It’s been obvious for some time that November is going to see an historic election, with either a woman or a black man heading the Democratic ticket, so while Barack Obama’s streak of ten straight landslide victories since Super Tuesday certainly adds more than a bit of drama to the campaign season, it hasn’t exactly been a surprise. February promised to be a good month for Obama, but it had to be a very good month to give him the momentum necessary to smash through Hillary Clinton’s presumed firewall in delegate rich Ohio and Texas on March 4. It has been, and with a small but widening delegate lead, and a narrowing gap in the firewall states, the smart money is now on Obama.
For an idea of how impressive Obama’s streak has been, yesterday’s 17.4% margin in Wisconsin was the closest this month, with Obama only winning 58.1% to 40.7%. More significantly, Obama racked up majorities throughout most of the state, capturing 40 delegates to Clinton’s 28, where he had only been projected to manage an 8 delegate pickup. Meanwhile in the Hawaii caucus, Obama thumped Clinton 76% to 24% for 12 delegates to Clinton’s 4.
Exciting for Obama fans, but again, not surprising; this has pretty much been the story all month long. Obama now leads Clinton 1140 to 1005 in pledged delegates. Sure there are some loyal superdelegates who will go for Clinton no matter what, but in general I really don’t see Democratic electeds being that stupid or that self-destructive to throw the nomination to Clinton if Obama manages to win a clear majority of the pledged delegates, the states and the popular vote… and unless Clinton stages a dramatic comeback in Ohio and Texas, that’s exactly what Obama looks like he is set up to do. In their speeches last night both Obama and McCain each turned their sights on the other, so with the focus beginning to shift toward November I think the big news coming out yesterday’s primary is another trend that’s been building since Iowa: the enormous turnout differential between the two parties nationwide.
In Wisconsin, a swing state with an open primary, Obama alone drew more votes than the entire Republican field combined. But more impressively, so did Clinton despite her distant, second place finish. And even here in Washington, where the Republican primary determined more than half the delegates while the Democrats held nothing more than a beauty contest, the Dems already enjoy a 35% turnout advantage with most of overwhelmingly blue King County yet to report. Nationwide the Democrats have produced a 45% turnout advantage thus far, and while such numbers won’t correspond to turnout in November, it surely signals a huge disparity in voter enthusiasm. Yes, rank and file Republicans will largely get behind McCain, but even a small turnout disadvantage or a couple point swing to the Dems amongst independents could spell disaster for GOP candidates up and down the ticket.
While our local Republicans like to blame all their losses on electoral fraud, it was the KCGOP’s lax Get Out The Vote effort that proved the decisive factor in our infamously close gubernatorial election in 2004. And with little more than half of KCGOP primary voters (and only a quarter of caucus goers) willing to cast their ballot for McCain, weeks after securing the nomination, that doesn’t say much for his potential presidential coattails. If I were a local Republican, I’d be feeling more than just “dirty” or “unenthusiastic” — I’d be awfully damn worried right about now.