Monday, February 11, 2008

Better Late than Never: Maine Results and A New Clinton Campaign Manager

Dissertations sometimes get in the way (and if I want a job in this field it better). Yesterday was one of those days. However, that didn't prevent there from being any fewer interesting stories from the campaign trail.

Obama make it a clean sweep of the weekend contests
with a surprising victory in the Maine caucuses yesterday. Yes, surprising. Given the Illinois senator's caucus prowess thus far, surprising may not be an apt description of events on the ground. However, Clinton was expected to do well in a state that fit her better demographically and in which she had secured a number of top endorsements. It wasn't the two to one victory margin of Washington or Nebraska, but a twenty point win is a twenty point win.

Sure you can argue that it was just a caucus, but that argument seems less valid in this contest in this cycle. Most of the Democratic primaries have been evenly divided with a fairly even distribution of delegates emerging for both candidates. Obama though gives himself a cushion with these decisive caucus victories. Instead of a one or two delegates difference between the candidates in some of these primaries, we larger delegates margins in the recent (February 5 and on) caucus states. That's a nice counter to the superdelegate lead that Clinton has built.

Is that enough to put him over the top? Well, that is the question. And one that is difficult to answer since the majority of these caucuses are the first of two or three steps in allocating delegates (the last of which will do the delegate allocating). Iowa, for example, has its Democratic county conventions on March 15 and that is followed by district conventions on April 26 and then a state convention on June 14. That is when the delegates to the national convention are actually allocated. Will Obama lose delegates in the coming caucus steps? Probably not since he has proven to have the superior grassroots organizations in the caucus states. I made the comment earlier that Obama's established grassroots efforts would trump Clinton's on-the-fly grassroots efforts. If that is the direction the Clinton camp is taking with a new campaign manager (more on that in a moment), then these second and third caucus steps could potentially be the place to reverse the Obama caucus trend through grassroots means. Is that far-fetched? Perhaps, but let us not forget all the bartering and side-switching that went on during Iowa caucus night.

In other news over the weekend, Clinton and her campaign manager, Patricia Solis Doyle, parted ways. The Fix and The Caucus chose to call it "stepping down" while Fox News opted for the slightly more negative "replaces" to describe what had transpired. Either way you slice it, this coming on the heels of the personal loan to her campaign last week, does not make for a positive combination of stories...especially after to failing to break through in any of the weekend contests. So it remains to be seen how much impact this campaign shake up (Doyle for Maggie Williams) will have. Howard Dean dropped Joe Trippi either just before or just after Super Tuesday and John Kerry had some internal staff shifts in 2004 as did Al Gore in 2000. In case this fact slipped anyone's mind, none of those men became president. An omen for Clinton? Perhaps. One thing is for sure, something needs to be done to stem the Obama tide in these next few contests or we could be dusting off the "big mo'" before too long. Dare I say momentum? In this race? I won't yet, but that moment could be coming.

1 comment:

Robert said...

Excellent analysis as usual! I think you are right. Obama is building momentum. Double-digit wins in each of the three primaries and moving ahead in the delegate count by Obama will add to his momentum and increasingly hamper the Clinton campaign. Closing the gap to single digits will be seen as a comeback for Clinton and will slow down the Obama train. A suprise win by Hillary will be a serious setback for Barack.

It will be interesting to see if the Chelsea incident will be the igniting event in the Potomic region that the debate comment and the tearing episode was in New Hampshire. I'm sure all of the pundits tonight will help us sort all of that out.