The good news for Rudy Giuliani is that he was finally able to soundly beat Ron Paul. The bad news is that he came in a distant third place and will be leaving the race to endorse John McCain. At this point McCain is looking very hard to beat, and we will probably know for sure if he’s unstoppable next week. Unless the anti-McCain conservatives can quickly and effectively unite around Romney there’s no stopping McCain. Complicating matters, Huckabee will continue to draw the support of a large share of the social conservatives, reducing potential conservative voters for Romney. Further complicating the issue is that conservatives have good reason to doubt Romney’s commitment to their views.
The good news for Hillary Clinton is that she won. The bad news is that this is a Pyrrhic victory which highlights her growing problems. In terms of delegates, Clinton ties Obama, Edwards, and even Gravel at zero. By celebrating a victory Clinton highlights how she has broken the spirit of the pledges made by the Democratic candidates not to campaign in Florida. As The New Hampshire Union Leader wrote on Tuesday:
Clinton coldly and knowingly lied to New Hampshire and Iowa. Her promise was not a vague statement. It was a signed pledge with a clear and unequivocal meaning.
She signed it thinking that keeping the other candidates out of Michigan and Florida was to her advantage, but knowing she would break it if that proved beneficial later on. It did, and she did.
Clinton has lost a lot of credibility for zero delegates. She might manage to get the delegates at the convention, but if she squeaks by with a stolen victory in this manner she will have a hard time getting enough Democrats out to vote for her to win a general election.
An initial review of the results also highlights Clinton’s growing weaknesses. There was a disproportionate number of women and elderly voters compared to earlier primaries, suggesting that Clinton supporters were more likely to turn out. The Democratic vote was 59% female and 41% male. Greater turnout by Clinton supporters is hardly surprising considering that she was doing the most to appeal for votes in the state.
Clinton’s base remains women and the elderly, except those who are educated. Having Ted Kennedy campaigning should help Obama pick up votes among the elderly, the core Democratic voters, Latinos, and even some working class women. Obama picks up the young, the educated, blacks, and more independent minded Democratic voters on his own. Obama beat Clinton among voters who decided who to vote for in the past week, further showing who has the momentum.
Having John McCain as the likely opponent can also hurt Clinton among Democrats who are choosing based upon electability. McCain negates Clinton’s strengths. If Clinton wants to run based upon experience, McCain has her beat. McCain will be portrayed as the straight talker, running against a candidate who has been widely and accurately branded as a liar and a cheat by members of her own party. McCain has the support of many independents while Clinton’s support is limited to hard core Democrats, potentially reducing her constituency to those who voted Democratic during the party’s losing years.
Clinton offers nothing to inspire very many people to get out to vote for her over John McCain. Both supported the war. Neither is particularly strong on social issues or civil liberties from a liberal perspective, but neither is as awful as the current president. A government junkie like Clinton who has been a strong backer of presidential power and nanny state regulations is hardly going to expand her appeal. It’s really hard to find reasons why it is even worth the wear and tear on my shoes to get out to vote for Hillary Clinton and extend the Clinton/Bush dynasty for yet another four years.
Obama is the only Democrat who can take on John McCain. Obama has shown the ability to not only receive the support of the young, but the ability to get them out to vote, negating McCain’s advantage of strong support among the elderly. Obama, but not Clinton, can challenge McCain on his support for the war, providing a reason to ignore McCain’s greater experience. Obama, but not Clinton, can frame the election as a choice of looking towards the future instead of the past.