Wisconsin Primary Postmortem

Both parties had primaries in Wisconsin yesterday to go along with a Democratic caucus in Hawaii and a Republican primary in Washington state. The front-runners, Barack Obama and John McCain, won handily. So far as I can tell, the various controversies that have so fascinated the blogosphere the last few days had little to no impact on the voters.

Wisconsin Primary Results

The results weren’t particularly surprising although some of the internals shown by exit polls were. Still, some are drawing bold conclusions.

Delegate Count Republicans 20 Feb 2008 Republicans: The easy one first: Barring tragedy, John McCain is going to be the nominee. We’ve been pretty sure of that since Super Tuesday and were all but mathematically assured of that once Mitt Romney dropped out two days later.

At this point, Mike Huckabee’s continued presence in the race is an annoyance. As Mark Daniels explains,

Huckabee should have graciously withdrawn one week ago, when he was unable to capitalize on his Super Tuesday wins. That he was still in the race last Monday is understandable, that he remained on Wednesday, questionable.

If he keeps on in the next round of primaries in Ohio, Texas, Rhode Island, and Vermont, he simply looks obdurate. More than that, collared with four more contested losses, he risks negating all the good he’s done himself as a national figure in this year’s election process. It takes only one loss too many for a candidate to become Stassenized, a candidate so obsessed with running that they become irrelevant, the worst fate that can befall a politician.

Quite right. McCain needs a little more than 200 delegates to wrap up the nomination mathematically and Mitt Romney has already instructed his 286 delegates to vote for McCain. Huckabee is quickly becoming a joke. Presumably, though, he knows that and will bow to reality quite soon.

The good news for McCain is that despite most self-described independents voting in the more competitive Democratic contests (presumably for Obama) he won handily. Further, conservatives rallied to him more than in past races.

Nearly half of the voters who said they were very conservative cast their ballots for McCain’s chief rival, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee. But McCain voters made up 38 percent of that number — and 55 percent of the somewhat conservative Republicans went for McCain while 70 percent of the moderates followed suit. Evangelical voters still flocked to Huckabee, a one-time Baptist minister.

Overall, McCain won a plurality of the nearly two-thirds of Wisconsin Republicans who identified themselves as conservatives, taking 48 percent to Huckabee’s 42 percent. Texas Congressman Ron Paul, the only other Republican still in the race, was taking 5 percent of conservatives, and Mitt Romney, who withdrew two weeks ago, was taking 3 percent.

In Wisconsin, 77 percent of the GOP voters said they’d be satisfied if McCain is the GOP nominee. Fifty percent said McCain’s positions were “about right,” but 42 percent said he was “not conservative enough.”

Still not as overwhelming as the presumptive nominee would like, no doubt. Then again, these are people who showed up to vote in a contest that was all but a formality.

Delegate Count Democrats 20 Feb 2008 Democrats: This one gets more interesting by the day. Obama is the clear front-runner, of course, and has now reeled off wins in ten straight contests. But, because of the rules by which the Democratic Party choses its nominee, the race remains essentially tied.

Quite a few people see it differently, however.

Larry Kudlow declares, “It Is Over.”

Please allow me a dose of hardened market realism concerning Obama’s landslide victory in Wisconsin. The race is over. Hillary is finished. The Clinton Restoration is over. President Bill Clinton’s political invincibility is over. Hillary’s electability is over.
Obama got to the far Left faster than she did. He out organized her in the precincts. He out fundraised her. He out speechified her. He out-hustled her. He out-dressed her. He out-presidentialed her. He outdid her and he outbid her for votes, one promised government check at a time.

David Kurtz sees “No Silver Lining for Hillary.”

It’s one thing to endure a month of losing, as the Hillary camp has steeled itself for, it’s quite another to hold on through a series of landslide defeats, which is what they’re facing now.

The other thing that doesn’t bode well for her is that the electorate isn’t remaining static. It’s moving, and the exit polls suggest it’s moving toward Obama. Last week, Obama made gains among white voters and women in Virginia and Maryland. Today, the exit polls show him eroding her core constituencies further: he almost won among women and won among middle-aged voters, among lower-income voters, and among union households.

Mark Daniels thinks Clinton needs to start thinking about an exit strategy.

At present, it appears that the most Hillary Clinton can achieve by remaining in the campaign to the bitter end, is damaging Obama’s chances of winning in the fall. Of course, if Clinton wins both Texas and Ohio—but only if she wins in both states, she should stay in the race. But a loss in either place in two weeks should be her cue to graciously withdraw from the race.

Big Tent Democrat agrees:

The Last Stand is upon the Clinton campaign. It is the Lone Star state of Texas and in the Buckeye state of Ohio. She must win both. Or it is over.

That strikes me as right. Moreover, recent polling shows that Obama has a decent chance of picking off one or both of them.

Graphics via CNN Election Central.

FILED UNDER: Congress, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Pug says:

    He outdid her and he outbid her for votes, one promised government check at a time.

    Larry Kudlow, I guess, hasn’t noticed that the Republicans of the last seven plus years have spent some large sums themselves. Everybody else, however, has noticed. The GOP has absolutely no credible claim to being fiscally responsible anymore. They will be destroyed with that type of argument. Larry really needs to move on from the 1980’s.

    They better stick to national security and immigration.

  2. Mark Daniels says:

    Thanks for the link!

    Good stuff here.

    Mark Daniels

  3. anjin-san says:

    It’s been interesting and instructive to watch Obama run rings around the vaunted Clinton machine. For someone who is supposedly hobbled by a “lack of experience” Obama certainly seems to know what he is doing.

    As for the “big spender” label the right is trying to hang on him… please. The spending champ is in the oval office right now. I would just as soon see a few bucks go to medical clinics for the poor and rebuilding American infrastructure than continue to pursue the GOP policy of pouring our money into Bush’s’ Iraq sinkhole combined with giveaways to wealthy corporations.