In races that featured record turnout among Democrats, John McCain and Barack Obama took the Republican and Democrat ‘Potomac primaries’ yesterday. The wins in Virginia, Maryland and Washington DC effectively secure McCain as the nominee and for the first time moves Obama into frontrunner status over Hillary Clinton. Obama now tops Clinton in the delegate count, according to the CNN election center, with 1208 total delegates to Clinton’s 1185.
McCain is now the apparently unstoppable Republican frontrunner, though his closest opponent Mike Huckabee refuses to concede the race until the Republican National Convention in September. Huckabee told Fox News last night that the American people deserve an election and nothing is settled until the required delegate count of 1,191 is reached. Currently, Huckabee holds 216 delegates and McCain holds 812.
Huckabee took Kansas and Louisiana last week, proving he retains strong conservative support in many areas. His mostly-conservative record on basic issues provides a contrast to the less conservative record of McCain, though neither measures up to the “Reaganite” standards the conservative movement applies.
In his victory speech last night, McCain told the crowed he was “fired up and ready to go,” a phrased used regularly by Obama. Hillary Clinton, by contrast, seemed to be in denial, not even congratulating Obama on his wins.
Clinton paid little attention to her losses and instead focused attention on what she has called her “firewall” state of Texas. Her strategy seems to be almost the same as the one Rudy Giuliani banked on for Florida — and lost. Texas, Ohio, Wisconsin and Hawaii are all coming up and with the race neck and neck, Obama and Clinton are racing hard to the finish.
Large campaign funding has evaded Clinton, who used $5 million of her own cash to boost campaign efforts last week. Obama, on the other hand, has continued to raise enough money as a wide demographic of supporters flock to him. In the voting yesterday, Obama took the women’s vote by a margin of 20%, according to CNN. He has received many celebrity endorsements and continues to deliver compelling speeches that draw voters in. The only category Clinton beat Obama in exit polling was in reference to her qualification to be commander-in-chief. McCain took that category by a wide margin on the Republican side.
McCain, whose campaign was once considered dead, has riled influential Republicans like Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, Laura Ingraham and Sean Hannity, who so far refuse to support him. In the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) straw poll last weekend, McCain came in second to Mitt Romney, who stepped out to the race on Thursday. It was rumored that many Republicans voted strategically for Democrats in the primaries yesterday as well, hoping to push Clinton’s nomination because she is, by most calculations, easier to beat in the national election.
Huckabee’s weak showing in the Capital City area may have been damaged slightly by Ron Paul, running a distant third. Paul commands a small but dedicated following. Huckabee did not expect to win yesterday, and said that there are still upcoming states important for Republicans. In his speech last night he said, “Every time we win, we’re ecstatic. Every time we don’t win, we’re disappointed but we’re not knocked out.”
Huckabee looks ahead to North Carolina, Ohio, Vermont, Rhode Island, and Wisconsin where he will continue to challenge McCain.
While a Huckabee nomination is almost impossible, no one has ruled out a Clinton nomination despite her eight-state losing streak. She is the establishment candidate for Democrats and still commands strong support in Midwestern, working class states. Once considered the only candidate with a chance, Clinton must now bring her A-game and play with no holds barred. All bets are off and the 46-year-old Obama could easily take the prize. The question remains which of them would best compete against the moderate Republican war hero McCain.