Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The Wisconsin Primary

Today Wisconsin holds a primary for both Republican and Democratic presidential candidates. Also today, Hawaii holds a caucus for Democrats, and Washington State is holding an essentially meaningless primary.

The primary in Washington State is required by state law, but Democratic and Republican rules required caucuses, which were held February 9th. Democrats will ignore the primary results, and Republicans will use the primary results to choose half the state's delegates. Though - interestingly, the Republican caucus in Washington was super close, and McCain was declared by state party officials to be the winner before all the votes were counted, while Huckabee disputes the win. Will Republican primary voters revolt against the caucus results and select Huckabee? Probably. Will it matter? Probably not.

Hawaii will be an overwhelming win for Barack Obama. I predict he will get at least 75% of the vote. Hawaii is a caucus state (favoring Obama), a progressive state (favoring Obama), and Obama was born in the state.

Wisconsin is the real key today. I have been studying the state's primary and it's electorate, and it is a truly enigmatic race. First, I went to the Milwaukee Sentinal-Journal to check out their primary news coverage. Next, I checked out NPR's news coverage. And finally, I looked at US Census Bereau statistics for Wisconsin. This is in addition to my regular patrolling of Politico.com election coverage, which was generic at best.

Analysis - With Wisconsin being an open primary (anyone can choose to vote for either a Republican or Democratic candidate regardless of party affiliation) and with same-day registration, it makes this contest uniquely interesting. With McCain the presumptive nominee for the Republicans, will Republican voters try to influence the Democratic vote? Will Huckabee conservatives come out of the woodworks for him still? Or will they come out against Obama? According to NPR the state is progressive, a sign for Obama. The state is also geographically close to Illinois, with many Wisconsonites commuting into Chicago for work - also good for Obama. The state is primarily white (90%) - not necessarily a telling sign for either Obama or Clinton. Obama has won some of the whitest places in America, but those states held mostly caucuses which have overwhelmingly favor Obama. I'd like to see some stats on the age ranges in Wisconsin. How many universities and college age students? The 65+ crowd in the state (13%) doesn't differ much from national stats. The older crowed will lean towards Clinton, and the younger toward Obama. All polls, except one by the American Research Group (I do not know anything about this group) have Obama winning by comfortable margin. The ARG poll interests me because I wonder how their methodology differed from all other polls.

Polls, conventional wisdom, anecdotal evidence, and even the race momentum strongly supports Obama winning Wisconsin. The certainty of it all is what scares me. I just don't think Clinton can be counted out so easily. This is the scenario that occurred right before New Hampshire, and I predicted incorrectly for Obama to win. Clinton turned up the juice in New Hampshire and pulled out all the stops to win - I think she is capable of the same in Wisconsin.

Conclusions - Clinton wins a nail-biter. In the end it is the "hmmmmm" voters that decide the outcome. The "hmmmm" voters are the ones who know the importance of voting, and make an effort to vote, but have no idea who to vote for. They step in the booth and make their decision last minute. These voters, I believe, overwhelmingly favor Clinton. Obama's campaign is one of passion, and his voters will come on strong, and early. Clinton's voters are steadfast, but her votes come from the casual voter. The casual Democratic voter see both candidates favorably, but leans towards Clinton because of her familiarity and experience. Obama and Clinton will end up with nearly identical delegate totals, but the popular vote win will give Clinton a boost.

Can Huckabee pull out a surprise win? It's a remote possibility, especially if independent/moderate Republicans either stay at home or try to influence the Democratic nominaton. In the end McCain will secure the nomination, and Wisconsin will be Huckabee's final stand.

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