The Morning After
Starting with the Democrats, this was an evening with no decisive outcome either way, with Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton both landing several punches, but forcing the pundit class to declare a split decision and multiple rematches when the dust settled. Obama won 13 of the 21 Democratic contests, but Clinton retains a narrow lead in the critical delegate count.
The NY senator won her home state, along with delegate-rich NJ and CA. She also scored a surprisingly easy victory in MA after the Kennedy klan flocked to Obama in full force. Obama split the South with Clinton, taking GA and AL while Hillary claimed AR, TN and OK. The IL senator also defended his home turf, but snagged CT from the Northeast and the Show Me State in the heartland, MO. Obama dominated the sparsely-populated and red-trending Great Plains with superior organization in a scramble to win states to offset Clinton's delegate windfall.
On the morning after, the race is far from decided, so Clinton and Obama soldier on to LA, WA, and ME this weekend, followed by the Potomac Primary (MD, VA, and DC) on Tuesday. I expect Obama to prevail in the bulk of these contests, placing pressure on Clinton to come back in WI on Feb. 19, and OH and TX on Mar. 4. In all likelihood, this contest will not be settled until Apr. 22 in PA at the earliest, with the prospects of a split decision heading into Denver for the DNC in August.
The Republican picture is far less complicated. Sen. John McCain landed several severe body blows to upstart Gov. Mitt Romney, but the former MA governor did end the day with 7 state victories, many of them in sparsely-populated states with few delegates. McCain jumped to a potentially insurmountable lead in the delegate count as he is roughly 400 away from clinching the nomination. He won the winner-take-all states of NY, CT, NJ, DE, AZ and MO, and dominated in CA, prevailing in all but three counties across the Golden State.
The surprise of the day was Gov. Mike Huckabee's success across his native South. He began the day with a narrow win in WV, and followed that up with a sweep of GA, AL, TN and AR. Contrary to Romney's suggestions heading into yesterday's 21 state contests, this is a two-man race, but it is between McCain and Huckabee, not Mitt.
Republicans look next to LA and KS on Saturday, then their own Potomac Primary on Tuesday. VA is key for Huckabee as he seeks to rally evangelicals once more and make a case to lead the GOP ticket in Nov. Romney vows to continue on through the convention, but given his distant third place finishes throughout the South and failure to steal CA yesterday, his path to the nomination is effectively blocked. In all honestly, the same is probably true for Huckabee, though he did make a strong case to balance the ticket as McCain's wing man.
Nathan Richie and I recorded another podcast this morning assessing yesterday's developments, along with future projections and extensive analysis of McCain's continued vulnerabilities with the conservative base of the GOP. Due to the blizzard that is sweeping the area, tonight's Smart Mouth program at the Freedom Museum has been postponed. Stay tuned for details of its new date and time, and also for continued analysis of this historic election.