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by Ali Gharib

Hillary and McCain Both Party Outcasts

(IPS) WASHINGTON -- On a night when storms dotted with tornadoes wrought massive damage, injury and even death in the middle of the United States, storms of a different kind were sweeping the political landscape. And though the tornadoes eventually passed -- giving way to damage assessments and rescue workers -- the electoral turmoil shows no sign of letting up any time soon.

The increasingly muddied races for both the Democratic and the Republican presidential nominations were supposed to be cleared up, the political pundits kept telling us, on Super Tuesday. The closest thing that the U.S. has seen to a national primary, however, did little more than give a window into the deeply divided electorates on both sides of the aisle and demonstrate that the races would continue.

The Democrats, with 15 primaries and seven caucuses on Tuesday, have yet to establish a firm choice between Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. Hillary Clinton, although African American and young voters overwhelmingly turned out for Obama while white women favoured Clinton.

"The Democratic Party can't tell what it wants to be," Steve Clemons, a political blogger and head of the American Strategy Program at the New America Foundation, told IPS.

Obama won 13 states, mostly smaller states in the middle of the country but also picking up Georgia and Alabama in the Deep South and Connecticut and Delaware on the East Coast.

Clinton won the biggest prizes of the night -- a majority of the delegates from California and her home state of New York -- along with six other states.

New Mexico, at time of press, is the only primary that is still undeclared. Obama leads Clinton by one percent there.

Both campaigns claimed victory last night, with Clinton contending that she had fought off her opponent's momentum, and Obama claiming that -- given Clinton's substantial leads only a few weeks ago and by having essentially split Super Tuesday -- he had maintained momentum by closing the gap.

Obama, however, was poised for stunning upsets in Massachusetts and California, but failed to come through with victories in either.

This highlights a problem of Obama's campaign -- his inability to capture the increasingly Hispanic demographic that Latino-friendly Sen. Ted Kennedy's endorsement was supposed to at least partially remedy.

Clinton took California, New Jersey, and Arizona, leaving New Mexico the only heavily Hispanic state from Tuesday's contests.

While still short of half of the 2,025 delegates needed to win the nomination at the convention, CNN estimates that Clinton now holds a slim lead of six delegates. Including super-delegates -- made up of elected office-holders and party officials -- CNN places Clinton's delegate total at 825 and Obama's at 732.

Obama beat Clinton in fundraising last month by nearly three dollars to one, allowing him to pour money into upcoming primaries and protract the Democratic nomination process to at least a few more states. It was revealed that Clinton loaned $5 million to her campaign, and at least one top staffer is not being paid.

But looking ahead, some Democrats are satisfied with both the candidates and are looking forward to competing in the general election with either one.

"This is going to be about whether you want a third term for [President] George W. Bush or if you want change in this country, and that is Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama," Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean told MSNBC.

The divisions were more readily visible in the Republican race, where Sen. John McCain solidified his front-runner status and Gov. Mike Huckabee surprized almost all the commentators by capturing most of the "Bible Belt" states that have large populations of Evangelical Christians.

Huckabee, a former Baptist minister, won contests in Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, West Virginia and his home state of Arkansas despite being counted out of the race by rivals McCain and former Gov. Mitt Romney and -- according to Huckabee -- the media.

His success Tuesday does not bode well for Romney, who -- in the wake of attacks on McCain from hard right leaders like radio host Rush Limbaugh and religious right icon James Dobson -- was hoping to pick up the conservative voters that wanted to reject McCain.

But perhaps the most interesting development in the Republican race was an apparent case of collusion between the McCain and Huckabee campaigns in West Virginia.

The Republican Party Convention, which pledges 18 of the state's 30 delegates to the national convention, was split after the first vote, with Romney leading slightly. To declare a winner in the contest, a 50 percent majority is needed -- a threshold Romney didn't meet -- and so a second vote was taken.

The Romney camp said that what happened next was a case of backdoor wheeling and dealing that gave the delegates to Huckabee.

"Sources say that representatives for John McCain called many of his reps in WV and asked them to vote for order to thwart Romney on the second ballot," reported Marc Ambinder on his blog for the Atlantic.

Both Huckabee and McCain denied an alliance, but the prospect had the political sphere buzzing about the implications both on Super Tuesday and perhaps even beyond the party convention in September.

"[McCain] is likely to do a deal with Mike Huckabee and bring evangelicals along with Huckabee at the VP [vice president] ticket," said Clemons.

McCain and Huckabee have both praised each other's campaigning style, drawing comparisons between themselves and the Romney campaign whose tactics they have questioned.

"You know what I think is tough for the Romney people to understand," Huckabee said in a television interview after his speech, "John McCain and I actually believe politics can be conducted in a civil, gentlemanly way."

Though Romney, with his deep pockets -- having reportedly spent tens of millions of his own dollars on his campaign so far -- is unlikely to drop out of the race, he was certainly dealt a blow by his inability to unite the coalition that has spurred the Reagan-Bush era of political dominance.

But it remains to be seen if Huckabee's social conservatives will accept McCain's national security conservatives, or, more importantly, if either of them can capture the fiscal conservatives that have railed against both of them with such vigor.

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Albion Monitor   February 6, 2008   (

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