Taking It to the States

Candidates gear up for Super Tuesday

It’s starting to feel a little like November as the presidential primary process goes national on Super Tuesday. The Democratic and Republican candidates and their surrogates have spent the past several days engaged in a political media war and a blitz of personal appearances, working to win voter support and, most importantly, the greatest number of delegates, in the 20-plus states that will hold primaries tomorrow.

“The early primaries have narrowed the field to the most credible candidates–at least in the minds of Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina. Now it’s a more focused race, almost like a general election,” says Robert C. Smith, a professor of political science at San Francisco State University .

It will be a real nail-biter of a night for Democratic contenders Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama with more than half of the delegates necessary to secure their party’s nomination up for grabs. In several of the primary states, delegates are awarded proportionally by congressional district. Because delegates are allocated based on the percentage of the vote won by each candidate–rather than all of the delegates being awarded to the winner–the outcome is less predictable. In districts with an odd number of delegates, the extra delegate is awarded to the candidate who wins more votes. To make things even more exciting, Obama appears to be narrowing Clinton’s lead in national and statewide polls.

So, who’s got the most momentum? According to many political observers, it’s Obama. “The Clinton camp is probably excited that the primaries are this week and not next week because he’s closing the gap pretty rapidly,” says Peter Groff, a senior lecturer and executive director of the Center for African American Policy at the University of Denver . Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies senior research associate David Bositis agrees. “It would really help Obama if he had another two or three weeks to focus on the Super Tuesday states because the more he’s known, and gets out there and makes those speeches … he’s a killer .”

Based on his research, Bositis believes that Obama will win Georgia, Alabama, and Illinois. Clinton will take New York, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and a close race in Tennessee. Toss-up states include Delaware, Idaho, Kansas, Missouri, Minnesota, and New Mexico. California, with a whopping 370 delegates, Bositis adds, will be close. “I wouldn’t be surprised if either one wins it,” he says.

On most issues, Obama and Clinton are ideologically similar; so many Democrats will be faced with a choice between experience or change. That’s where Clinton may have the advantage, according to Byron Orey, a professor of political science at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. “Despite how negatively Americans viewed George W. Bush’s presidency, in the 2004 campaign they found themselves hamstrung. Because we were in the midst of war, they were more likely to support him than to choose change. Given that, the political pendulum swings in the direction of Clinton,” Orey says. He also believes the “Billary” factor, or two for the price of one, may also

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