- It would be difficult to exaggerate the anger among Sen. Barack Obama‘s supporters over Sen. Hillary Clinton‘s failure to deliver a concession speech Tuesday after Obama clinched the nomination, plus her bid for a place on the ticket. The forced unity between the two camps soon to be presented may be more strategic than real, which is reason for hope by the Republicans.
- The bad news for Sen. John McCain was the contrast between his speech in Louisiana and Obama’s in Minnesota. Obama is a great orator, and McCain definitely is not. Obama’s weakness lies in the details of what he proposes—such as dictating to corporations how to spend their profits—and that is what McCain has to start deconstructing. That is not McCain’s style either, but he has to get into it.
- There is probably less enthusiasm for McCain at the grass roots of the Republican Party than we have seen for a Republican nominee (and that includes Bob Dole in 1996). McCain definitely has not made his peace with all the conservative elements of the Republican coalition. He especially has not embraced the evangelicals, casting aside two evangelical preachers because of their comments and failing to negotiate a mutually agreed date and place to meet James Dobson of Focus on the Family.
- An overriding problem for Obama is getting "Hillary’s women." Polls show McCain with a white female advantage over Obama—remarkable for a Republican candidate. Can Obama win them without Clinton on the ticket? Can Obama be elected with Clinton on the ticket?
End Game: In typical Clinton fashion, Hillary stopped short of conceding Tuesday night or Wednesday morning. She moderated slightly her contentious tone, signaling an end to the race that has been basically a formality for weeks, if not months. But her failure to concede antagonized Democrats outside the Clinton camp.
- Sen. Barack Obama explicitly declared victory Tuesday night after the Montana and South Dakota primaries—together with his 365 super-delegates—pushed him over the top in the delegate race. This outcome has been highly likely since mid-February and guaranteed since the May 6 North Carolina and Indiana primaries.
- The avalanche of super-delegate endorsements before polls closed Tuesday, orchestrated by the Obama campaign and Democratic leaders, was critical to making Obama’s clinching seem democratic. If the super-delegates had pushed Obama past 2,117 delegates after the primaries, it would not have looked as good. Instead, Obama went into Tuesday night’s primaries guaranteed of clinching, whatever the results.
- Clinton turned even her near-concession into a grenade: suggesting Obama should choose her as his running mate. This was certainly not an effort to patch up the wounds within the party, it was, in fact, a provocation. The opposition within Obama’s campaign to a Clinton-Obama ticket is intense, and raising this topic has the effect of further poisoning the water.
- Clinton will offer a real concession soon, but she may have missed by three weeks her chance at bowing out graciously. Obama backers say Clinton actually is three months late.
Final Primaries: Clinton is in the unique position of being forced to drop out after winning primaries.
- Clinton dominated in Puerto Rico on Sunday, winning more than 2 to 1. This boosts the concern that Obama faces trouble with the Hispanic vote in November.
- Winning South Dakota Tuesday meant Clinton won five of the final eight primaries. It also demonstrated that Obama’s strength in the Great Plains was really his strength in caucuses. South Dakota was the first primary in that rural, white region, and he lost it convincingly.
- Obama’s win in Montana allows him to cap the primary season on a win and amplify the notion that he was democratically nominated. It also warded off the embarrassing possibility of his losing the popular vote to Clinton (though, by some counts, he still lost).
Florida and Michigan: The Rules and Bylaws Committee (RBC) of the Democratic National Committee kicked Clinton while she was down last weekend.
- If there was to be a clean resolution to the problem of Florida and Michigan voting early, it would have had to come last year. Once those states blatantly violated DNC calendar rules and the DNC voted to strip the states of their delegates, some sort of discord was guaranteed. DNC Chairman Howard Dean‘s only hope was that the race would be resolved early enough so those states could have their delegates restored without its mattering.
- In the end, the RBC chose the tack we had been predicting for months. They took the path that had the least impact on the race while not disenfranchising these two states. In this case, that meant favoring front-runner Obama and actually taking delegates away from Clinton.
- The RBC did not have to reduce each Florida and Michigan delegate to half-delegates, but doing so lessened Clinton’s gain from their reinstatement. Giving them a whole vote each would have made it much more difficult for Obama to clinch this week.
- Granting Obama all the Michigan delegates that had been elected as "uncommitted" was generous (many of those voters were likely Edwards voters), but giving him an extra four half-delegates was arbitrary.
- The Clinton protestors at the Marriott in Northwest D.C. had fair points, but there was no fair response possible. After all the candidates, including Clinton, had agreed to play by the DNC rules and boycott the states, counting the votes there amounts to changing the rules midstream.
- Clinton possibly made a mistake by not openly defying the DNC rules back in January. If Obama had followed suit and the two had gone head-to-head in these two states, she likely would have won both, and might have looked stronger throughout the primary season—one of multiple tactical mistakes by Clinton this year.
- Had she, rather than Obama, been leading in the delegate race this week, the RBC likely would have come up with a more Clinton-friendly result.
While the Senate is pushing ahead on the Lieberman-Warner climate-change bill, this may be more of a dress rehearsal than the real show.
- Democrats are eager to exploit an issue that is divisive for Republicans (McCain, although opposing Lieberman-Warner, supports greenhouse gas (GHG) regulations, while most Republicans oppose them) and helps them burnish their "green" image.
- Republicans, however, are eager for a chance to renew their conservative credentials after embarrassing votes on the farm bill and domestic spending in the war supplemental. GHG restrictions will drive up gasoline prices, and so opponents hope to paint Lieberman-Warner and its supporters as destructive to the economy and to families’ pocketbooks.
- The business coalition backing climate-change regulations has begun to crack, thanks in part to efforts by Capitol Hill conservatives. It turns out support for the broad idea of GHG restrictions implemented through a cap-and-trade scheme runs into real problems when specifics are concerned. What’s good for General Electric is not necessarily good for the auto industry, after all.
- As with almost all "environmental" regulation, climate legislation won’t pass without industry support. The United States Climate Action Partnership, early champions of climate legislation, is now divided on Lieberman-Warner, meaning it’s probably dead until next year.
- President Bush has threatened to veto the bill in its current form but it is unlikely that Democrats can get 60 votes to move it forward to put it on his desk.
- Next year, in any event, both chambers of Congress plus the White House will support GHG restrictions. At that point, some sort of regulation is very likely. Because Democrats won’t be able to beat up McCain too much on this subject, it may fade away as a political issue this year.
Kentucky: Democrats have been getting excited for a year now over the possibility of knocking off Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R), and a recent poll gives them new hope. Former State Commerce Secretary Bruce Lunsford (D) looks set to at least give McConnell a run for his money.
A Rasmussen survey of 500 likely voters (with a margin of error of plus-or-minus 4.5%) showed Lunsford leading McConnell 49% to 45%, while the same survey showed McCain way ahead in Kentucky. That poll, however, was just after Lunsford won his primary (giving him a temporary boost), and—according to a Republican operative from Kentucky—it was contradicted by a Republican-commissioned poll at the same time showing a double-digit McConnell lead.
In truth, McConnell is still the frontrunner, but the early signs suggest this is a real race, which is bad news for the GOP. McConnell makes a welcoming target for Democrats and outside liberal groups, who have begun pouring money and effort into Kentucky. Leaning Republican Retention.
Other Tuesday Results
California-4: In a four-way primary, former State Sen. Tom McClintock (R) pulled in 53%, besting former Rep. Doug Ose (R) by 15 points. McClintock, a longtime conservative agitator in state politics and a carpetbagger to this Sacramento-and-north district, is the favorite over Democrat Charlie Brown, who lost here in 2006.
Rep. John Doolittle (R) is retiring this year following FBI investigations of him and his wife, and his ties to the Jack Abramoff scandal. Brown gave Doolittle a scare in 2002, and McClintock can be a divisive character—two factors that could make the race close in this Republican district. Leaning Republican Retention.
Iowa-3: Rep. Leonard Boswell (D) fended off a spirited challenge by anti-war liberal former State Rep. Ed Fallon (D). Boswell defeated Fallon 60% to 40% and is probably safe in November. Likely Democratic Retention.
New Jersey Senate: Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D), 84, squelched what appears to have been an ill-considered challenge by Rep. Rob Andrews (D). Lautenberg the third oldest senator, serving in his second stint, defeated Andrews by a 2-to-1 margin and is a strong favorite for a fifth term.
After Andrews announced his primary challenge, Lautenberg immediately got the backing of the state’s entire Democratic establishment, casting Andrews as an ambitious and impertinent challenger. Andrews unearthed some damaging material on Lautenberg that could come in handy for Republicans, but New Jersey will probably remain in Democratic hands. Likely Democratic Retention.
New Jersey-1: Placeholder candidate Camille Andrews (D), wife of incumbent Rob Andrews easily won the Democratic nomination for this seat, but gave no acceptance speech from the same podium at which her husband was conceding his long-shot Senate bid Tuesday night.
Party leaders will have the chance to pick the nominee here if Mrs. Andrews steps aside and Rep. Andrews will likely end up back in his seat next year. Likely Democratic Retention.
New Jersey-3: Medford Township Councilman Chris Myers (R) earned the GOP nomination in the South Jersey district of retiring Rep. Jim Saxton (R). Myers will be the underdog against State Sen. John Adler (D). Leaning Democratic Takeover.
New Jersey-7: State Senate Minority Leader Leonard Lance (R) won a 7-way race with 40%, beating Kate Whitman (R), daughter of former Gov. Christie Todd Whitman (R) by 20 points. Lance is the general election underdog to State Assemblywoman Linda Stender (D). Leaning Democratic Takeover.
New Mexico Senate: Rep. Heather Wilson (R) finally lost. The queen of winning photo-finish races in which she was supposed to lose, Wilson fell by about 3,000 votes to Rep. Steve Pearce (R) in the primary to succeed retiring Sen. Pete Domenici (R). Domenici had endorsed Wilson over the weekend, an endorsement far too late and far too hollow to make a difference.
Wilson was probably the stronger general election candidate to face Rep. Mark Udall (D), with a record of winning Democratic and independent voters in the Albuquerque region. Pearce will have an uphill climb to challenge Udall this fall. Leaning Democratic Takeover.
New Mexico-1: In Wilson’s open House district, Bernalillo County Sheriff Darren White (R) easily won the GOP nomination, while Albuquerque City Councilman Martin Heinrich (D) won the four-way Democratic primary with 43%. Without Heather Wilson, this seat is tough for a Republican to win. Leaning Democratic Takeover.
New Mexico-2: Two businessmen will face off in New Mexico’s Republican-leaning southern half, a district left open by Steve Pearce‘s (R) run for Senate. Republicans nominated chain-restaurant owner Ed Tinsley while Democrats tapped their own millionaire, well-servicer Harry Teague. This race could be competitive. Leaning Republican Retention.