Michigan fallout for the Democrats

It’s not often that I agree with something Karl Rove (former Bush adviser) says. In fact, if he says something, I usually instantly believe whatever the opposite is. But after the Michigan primary results were released yesterday, he has actually said something rather smart.

As I’ve mentioned previously, the Michigan delegates don’t count for the Democrats (at this point in time). Barack Obama and John Edwards had their name removed from the official voting card. In what was clearly a strategic (albeit unfaithful to the party) move, Hillary Hillary Clinton still had he name on there, along with Dennis Kucinich, Chris Dodd, and Mike Gravel. Chris Dodd had already dropped out of the race mind you. Another spot was reserved for ‘uncommitted’.

So, with only one big name on the sheet, and Michigan the sort of state that Clinton would easily win, you wouldn’t be wrong in thinking that Clinton would romp the vote home. Further from the truth, my friends, is nothing else. Clinton won the vote, yes. But she won … wait … wait … 55%. Just 55%, when she was running against no one (as you’ll find out soon).

So back to Karl Rove. I think I’ll just quote him, such is the efficiency of his words, and the humour of them:

“Sen. Clinton’s name was on the ballot and none of her principal opponents were. Fifty-five percent of the people turned out and voted for her. She got 328,151 votes, but 236,723 people turned out for the Democratic primary to vote for ‘uncommitted’.

“Think about that. If you run against nobody, and nobody gets 40 percent of the vote. The other 5 percent of the vote went for three other people. 27,924 votes went for the guy who believes in UFO’s [Kucinich], the guy who dropped out [Dodd], and the guy who last held public office somewhere around 1855 [Gravel]. That’s a pretty remarkable testament to the deep concerns the Democrats have about Senator Clinton when she can’t barely beat nobody else.”

Some funny lines in there. And a few truths. If the Democratic voters would rather vote for no one (and that label includes the fringe candidates that were also named), imagine what sort of turnout Clinton could inspire for any Republican that appears half-decent in the presidential race. If your only option to Clinton on the cards this time around was a collect-all term, imagine what would happen if a viable candidate was there instead?

Rove has pointed out a fear that a lot of us have had for some time, namely, that the Clinton name/ a woman/ a lefty would inspire so much fear in the Republican base, and in the moderate Republicans, and in the centre, that she stands no chance in the presidential race. Whoever is running on the Democratic side must be able to win over the centre and the moderate Republicans who are looking for better change, as well as inspire the base to such a level that there is record turnout for the blues. Barack Obama does that, and the fact that there was a 40% turnout for ‘uncommitted’ is testament to this.

More troubling news came out of Michigan for Clinton however. Exit polls are reporting that she has lost the ‘black’ vote in a big way. A very big way. I remember hearing reports that Clinton could win the ‘black’ vote because of Bill. Apparently not. 70% of black voters in Michigan voted for ‘uncommitted’ (I’m guessing … Obama?). She will find it a hard task getting the nomination, or staying competitive, if 70% and more of the ‘black’ vote don’t even look at her, and instead head for Obama. Of importance, South Carolina (very soon) and Georgia (a hefty amount of delegates) have a large ‘black’ vote, while New York (massive amount of delegates plus Clinton’s home state) has a huge ‘black’ vote. The symbolism behind these three states however (the ‘south’ for S.C. and Georgia, Clinton’s state and the Democratic ‘base’) is as powerful as the delegates.

And considering that Iowa, an Obama win, and New Hampshire, an Obama second, are nearly all white, Barack is positioned quite well if he does get a uniform 70% ‘black’ vote. Remember that the Democratic primaries aren’t ‘winner takes all’. Thus, while Clinton may lead in the ‘big’ states like California and New York, Obama can still take a sizable chunk of the delegates if he stays competitive. All he needs to do is run a 10% or less loss in the states Clinton is strong in, like the New York’s and the California’s and the Arkansas’s, and then win the states he is strong in himself, like the Illinois’s and the South Carolina’s and the Alabama’s, and then running a few shocks or real close competitions in the states he is better positioned (organisation and money). If this happens, not only will a Democratic delegate not be found by the end of Super Tuesday, but they won’t be found until the floor.

And with Edwards staying in, it’s looking even more likely it’s going to be Obama.

Thomas.

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