Potomac Primary Postmortem
Last night’s sweeps by Barack Obama and John McCain of the so-called Potomac Primaries in Virginia, Maryland, and the District of Columbia were widely expected. Since public perceptions are mostly shaped by press coverage and the press uses their preconceptions as the baseline, not a lot has changed. Still, there has been some fallout.
John McCain has been the presumptive nominee since his big wins on Super Tuesday and Mitt Romney’s withdrawal two days later made it seem a fait accompli. Many, myself included, have thought that Mike Huckabee’s remaining in the contest as a spoiler hurt McCain, in that all wins were a non-story but any losses or close calls reinforced the perception that McCain was weak with the conservative base.
That’s the story WaPo led with on page 1, Michael D. Shear and Ann E. Marimow’s “In Va., Huckabee Again Shows Strength on Right.”
[E]ven as he dominated the Potomac Primary, McCain lost conservatives in Virginia, as he has across the South and parts of the Midwest — trailing Huckabee among that group and evangelicals as he attempts to unite a fractured Republican Party behind his candidacy.
Huckabee yesterday tapped into conservative discontent about McCain’s moderate positions on immigration, campaign finance, taxes and energy. Among conservative voters in Virginia, Huckabee won by large margins, according to exit polls, though McCain carried the group in Maryland.
In Little Rock, Huckabee again refused to concede the race to his rival. He said the results showed “there’s still a real sense in the Republican Party, a desire to have a choice, a desire to make sure voters who want a solid conservative, absolutely pro-life candidate still exist.” Huckabee added that “the nomination is not secure until somebody has 1,191 delegates. That has not yet happened.”
Still, Huckabee acknowledged that he could no longer become the party’s standard-bearer by winning delegates in the upcoming contests. Instead, he said victory “may have to happen at a convention.”
“We’re disappointed, but we’re not knocked out,” Huckabee told reporters.
Despite trailing far behind in the delegate race, Huckabee has spent the past 10 days embarrassing the senator with election victories, including taking two of three contests Saturday. Before yesterday, seven states declared themselves unwilling to fall in line behind a wave of endorsements for McCain by members of the Republican establishment.
The only good news, really, is that having an opponent at least keeps McCain semi-relevant the next fews months. As it is, the exciting race between Obama and Clinton is sucking most of the oxygen from the room.
That attention could be crucial if others have a reaction similar to Dennis Sanders:
He does go after the Democrats, but he seems to express what is wrong with their ideas instead of saying that they are evil. He expresses a desire for small government, stating that government isn’t the answer to every problem, but without all the anti-government rhetoric. He is willing to listen to those who disagree with him.
There is no talk about “family values” or other hot button issues.
This is a face of the GOP that I think many people would like to see; a party that is dedicated to small and efficient government, one that is strong on defense and willing to work with the opposition for the common good. This is a message that can reach across party lines and attract independents.
Of course, that’s Obama’s message, too.
WaPo’s Dan Balz asked yesterday “Will a Sweep by Obama Make Him the Front-Runner?” He hemmed and hawed until concluding with Mark Kornblau’s assement that “Obama may win the nomination. But he’ll be the underdog and the challenger until the day Hillary steps aside.”
That’s wrong. Obama’s insurgent campaign and dynamic oratory — and, frankly, departure from
sixteennineteen years of Bush-Clinton-Bush — was already the preferred media story. Now, the spotlight turns to Hillary’s ability to take a punch.
Take a look at some of the headlines at Memeorandum:
- Clinton: Still no congratulations for Obama (CNN Political Ticker)
- Clinton’s Deputy Campaign Manager Steps Aside (WaPo’s Fix blog)
- Analysis: Facing losses, Clinton recasts (AP/YahooNews)
- The End of BillaryLand Is On Its Way. Rejoice! (TNR’s The Spine)
- Something must give — or will the fight be stopped? (Times of London)
I’ve picked Clinton to win the nomination and am still not convinced she won’t. But, surely, Obama’s got the momentum in a big way.
Graphics: CNN Election Central