Wednesday, February 06, 2008

The Race Goes On

The votes are still being counted from Super Tuesday, the day on which American voters in 24 states had their say on who they'd like to see contest the presidential election in November. All we can really be sure of right now is that, unlike in some previous years, Super Tuesday hasn't been decisive. The campaign will go on, probably for another few weeks at least.

The battle to become the Republican contender is easier to call. Although he didn't win everywhere, John McCain remains the clear frontrunner. On the Republican side, the winner in each state gets all of that state's delegates for the party's convention later in the year, at which the nomineee will be formally picked. Mr McCain won some of the big states with plenty of delegates, such as New York, California and Illinois, and he's now well on the way.

It's not completely over for his rivals, Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee. Both managed victories in some of the smaller states overnight, and Huckabee in particular did better than expected in some places. But both are now quite a distance behind Mr McCain in the number of delegates they've won so far. Mr Romney's got deep pockets and can easily afford to continue the race, perhaps in the hope some disastrous and unpredictable event will derail Mr McCain's chances. As for Mr Huckabee, his strong showing in states in America's religious south suggests he could end up as running mate to Mr McCain, who is less popular in that important part of the country.

The Democrats do things a bit differently from the Republicans, and that means their contest between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama is still very close. Rather than giving all a state's delegates to that state's winner, the Democrats divide delegates between the candidates, depending on how many votes each got. Even though it was a good night for Hillary Clinton, who took the big prizes of New York and California, those victories don't mean as much as they would do under the winner-takes-all rules used by the Republicans.

So Barack Obama, who did well in the south and in his home state of Illinois, is still close behind Mrs Clinton. And he's got time to turn that deficit into a lead. Two more states plus the District of Columbia vote next week, but then it's a month until the next contests in Texas and Ohio. Mr Obama's done well so far in states he's spent more time in, as the geniune excitement that seems to follow him around the country rubs off on local voters, so he could end up pulling ahead in states still weeks and months away from voting.

If things stay this close between the Democrats, neither may establish a winning lead by the time of the party's convention in Denver in August. It's been 28 years - Jimmy Carter's eventual victory over Teddy Kennedy - since two rival candidates went to the convention still trying to win the nomination. It could happen again this time.

No comments: