Tuesday, February 5, 2008

"I've Said it Before and I'll Say it Again: Democracy Simply Doesn't Work, People..."

Super-Duper Tuesday (Live) Running Diary: OK, I'm going on the record right now: this may not work.

Check back for posts around 7:00 PM. I'll also be on MSN to discuss the night's events. No guarantees as to accuracy and/or insight.

6:46: the briefest of brief tutorials for those that may be watching/reading tonight who don't follow U.S. politics on a regular basis. On the Democratic side, Clinton and Obama are competing in 22 states (plus American Samoa! Population: 125) for the 1,681 delegates that are up for grabs. To get the nomination, a candidate requires 2,025 delegates. At the moment, Hillary has 261 and Obama has 191. (Edwards had 61 delegates before dropping out--no word yet on to whom they'll be swung.) The Democrats allocate their delegates on a proportional basis, so if, say, American Samoa has ten delegates, and Obama gets 60% of the vote to Hil's 40%, he would get 6 delegates and she would claim 4. (On the Republican side, it's winner take all, so in the previous, Obama would take all ten.) You'll notice, of course, that, based on the numbers, neither Obama or Clinton can technically secure the nomination, but the evening should really bring the race into focus.

Oh, and one other thing: the Democratic Party also has 796 "super delegates" (consisting of former and current members of Congress, current Democratic Governors, and past Democratic Presidents and VPs--including, yes, Bill Clinton and Al Gore) who are free to vote whichever way they'd like. Most agree that the super delegates will ultimately decide who gets the nomination, and if that seems fundamentally undemocratic to you, well...yeah. (Also, see: "list of eligible voters in the USA, 1787-1965.) According to the Los Angeles Times, super delegates exist so that the party establishment has a say in the nomination (which is good, because I was starting to get concerned that rich, white, old men didn't have quite enough power in America today). The consensus seems to be that the super delegates want to back Clinton, but, in the last few days, I've heard that this may not be the case, as many point to Sen. Ted Kennedy's endorsement of Obama as a sign that the party establishment is looking to turn in a new direction. Interestingly enough, the GOP does not have super delegates.

On the Republican side, the four candidates (McCain, Romney, Huckabee, and--I suppose--Ron Paul) are vying for 1,015 pledged delegates in 21 states. On the Republican side, McCain currently has 102 delegates, Romney 93, Huckabee 43 (actually, this is higher now--more on this in a sec), and Paul 4. Barring some sort of miraculous recovery from Romney, McCain should have the nomination locked up by night's end, but, as they say, that's why they play the game...

6:57: Huckabee actually has 61 delegates now, picking up 18 by virtue of his second ballot win in the West Virginia primary (which was basically a caucus). Romney actually led after the 1st ballot, but, at 40.9%, was short of the necessary majority. Huckabee was second at 33% and McCain was wayyyy back. Adopting their "Stop Romney" policy, Team McCain pulled out and had their supporters throw their support to Huckabee, who went over the top on ballot #2, fucking over Romney in the process. Most have noted that 18 delegates--especially going to Huckabee--are fairly meaningless in the grand scheme of things. Still, it's interesting to see the political machinery at work. Polls close in 3 minutes...

7:08: Literally three seconds after announcing that the polls had closed in Georgia, CNN's Wolf Blitzer called it for Obama. The outcome isn't surprising, but I'm always amazed at how quickly networks are willing to call races. What, exactly, would the early returns be in such a case: 1,000 consecutive votes for Obama? Statewide citings of lifesize Bill Clinton dolls being burned in effigy? Exit polling that reveals that 85% of Georgians agree with the statement "Hillary Clinton slaps babies for sport and shoplifts prescription medication from retirement homes"??

On the Republican side, no call yet in Georgia. Early murmurs suggest that the night may not be the McCain runaway that many have anticipated.

7:38: To try to put things in perspective, here's how the primaries break down from smallest to biggest:

Dems: Alaska (13), North Dakota (13) Delaware (15), Idaho (18), Utah (23), New Mexico (26), Kansas (32), Arkansas (35), Oklahoma (38), Connecticut (48), Alabama (52), Colorado (55), Arizona (56), Tennessee (68), Minnesota (72), Missouri (72), Georgia (87), Massachusetts (93), New Jersey (107), Illinois (153), New York (232), California (370).

GOP (pledged and unpledged): Delaware (18), Montana (25), North Dakota (26), Alaska (29), West Virginia (30), Connecticut (30), Arkansas (34), Utah (36), Oklahoma (41), Minnesota (41), Massachusetts (43), Colorado (46), Alabama (48), New Jersey (52), Arizona (53), Tennessee (55), Missouri (58), Illinois (70), Georgia (72), New York (101), California (173).

Clearly, not all states are created equally. I'll color-code as we go along, using the following system: Obama, Clinton, McCain, Romney, Huckabee. Obama looks to have won big in Georgia (64-31 right now), while McCain is four point up on Huckabee (37-33) at the moment.

7:39: Jeopardy time! More in twenty.

7:50: Closing at 8: Alabama, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Massachusetts, Missouri, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Tennesee, Kansas. Unweighted exit polls put Obama (who, I don't see the point in concealing, I'm backing tonight) way up in Illinois (no surprise), Delaware, Alabama; slightly up in Connecticut; close in Missouri, New Jersey; and way down in New York, Tennessee, and Oklahoma. (No info from Kansas.) We'll see how reliable those numbers are in a bit.

7:51: Who is Eddie Izzard? Whoops.

7:53: Final Jeopardy category: 19th Century Politicians. Fitting. I'll bet $15,000.

7:59: ...and I'm 15k poorer. I knew it was either Clay or Douglas, but I went with Clay. Damn it all.

8:10: McCain takes Connecticut, Illinois, and now New Jersey. (That's 152 delegates right there.) Romney takes Massachusetts (his home state). Clinton takes Oklahoma. Obama takes Illinois. So far, no surprises...though Huckabee has pulled ahead in Georgia (37-34)--looks like his pledge to burn all science textbooks that mention evolution in a pit next to the Rose Garden might pay off. (Caution: pledge may not have happened.)

8:13: Let's be honest, if you're Hillary Clinton and Ann Coulter decides to back you, that's just a time when you have to say, "thanks, but no thanks," isn't it? For instance, I don't see Obama going out of his way to garner Mike Vick's support (or, for that matter, Rex Grossman.)

8:25: in five minutes, Arkansas will close. Unless something astonishing happens, it'll be: Hillary and Huckabee in a walk.

8:26: rowdy crowd at Obama HQ. A subdued group at the Romney party. Jeez, guys...who died? Oh, right...

8:30:01: insta-call for Hillary and Huckabee in Arkansas. Again, no surprise. Maybe they just throw Obama and McCain votes directly into the garbage there...

8:36: CNN's projecting that Clinton will win in Tennessee, with Obama running some 20 point behind (only 3% reporting), which has to be disappointing for him, since people thought he was gaining traction there. Pundits have immediately chalked this up to master campaigner Bill Clinton, a storyline that never stops being annoying. Don't get me wrong, I agree, he's a hell of a candidate, but, like, doesn't everyone know that he failed to follow through on so many things as President? That he became almost pathologically obsessed with polling in his second term? Quick, name me five accomplishments from the Clinton Administration. I'll wait.

Point being, hasn't he been exposed as somewhat of a fraud?

8:41: in nineteen minutes: Arizona, Colorado, Minnesota, North Dakota, New Mexico, and (the big one) New York, where I assume everyone is still hungover from the events of Sunday night. Speaking of New York...since I never get tired of talking about the Giants (shudder): shouldn't their victory party have been in New Jersey? That's where they play their home games after all. I rarely agree with TMQ, but he has a point here. Was it the pervasive smell of garbage? Is that a dealbreaker for ticker tape enthusiasts?

8:46: oooo....that's CNN Projection music! They're ready to call...Delaware and it's 18 delegates for John McCain. Oh. BFD. McCain probably gambles away 18 delegates in an average Straight Talk Express poker game. New rule: save the "important news" music for the big states. (Although, hilarious, exit polls put Romney up by nine points there--ouch, that one must hurt.)

8:51: a note to Romney supporters: if you see a shady guy with weird eyes passing out cups of Kool-Aid, I'd hold off on sipping it. You'll thank me later.

8:55: I found some political props on bodog.com and for a second I was excited...until I read them. Hillary is 8/13 to win the nomination (meaning that you'll win $21 if you bet $13) and Obama is 1/1 (bet $1 to win $2). Hold onto your hats! That's some sweet action. McCain is a mortal lock at 1/14 (I believe "will the sun come up tomorrow?" is 1/16), with Romney at 11/2 and Huckabee at 40/1. The only bet that's remotely interesting is Michael Bloomberg at 25/1 to win the election (well ahead of Huckabee at 80/1, but behind Romney at 10/1).

9:00:01: Hillary takes New York, because she is from there has a close personal connection to the state parachuted in in 1999.

9:12: They're projecting Massachusetts (does this mean I don't have to type it again tonight?) for Hillary despite Teddy Kennedy backing Obama last week. Hmmm. Seems as though there are two ways to spin this: Hillary will no doubt go for "the Kennedy Machine is dead," but the other angle is that, Obama was so far down, that a close race will mean that Kennedy's endorsement helped Obama pick up a few delegates in the last week. Of course, as I typed that, CNN just flashed that Hillary is throttling him in Mass (58-39). Yikes.

9:14: Wolf Blitzer is available in High Def? It's probably for the best that my TV can't support that feature...

9:23: McCain wins New York and it's 101 delegates. As he was 32 points up on Romney in the latest poll and had Giuliani's support, so this is hardly a shocker. Alright, Super Duper Tuesday, to earn your name I'm counting on something really unexpected to happen in the next ninety minutes...

9:30: CNN calls Alabama for Obama. Hmmm...he was down two points (although within the margin of error) in a poll last week, so this is a nice pickup for him, though it might only be a matter of a couple delegates in the difference.

9:31: Scratch that. He's up 64-36 at the moment. Nice.

9:46: Wow...Hillary is up by 100,000 votes (out of 450,000 cast so far) in Massachusetts (which, apparently, CNN has just decided to call...even though MSNBC had the story 35 minutes ago). That's...impressive. She's up 20 points...is it possible that the Kennedys cost Obama votes? (Actually: no. Turns out he was down thirty points just a few weeks ago. My bad.)

9:52: New Jersey to Hillary. That's kind of disappointing, too, though I'm getting that we'll have to look at the final numbers to get a better feel for what's gone down tonight...and I'm way too bleary-eyed/hungry to do that at the moment. More in a bit.

10:10: ah, possibly my favorite part of any primary night: non-frontrunners giving speeches (in this case: Huckabee) talking about when they're President, and everyone acting like this is perfectly reasonable. You betcha, Mike. Don't stop believing. Also entertaining: talking about abolishing the IRS. Sure, sure. I'm positive that an entrenched government agency that employs 86,000 people will go quietly...

10:15: ...you know, I'm trying to like this Huckabee guy (evolution thing aside), but then he comes out and makes a gratuitous comparison between himself and McCain and the Giants and the Patriots ("you can get one of those '19-0' hats for dirt cheap today") and I start to think he's a smug fuck. Cheap shot, Huck. Cheap shot.

10:23: OK, here's where we stand:

Obama: won AB, DE, GA, IL, ND, CT, KS, MN
Hillary: won AK, MA, NJ, NY, OK, TN; up in MO
Still to come: California, Alaska, Idaho

Huckabee: won AK, WVA, AB
Romney: MA, UT
McCain: everything else.

10:38: Ah, yes, another of my favorites: Romney's insistence on doing this whole call and response thing every time he gives a post-primary speech (victorious, conciliatory, or ambiguous)--Romney: "we've asked the government to fix social security..."; Crowd: "...but they haven't"--except the crowd is always a little bit slow on the uptake and Romney has to walk them through the first few sentences (as in: he says the "but they haven't" part himself) before they finally catch on. Romney always has this nervous look on his face like "are they going to get it?" and then he always seems so relieved once they chime in. In never stops being awkward and hilarious. Look, Mitt, I hated this shit when I went to Camp Olympia and the like ("Who's the best?" "We are," etc.) back in the 80s, and I'm pretty sure every kid hated it. Those kids? Are grown ups now and...are surely no more fond of said gimmick today. The only thing that's possibly more aggravating from my camp days that he could incorporate in his speeches is the whole "Are you guys having a good time? "Yeahhhhh" "I CAN'T hear you!" "YEAHHHHH" "I still can't..."--that's the absolute worst.

10:47: Alright, I'm burnt out. Time to take a break. I'll check back in after California closes and more returns are in to do a delegate count. Also: apparently I haven't eaten dinner. That's no good.

12:09: OK...where were we?

12:11: That was some speech from Obama. He's riveting. Carrie, who absolutely cannot stand politics and, bless her heart, has basically had to be in a different room (and floor!) than me tonight because of all this super tuesday stuff...was glued to the TV during his talk.

12:21: no, no, no. I cannot handle Blitzer handing this off to Larry King!

12:22: Here's the thing: Huckabee's strong showing, while unexpected, isn't terribly important in the grand scheme of things. This is still McCain's race to lose (which he won't). I think the biggest story on the Republican side is how fucking infuriating this whole night has been for Romney. You're telling me he's not apoplectic that Huckabee has hived off so many of his votes from the conservative base? What I wouldn't give for a hidden camera in the lounge of Romney's hotel, because he? Is going on a bender, my friend.

(Carrie has pointed out that Mormons don't drink. I don't care.)

Does he now become McCain's presumptive running mate? That's probably too extreme, but he--by virtue of his continued success in the South despite being hampered by a shoestring budget--does look pretty attractive (not literally) now, doesn't he?

1:05: Mercifully, Larry King's segment is over (I must confess: we watched the "Lisa The Babysitter" episode of The Simpsons instead--did King mention Bee Movie?). And: CNN has called Alaska for Obama. Good times all around!

1:15: Well, we're winding down here. Dana Bash, reporting from McCain's HQ in Phoenix, has just popped on screen and I've offered Carrie (who thinks she's extremely odd looking) an opportunity to slam her on the record. Her response? "I dunno, she just's scares me. [beat] She looks like a tranny," and one other thing that's unprintable. That's my girl.

1:24: And CNN calls Mizzou for...Obama. Sweeeet. John King throws up a county-by-county map of the state and it really looks like Obama lost something like 45 of the 50 counties, but rolled up huge margins in St. Louis, Kansas City, and Colombia (where the University of Missouri is located). I have to say, I'd be way more excited if I didn't know that we're probably only talking about a difference of a couple of delegates (probably 37-35 or 38-34) for Obama. Nevertheless: bragging rights.

1:33: OK...since CNN has been inexcusably derelict in even attempting to project the delegate count, I've gone ahead and compiled the info (accurate as of 1:15 AM). Using the rule that anyone that gets less than 15% of the vote in any one state (Edwards mostly) not being eligible to receive delegates and having those split proportionally among those that are eligible (Clinton and Obama--see the second Excel table), I count Hillary receiving 858 delegates to Obama's 820. (My numbers are far higher than CNN, so I could, potentially, be wildly off base.) This does not count super delegates, nor does it include a county by country calculation for California and Missouri (I broke it down on a percentage basis for those two). If you add it to their total at the start of the day, Clinton has 1,119 delegates and Obama 1,011. Meaning: we've still got a horse race.

1:40: With 73% of precincts reporting, over 11 million votes were cast for the Democratic primaries, with Hillary ahead by the slimmest of margins (roughly 75,000 votes). That's kind of amazing.

1:52: Well, it's probably time for me to pack it in. Good times. The day that was supposed to clarify everything did nothing of the sort. Roll on, Saturday (Louisiana, Nebraska, Washington, and the Virgin Islands). In the end, no candidate won more than 13 states (Obama) or less than 5 (Huckabee). What we do know is: that McCain is firmly in control (don't let anyone tell you otherwise), that Clinton and Obama are in a dead heat (which, to me, means Advantage Obama today), and that everyone will have a few things to be pleased about tomorrow morning.

1:53: ...except Romney. Romney's fucked.


RT Murphy said...

I like how you're pre-cynicism is already prepared.

I'll be on MSN tonight as well, since I don't have the old telly you'll have to keep me posted.

Mark P said...

Re: Huckabee as VP. Is capturing the southern vote really a problem for McCain? I mean, you really think the red states wouldn't stay red against Hillary or Obama? The word on the street is that Lindsey Graham is McCain's favourite as VP.

Jesse said...

1) Huckabee's success in the South screws Romney even harder, as it makes it likely Huck and Chuck will stay in the race, keep Romney's dream of having conservatives coalesce behind a creepy dude from Michigan/Massachusetts from coming to pass
2) I think winning New Mexico's popular vote will be a big moral victory for Obama, if he does.
3) It seems like Hillary will have pulled further away in the delegate count, and that's what she'll spin.
4) I, for one, am starting to get REALLY cynical about the Clinton spin on anything; it always seems to be reported as spin these days. Maybe I just read stuff that's too inside baseball, though.

Sean said...

What began as a quick comment quickly ballooned into something more substantial, which I wisely spun into a post on my blog. If you have the time and the energy, you can see my thoughts on the primaries over at http://unreliablewitness.wordpress.com

Kyle Wasko said...

Ryan: I think that I was--on some level--preparing myself for a Clinton coronation. Glad I was wrong about that...

Shuk: do I think that Southerners are more inclined to support McCain over Clinton or Obama in November? Sure. But I think the concern is that McCain, as far as conservatives are concerned, isn't much of a conservative. Clearly, Huckabee--with his evangelical appeal--helps in this regard. I'm inclined to think that McCain will pick Huck because (pick 2 of 3): (a) he'll help in the South; (b) his base will force him to pick him, or; (c) he'll pick Huck to placate the base.

Jesse: looks like the dream is dead for Mr. Romney: http://slate.com/blogs/blogs/trailhead/archive/2008/02/07/down-with-mitt-long-live-huck.aspx (though, "suspension"? God! His candidacy remained awkward to the bitter end...)

Sean: good call re: McCain. I, of course, wrote him off (in print) months ago (damn you, archives!). Re: too much emphasis on the primaries--> no doubt, but there's no denying that it's been especially fascinating this year. Also--aside from the out-of-control spending--I'll take this over the Canadian system any day.