coupled enforcement of our borders and immigration laws with a process for those who are already here illegally to become citizens. He also recognized the threat by Global Warming and that humans were one of the causes. He fought for a bill that would cap the amount of greenhouse gases industries could release into the air. All of these positions put him in direct opposition to the base of the Republican Party and caused people to doubt that he could win their nomination. If you look at what states Senator McCain won, they were all moderate to progressive states, until his opposition dropped out or was no longer viable. He won in Democratic strongholds like New York, Massachusetts, Wisconsin, and California. These states traditionally vote democratic in the Presidential elections, and he doesn’t have much of a chance to change that. He did not do very well in places like Georgia, Louisiana, Alaska, or Montana, which are much more reminiscent of the Republican base voters. The conservative states were split between Governors Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney. If these two hadn’t been splitting the conservative vote, it would have been a much closer race, and we may have seen a different outcome. The challenge that Senator McCain now faces is how does he get the traditional conservative voters to vote for him. Ultra-Conservative radio talk show hosts like Rush Limbaugh and Anne Coulter have come out on their shows against Senator McCain because he isn’t conservative enough, and advocated that their listeners vote for someone else. If an Independent conservative candidate got into the race, it could fracture the Republican Party and draw traditional Republican support and votes away from Senator McCain.
There is only one thing powerful enough to unite the entire Republican Party behind Senator McCain and cause them to come out in force on Election Day. And that thing is … Senator Hillary Clinton. The Republican Party’s hatred of the Clintons, both President Bill and Senator Hillary, is the only thing that overshadows the Republican Party’s dislike for Senator John McCain. Normally in primary elections the candidates run to the wings of their parties to get the nomination, and then in the general election they move towards the center to draw independent and moderate votes. But this year, Senator McCain will need to run more to the right than a person normally would in the general election in an attempt to get the Republican base voters to vote for him.
The Democratic nominee has not yet been decided, and it may not be decided until the end of August at their nominating convention. So far Senator Barak Obama has won primaries or caucuses in 25 States and the District of Columbia, has 1,328 pledge delegates, and currently has a lead in the popular vote of 592,682. Senator Hillary Clinton has won primaries or caucuses in 14 States and has 1,190 pledged delegates. There are 9 States left to hold elections and they have a combined available delegate count of 657. This means that even if one candidate won all of the remaining delegates, which is impossible because they are awarded on a proportional basis, they couldn’t win the nomination without the Super Delegates. Super Delegates are elected Democratic officials (i.e. Senators, Congress men and women, and Governors) or high-ranking Party Members. Senator Clinton won 3 of the 4 States that held primaries on Tuesday, March 4th, but she did not make much progress in getting more delegates, and the delegates are even more important than votes. She gained a total of 12 delegates by one count, but there were still 12 delegates unassigned and at least some of them will be awarded to Senator Obama, probably most, and possibly all. If all of the outstanding delegates were awarded to Senator Obama, after the 3 wins on Tuesday, Senator Clinton would be in exactly the same position she was in on Monday.
Senator Clinton’s only hope is that she can either drastically change the views of the American people yet to vote and they go overwhelmingly for her, 70% to 30% in her favor, or she needs to convince the Super Delegates that she is the only one who can beat Senator McCain in November. It is looking increasingly like neither of these options will occur, but she is continuing the race. The way that she is trying to convince people that she is the only one who can win is by using negative attack ads against Senator Obama. If you ask the American public if they like attack ads or listen to attack ads, they respond overwhelming with the answer that they hate attack ads and that nobody should use them. However, no matter how attack ads are frowned upon they work and they help get people elected. She has said on many occasions that she and Senator McCain are ready to be Commander in Chief, but that Senator Obama is not. She has said that she has a lifetime of experience and Senator Obama has a speech. Senator Clinton has brought up a land deal that Senator Obama made with a supporter who is now under federal indictment.
Senator Obama, however, has not used any attack ads against Senator Clinton. If he wanted to, he would have a myriad of scandals to bring up from the Clintons’ past, including the Whitewater land deal, the cattle investment scandal, and the missing law office files that turned up in the book room next to her office in the White House, just to name a few. The Democratic Party cannot survive another 6 weeks of negative attacks until Pennsylvania. The newest idea that the Clinton campaign has been floating is the idea of a unified Presidential ticket, Senator Clinton for President and Senator Obama for Vice-President. It is supposed to draw those people who would like to vote for both candidates to Senator Clinton because they would get both people on a single ticket. Senator Obama has already said that he is not interested in being her Vice-President, but if she wins and the job is offered to him, he may decide differently. It is said that the Vice-President is the only job in the world that nobody wants but nobody turns down. One of the benefits that the Clinton campaign sees is that it prevents the Democratic Party from being fractured. In this election, you have two distinct and highly passionate camps, one for Clinton and one for Obama. And each camp draws from drastically different demographics. Senator Clinton has her strength in white women, Latinos, people making under $50,000, and older Americans. Senator Obama’s supporters come from African Americans, people under 60 years old, people making more than $50,000 and the highly educated. White men are split 51%-49% in favor of Senator Clinton, but that has been shifting towards Senator Obama. Senator Obama also has strong support from people who consider themselves moderates, independents, and even some Republicans. His weakness is the younger voters. Young voters tend to be very active in primaries and caucuses, but it normally doesn’t translate into them voting in the general elections. The passion from them is different this year than in the past, but they actually need to vote in numbers before their strength is truly experienced.
If Senator Clinton wants to draw Senator Obama’s supporters to her on Election Day if she is the nominee, she needs to have him on the ballot, because she doesn’t attract them otherwise. The young passionate Obama supporters would probably stay at home and give up on the political process, rather than vote for either Senator Clinton or Senator McCain, if they are the only choices. However, if Senator Obama is the nominee, he has enough support among the Democratic base, which are her supporters, that he will get their votes without having her on the ballot. Plus, his message of a new way of doing politics and a new future would be tarnished or ruined by having her on the ballot with him. She embodies the status quo decisive politics that have gotten us into our current situation with a war that 70% of Americans don’t support and want us to get out of. Senator Clinton needs Senator Obama on her ticket, and Senator Obama needs Senator Clinton to not be on his ticket.
The States of Florida and Michigan broke Democratic Party rules by moving their primaries earlier than February 4, 2008, and because of this they were stripped of their delegates. In a normal nominating process, this wouldn’t be that big of a deal because the nominee is selected well before the convention, like it has been this year in the Republican Party. Because this year’s Democratic race is so close and will probably come down to the wire, the Party is trying to come up with a way to handle Florida and Michigan. Both are States with large delegate counts and could swing the nomination one way or the other. There has been talk of holding make-up primaries but the timing and expense are such that not many people support the idea. The idea of holding caucuses has been brought up, but the Clinton campaign has said that they will not participate in a caucus, probably because they have lost almost every caucus this year.
And some people have even suggested that the delegates are split down the middle and 50% of them are given to Senator Clinton and 50% are given to Senator Obama.
Senator Clinton has advocated simply using the results from the early primaries. She won both contests. In Michigan, her name was the only one on the ballot, and in Florida nobody campaigned. It looks like the leading idea is to hold a mail-in primary, where voters mail in their votes. My best guess is that Senator Clinton would probably win Florida 54% to 46%, and Senator Obama would win Michigan by the same margin, thus getting back to the 50-50 split on delegates.
For the sake of the Democratic Party, they need to choose a nominee soon, and start focusing on Senator McCain, instead of trying to tear each other down. Mississippi’s primary is this coming Tuesday, which Senator Obama should win, and then it is on to Pennsylvania. All indications are that it is not going to be decided any time soon. It is both the most exciting and most frustrating Presidential contest I have ever been witness to. The writing is on the wall, and all you need to do is to choose to see it.
My prediction is that the Super Delegates will start to come out in support of Barak Obama, and Senator Clinton will be forced to admit that she cannot win the nomination this year. I do not know how soon that will happen, but at some point it will.
By Cayle Runk, PhD, for UNIAN