Super Tuesday

February 6, 2008

A record number of voters flooded the polls in 24 states on Super Tuesday, leaving the Democrats facing a possible nomination battle but the Republicans closer to deciding on a nominee. Senior Fellow William Galston says both parties have work to do as they begin to move from the nomination stage toward the general election.


“To determine the meaning of Super Tuesday, you have to divide the contest, obviously, into two parts, the Republican Party and the Democratic Party. It told me that the Republicans are just about ready to nominate a presidential candidate and the Democrats aren’t. On the Republican side it’s clear that conservatives are divided and to some extent troubled by the flow of events. They have not been able to coalesce around a single champion, opening the door for Senator McCain to do very well, which he did. It appears now that conservatives have lost their chance to coalesce around a candidate who could actually defeat Senator McCain and that conservatives and Senator McCain will have to find a way of living together and working together because if they don’t it’s very hard to see how the Republican nominee could prevail.

“On the Democratic side, it’s clear that voters are split, literally, down the middle. Whether you look at delegates awarded last night or the popular votes it was as close to a tie that a national primary–which is what we had last night–could conceivably produce. When people hear about Senator Clinton’s experience and her mastery of bread and butter issues, they’re drawn toward her. When they hear Senator Obama’s vision for the future and promises to overcome divisions in the party and the country, they’re drawn toward him. And those two powerful forces are virtually cancelling others out in the Democratic Party. As a result of which, the party has two choices that make most of the party happy. It’s hard to image an outcome that would leave many Democrats disgruntled because they’re both so pleased with the quality of this year’s field.

“The Michigan primary occurred on January 15th; the Florida primary on January 29th, both against party rules. As a result of which, those two states were stripped of their delegates to the national convention. Everybody hopes that the outcome of this very exciting contest between Senator Clinton and Senator Obama will not come down to a fight about whether delegations from those two states will be seated because if it does, that is probably the one event that could create real bitterness inside the party.  Senator Clinton, who won both of those contests without campaigning in either state, in compliance with party requests, no doubt would like an outcome where the votes that were cast in those two illegal primaries had some impact on the composition of the delegations. Senator Obama’s campaign, for understandable reasons, is taking the opposite position. My own view, for what it’s worth, is that it would be good for the party and for the party’s eventual nominee if some arrangement could be worked out, which is consistent with Democratic party rules, whereby there would be caucuses, say at the end of  the process–the end of May or the beginning of June–that would actually seat delegations from those two states. I think would be good for democratic prospects in those two states and it would certainly legitimate the eventual winner whoever it was and avoid bitterness.”