02 February 2008

Tsunami Tuesday likely to decide very little

Voters wanted a vote that would count.

State-level politicos wanted more influence in picking their party’s nominee.

National party officials just wanted the whole nominating thing over with in a hurry to keep intra-party squabbles to a minimum, while maximizing fundraising time for the November election.

And so, Tsunami Tuesday – the 22-state delegate grab set for this Tuesday – was born.

Just three days out, it looks like the voters’ wishes will win out.

With 2,025 delegates needed to win the Democratic nomination and only 1,681 at stake, it is mathematically impossible for either Sens. Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama to clinch the Democratic nomination Tuesday.

On the Republican side, even if the surging John McCain were to win every one of the 1,023 delegates at stake Tuesday, he’d still be about 70 delegates shy of the needed 1,191.

Despites the mathematics, the GOP could have a virtual nominee by Wednesday morning, largely due the winner-take-all rules in 10 of the party’s 21 Tsunami Tuesday contests.

“Clearly with the winner-take-all states, McCain will be well on his way to the nomination,” said Dr. Chris Malone, a political scientist from Pace University. “I don't think he will win it on Tuesday; but it just may be over by the end of February.”

According to a compilation of polls published on the Web sites Real Clear Politics and U.S.A. Election Polls, McCain is favored in five of the all-or-nothing states – his home state of Arizona, as well as New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Delaware.

Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney is a clear leader in just one state- Utah, where he has the solid support of the state’s large Mormon population.

Romney’s chances may also be hurt by the fact that he’s not the clear No. 2 in some of the big states where the delegates are parceled out proportionally. For example, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee leads in his home state and is second to McCain in Alabama, Tennessee, Oklahoma and Georgia.

In addition, Romney’s home-field advantage in Massachusetts is diminished because he will have to share delegates there.

Still, Iona College political science professor Dr. Jeanne Zaino expects all three men will still be standing Wednesday morning.

“I think it’s doubtful any of the Republicans – even McCain – can wrap it up, but I don’t see it being an end for anyone either,” Zaino said. “But if anyone drops out it would definitely be on the Republican side.”

Among the Democrats, Obama has been surging in national polls in the past week, having closed the gap with Clinton to three points on Thursday in a Gallup tracking poll, only to see it widen again to seven points by Saturday. Still, just a week ago Clinton was up by 15 points. And Obama has cut the lead in many of the large states where he had been well behind.

“My sense right now is that Obama is going to do better than people expect, including in places like New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Massachusetts, said Pace’s Malone. “I would not be completely surprised if he came out of Super Tuesday with a 200- to 300-delegate advantage. Things are swinging in his direction in a big way.”

Iona’s Zaino called those four states “must-win” for Clinton.

While making what she called “the conservative pick,” putting Clinton in the lead for delegates after Tuesday’s voting, Zaino also senses a chance for Obama to surprise.

She credits a “dramatic” showing by the Illinois senator in South Carolina, his ability to respond effectively to attacks from the Clinton team and the endorsement of Massachusetts Sen. Edward Kennedy – a liberal-Democrat icon – for Obama’s rising momentum.

“Endorsements are overrated but not in this case,” Zaino said. “I think the more progressive, or liberal Democrats have always been more drawn to Obama but were wondering if they could really support him. I think the Kennedy endorsement gives them a sense that ‘yes I can support him’ and to say ‘I’m not entirely comfortable with Hillary Clinton.’”

With all 22 Democratic contests offering delegates proportionally, Zaino says Obama could win even if he loses Tuesday night.

(Clinton’s) expected to win. She’s expected to be on top when the night is over,” said Zaino. But I think if (Obama’s) in a strong second and maybe picks off a state or two he wasn’t expected to, then he wins the expectations game and gains more momentum.”

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