First the numbers, then the opining.
Indiana is Clinton Country. The fact that it’s also the reddest of red states, with the same chance of going Democratic next fall as Ann Coulter has of being invited to a mosque, doesn’t matter one whit. Hillary won by eight points (generally considered a blowout), give or take, and that’s enough to keep her in the race.
And with nearly 20% of precincts in from NC, Obama is holding on to his near-2-to-1 margin. That’s always considered a blowout. And that’s even if Obama’s lead is cut in half by the end of the count.
But what remains at the end of the day?
Marc Ambinder sees a civil war brewing in the Democratic party:
Forget the horse race numbers for a moment: if the surveys are accurate, the polarization within the Democratic Party has reached critical levels. Nearly six in ten Obama supporters in Indiana say they would be dissatisfied if Clinton were the nominee — that’s (I believe) the high percentage of Obama supporters who have ever said that.
In both IN and NC, two thirds of Clinton supporters say they’d be dissatisfied if Obama were the nominee — I believe that’s the highest number recorded for that question, too.
I’m not so sure. President Bush has been such a polarizing figure, that the Dems are deeply, madly desperate to win the White House this year. Mind you, not desperate enough to nominate a moderate centrist candidate like that other Clinton in ’92 — but desperate enough to show up (I think) in large numbers. No matter who might be the nominee.
So who won tonight? I dunno. John McCain, maybe? Because whether Ambinder is right or not about the general election, he’s certainly right about the primary season. The Democratic party is fractured, and another set of inconclusive primaries won’t do anything to put it back together.
38% of Indiana precincts have reported, and Clinton still leads by 12 points. What does a girl have to do to get CNN to declare her the winner?
In North Carolina, with a mere 5% in, Obama is up almost two to one. Even members of Amazonian tribes so primitive they’ve never even heard of democracy are calling NC for Obama.
Back after another martini.
4:42 pm PDT
MSNBC and CNN immediately call North Carolina for Obama; the exit polls appeared to have Obama ahead there by about 14 points. My impression had been that it took about a 15-point margin for the networks to call a race out of the gate, so this would be consistent with that impression.
Interesting, and no doubt true. But with 18% reporting now in Indiana, Clinton maintains a 14+ point lead. Why haven’t the networks called IN yet?
Or are they still selling ads?
Seriously, though, does that mean we can expect to see Clinton’s formidable IN lead continue to slip throughout the night?
4:40 pm PDT
It’s cocktail time here at Vodka Manor. And in Indiana, where Obama is currently down by almost 20 points (albeit with only 5% reporting), I bet Team Clinton is happily throwing down a round or two.
Here’s how you can play at home.
Take two martini glasses and your favorite spouse. Divide one capful of dry vermouth into the glasses, then swish and dump. Pour six ounces of good gin over 20 ice cubes in a cocktail shaker, and shake thoroughly for 15 seconds. Pour the resulting mix evenly into the two glasses.
Or unevenly, if you’re trying to either short your spouse or get them extra soused.
We’ll return with more numbers and less sobriety shortly.
2:56 pm PDT
The exit polls have been notoriously shaky, since at least 2004 when they showed John Kerry winning. So why is Drudge running this headline in giant red type: “HILLARY’S ‘DOUBLE DREAM’ DASHED: EXITS SHOW EASY OBAMA WIN IN NC”?
Well, because it’s probably true.
Clinton’s own people have been talking down North Carolina all day, indicating even they had to admit it was a lost cause. Mickey Kaus went out on a limb and predicted a narrow win — but that now seems unlikely, even if the exit polls are seriously skewed toward Obama due to The Bradley Effect.
Not even the size of Obama’s win matters very much. What does matter, I think, is that if Clinton wins Indiana even half as big as Obama wins NC, then the muddle continues.
So, on to Indiana then.
12:04 pm PDT
It’s time for the midday update, so let’s see what’s new. Turnout is going to be key, especially among black voters in North Carolina. The Washington Post reports that turnout is “brisk” in both states, but isn’t reporting any numbers yet. It’s just too soon to know anything much.
How tough has the MSM gotten with Obama? Meh, not very, reports Karl at Protein Wisdom:
Given that Clinton beat Obama in the Pennsylvania primary during the period, one might have expected Clinton would get good coverage. If you download the full report, you find that Obama’s relationship with Rev. Wright and his comments about small town Americans clinging to God and guns was indeed the largest topic of Obama’s coverage — but a mere 13.5% of that coverage was clearly negative.
Karl has charts and everything — click on the link above to see them.
How big a roll is the economy playing? Without a real recession (yet), it’s hard to say. But the next Great Big Depression the pundits were talking about early this year is so far a big fizzle. At the Times, Gerard Baker says
I don’t know about you but I feel a bit cheated. There we all were, led to believe by so many commentators that the sub-prime crisis was going to force the United States into a new era of dust bowls and breadlines, a slump that would call into question the very functioning of the capitalist system in the world’s largest economy. Carried away on the surging wave of their own economically dubious verbosity, the pundits even speculated that this unavoidable calamity might presage some 1930s-style global political cataclysm to match.
Well, it’s early days, to be fair, but so far the Great Depression 2008 is shaping up to be a Great Disappointment. Not so much The Grapes of Wrath as Raisins of Mild Inconvenience.
But never fear! Even if the economy is already on the rebound, as Berkshire Hathaway honcho Warren Buffet seems to think, you can rely on the MSM to talk it down all the way until the general election.
Also looking towards November, Newt Gingrich warns of “real disaster” for Republicans if they don’t mend their ways, including “nine acts of ‘real change’ including the gas tax holiday and an earmark moratorium.” But Congressional Republicans are as addicted to pork as anyone — with all the self-destruction that addiction always implies. John McCain has launched his own war on pork, but is anybody willing to wage it with him?
08:25 am PDT
We’ve got a long primary day ahead of us, so let’s get right to it and start with a look at what the pundits are saying.* The Washington Post’s Dan Balz has eight questions about the races. Two are worth repeating here:
Has Obama put the Rev. Jeremiah Wright controversy behind him?
1. Barack Obama dealt forcefully with the issue last Tuesday, breaking with his former pastor and denouncing his words in strong language. Many Democrats think he’s done the best he can for now, and even prominent Clinton supporters say they doubt that the relationship between Obama and the minister will have much impact on Democratic voters.
This is the question of the day, perhaps. A big Indiana win keeps Hillary Clinton competitive, and Rev. Wright gives white voters (any color, really) a big reason not to vote for Obama. Also, Indiana is in the heart of “deer country,” and filled with all those Bible-grasping, gun-toting economic losers — who might just harbor a grudge against a certain hope-filled audacious uniter.
Balz’s second question is:
Will a Clinton win in either contest guarantee that the race will go to the convention?
3. Clinton needs at least one victory today to keep alive a rationale to stay in the race. Obama could effectively shut down the nomination battle by winning in both states, and Clinton has been equivocal about whether she will keep going if she loses both.
I couldn’t have said it better myself. Not this early in the day, anyway. Democratic strategist (and longtime Clinton pal) James Carville has this to say:
In the past, the less affluent, pro-government wing of the [Democratic] party has consistently won. But what makes this race so wonderfully complex and textured is that Barack Obama, an almost prototype Party A Democrat, reaches right into Party B and yanks out African-Americans – a group that makes up almost a quarter of the Democratic party. Hillary Clinton, whose message is almost exclusively Party B, pulls a significant vote among older, educated white women, who most of their lives have been firmly in the Party A camp. Those who dismiss this as identity politics fundamentally underestimate the impact – an impact that could be felt long beyond 2008 – of this contradiction within a contradiction in the traditional factions of the Democratic base.
Those contradictions may be mostly hidden now, says Carville. But I say they’ll be ruthlessly exploited by the Republicans in the fall. The Republicans of course have their own problems, like not being able to hold onto even (formerly) safe seats in the House in a couple recent special elections. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Back to today’s race, which could determine absolutely… nothing:
In comments on most major cable and network programs, the two White House hopefuls expressed confidence in their chances of winning the Tuesday contests but refused to predict that voting this week would be decisive enough to end the primary fight and begin the general election against putative GOP nominee John McCain.
That’s according to an Associate Press report from yesterday, meaning it could be old news already. But somehow I doubt it. I once described this race as a fight to the death, between two opponents armed with nothing deadlier than Sporks. A cheap shot, perhaps, but it seems more and more true the longer this thing goes on.
Finally, for now, in the New York Times, Adam Nagourney ponders the near-imponderable — a double win today for Clinton:
Now, though, both campaigns see both states as highly competitive, as evidenced by the amount of time Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama have spent there in recent days. Mrs. Clinton has said she expects to win in Indiana; candidates do not normally do that.
If Mr. Obama loses in Indiana because of white blue-collar support for Mrs. Clinton it would be the third time in a row, after Ohio and Pennsylvania, that he has lost a big state because of an inability to win over enough of those kinds of voters.
The deer, so to speak, may be coming home to roost.
*This blogging pundit will be distracted all day by potty training. In other words, once the voting ends and baby’s bedtime starts, there will be some serious drinking. In the meantime, I’m sure there’s some clever metaphor here for this primary contest and half-controlled urination — but I haven’t had enough coffee yet to find it. As always, we’ll keep you updated throughout the day.