Tuesday, February 12, 2008

New Mexico and Washington...Still Up in the Air

Let's start off in New Mexico. Voting in the Land of Enchantment ended last Tuesday (Super Tuesday) and the result of the Democratic caucuses is still undecided. In fact, Clinton and Obama, just like in the broader contest, are virtually tied. The vote totals from the New York Times Election Guide count favors Clinton by about 1100 votes or .8 percentage points. Fine, it was a close election. Clinton won. What's the big deal? Well, at issue are 15,100 provisional ballots. According to the New Mexico Democratic Party, a first run through those ballots netted almost 5500 ballots cast by registered Democrats; or enough to potentially swing the election (That's 3.7% of the vote.). A second check of those ballots will be made against a "more extensive database" and could yield more registered Democrats who cast ballots.

What do we make of this? Well, no matter what the outcome is (and it will be a close margin for either candidate), there will be a nearly equivalent number of delegates allocated to each candidate. It is an important outcome for either though and here's why. The Latino vote and the implications that has for Texas on March 4. Clinton has done well in southwestern states with large proportions of Latino voters. She has wins in California, Nevada and Arizona. If she wins New Mexico, that is a bridge from California all the way to Texas bolstered by that demographic group. That is a nice argument to be able to make in a state as seemingly vital to her campaign as Texas. On the other hand, if Obama were to come out victorious in New Mexico, he could argue that he can hold his own in heavily Latino states, whether he carries that group or not. He got one more delegate out of Nevada than Clinton despite placing second and that coupled with a New Mexico win would create a good Obama talking point for Texas Democrats. In other words, New Mexico may make its way in to the discussions once the focus shifts to Texas based on demographics.

While we're on the subject of Texas, it should be noted that the state continues to have a hybrid primary/caucus system of delegate allocation on the Democratic side. That system has been in place since 1980 when a non-binding primary was added. The primary gained significance when it became binding in 1988 for the bigger iteration of the Southern Super Tuesday. Michael Dukakis won the primary (and the attention) while Jesse Jackson managed a win in the caucuses. It, no doubt, is easy to see a similar "split decision" scenario playing out this year in Texas. 228 total delegates are up for grabs in Texas. 126 are at stake in the primary while 67 are on the line in the caucus portion. There are 35 additional superdelegates as well. That dynamic is certainly worth keeping an eye on as the Texas delegate selection event approaches on March 4.

In Washington, the controversy is on the GOP side. The past weekend's caucus in the Evergreen State caused a stir over when the race was "called." Luke Esser, the state GOP chair, guesstimated that McCain was the narrow winner over Huckabee with only 87% of the precincts reporting. And really, how is that any different than what the networks do any time we have one of these contests. Mike Huckabee thought otherwise, drawing parallels between the state party's electoral actions and those of the former Soviet Union. Esser has disputed those claims with an open letter posted on the party's web page. And the results to this point seem to back him up. But it is all very convenient since the letter was posted today and the latest results were up as of late last night. Huckabee will lose this fight. He would be better served focusing on Virginia and Texas.

Here are those Washington GOP results.

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