Sweep Success: Obama, McCain Win Potomac Primaries

[More on today’s election at PJM’s Roundup]

11:15 PM PST – The Sum of All Fears

A cascade of information coming out of today’s three Chesapeake primaries. It’s hard to see how it could have gone much better for Barack Obama, or worse for Hillary Clinton. Meanwhile, John McCain averted — after a major exit poll scare — another embarrassment to the presidential nomination he effectively won a week ago in California.


Obama has now won eight contests in a row since battling Clinton to a standstill a week ago on Super-Duper Tuesday. For the first time since Iowa, he is closing better than his showing in late tracking polls. He was expected to win in Virginia, Maryland, and the District of Columbia — though he trailed in the first two states not long ago — but the magnitude of his victories is tremendous. Obama won 64% of the vote in Virginia, 61% in Maryland, 75% in DC. And the turnouts were huge. In Virginia, which has long been viewed as a Republican state, Obama polled over 150,000 more votes than all the Republicans combined.

Best of all for Obama as the contest with longtime frontrunner Hillary moves on down the line, he is now cutting into her base. He’s close to a draw with white voters, winning with white men, and winning with women. Tomorrow, with an event at the largest General Motors plant in America, he’ll begin a drive to win over white working class men, extending his appeal beyond his clearly demonstrated appeal to college grads.

As for the Republican side, the contest there ended last week. Yet Mike Huckabee has fought on, determined to be the clear favorite of very conservative voters, winning two stunners over the weekend in Kansas and Louisiana over McCain. Thinking of this in football terms, McCain and Huckabee and Obama and Clinton are playing in the conference championship games prior to the Super Bowl. Team McCain has won its title, running up an insurmountable lead, only to see the opponent threaten to embarrass them with a series of late scores. So tonight, they squelched that move with three more winner take all victories.

Virginia was a scare, for the exit polls, as I showed below, indicated that Huckabee was running a little over a point ahead of McCain. This, after a late Huckabee surge in the tracking poll I cited yesterday and this morning, with a 32-point McCain lead last week fast evaporating.

The McCain high command kept its cool, insisting their candidate would be fine in Virginia, notwithstanding the exit poll. And he was, for the exit poll was wrong. McCain actually won Virginia by a comfortable nine points, while winning in Maryland and DC by huge margins.

While they find Huck’s insistence on keeping his campaign going distracting at times, it also suits several purposes of theirs, not the least of which is allowing conservative steam to blow off while a relatively friendly face becomes its electoral champion.

Meanwhile, McCain turned to the general election in his remarks tonight. Earlier today, he sought out Obama on the Senate floor in a show of good fellowship. He wasn’t quite as friendly tonight, addressing a few hundred supporters at a victory celebration in an Alexandria, Virginia hotel.

“To encourage a country with only rhetoric rather than sound and proven ideas that trust in the strength and courage of free people,” declared McCain, “is not a promise of hope. It is a platitude.”

“I will fight every moment of every day for what I believe is right for this country, and I will not yield,” he said. “And, my friends, I promise you,” he said with a sly grin, as he appropriated one of Obama’s best known lines, “I am fired up and ready to go.”

For his part, Obama, who spoke earlier to a roaring throng of 17,000 in Madison, Wisconsin, had his supporters cheer McCain as an “American hero.” Then the caveat. “But his priorities don’t address the real problems of the American people,” he declared, “because they are bound to the failed policies of the past.”


With McCain running against Obama and Obama against McCain, Hillary Clinton looked rather forlorn in El Paso, Texas. There she made no acknowledgement of Obama’s victories, as was the case with her five defeats over the weekend, including one contest, in Maine, that she was favored to win. After a seemingly unending introduction by the unfortunate Congressman Silvestre Reyes, the remarkably unknowledgeable chairman of the House Intelligence Committee — he spectacularly flunked a journalist’s quiz on Al Qaeda — Hillary launched into a standard stump speech.

Obama is now in the lead in the Democratic race, both in terms of delegates won in the primaries and caucuses, and in terms of overall delegates claimed, which includes the so-called superdelegates. Just a week ago on a conference call, Hilary’s communications director Howard Wolfson insisted that she would continue to lead the race so long as superdelegates, who are actually unbound to any candidate, were counted.

She can still win this thing. But the contrast between her latest blithe non-concession speech, and the victory speech of Obama, was stark. And with Obama making inroads on her base, while maintaining and expanding his own, she has some difficult times ahead.

6:50 pm PST — Maryland Exit Polls: Big Wins for Obama and McCain

The media exit polls show Barack Obama crushing Hillary Clinton in the Maryland Democratic primary, 62.1% to 35.4%.

John McCain swamped Mike Huckabee in the Maryland Republican primary exit poll, 55% to 29%.

Obama is projected as a big winner in the District of Columbia. Though there is no exit poll there. McCain is also the projected winner in DC.

62% of the vote in the Maryland Democratic primary was female, but it made no difference. Obama took 59% of the female vote. Obama won overwhelmingly among African Americans, and came close to splittingt the white vote.

5:42 pm PST — Johnny Mac Dodges a Bullet

Despite the dead heat in the media exit poll, with a slight edge to Mike Huckabee, Fox News has just projected John McCain the winner of the Virginia Republican primary.

That is because with about half the precinct vote in, McCain has built a slender lead. And much of the vote that is still out there, around the Chesapeake Bay and in Fairfax County, should go to McCain.

This is key, because without all of Virginia’s delegates, McCain would be chasing the arithmetic delegate clincher for a long time.

But, while he is going to be the Republican nominee — thanks to his backbreaking win last Tuesday over Mitt Romney in California — he is not out of the woods.

Because Huckabee is going to Wisconsin.

And it is not unlikely that much the same thing can happen there as happened in Virginia.

That is to say, independents flocking to the Obama banner — nearly a quarter of the vote in the Virginia Democratic primary were independents — along with many moderate Republicans.

That made the Virginia Republican primary disproportionately hard right conservative and half evangelical.

If that happens in Wisconsin next Tuesday, McCain could have some more tense moments.

4:47 pm PST — Virginia: The Exit Poll Horse Race Numbers

Incidentally, due to bad weather, voting in parts of Maryland has been extended an hour and a half, to 6:30 PM Pacific time.

Now, back to Virginia.

In the media exit polls, Barack Obama leads Hillary Clinton by a landslide, 62% to 38%.

And, contrary to what I reported earlier, John McCain does not have a slight lead over Mike Huckabee. Huck has the slight lead, 45.8% to 44.6%.


So the Huck surge continued through the beach, though well within the margin of error.

What’s going on?

Barack Obama drew huge numbers of independents and even Republicans into the Virginia Democratic primary.

Independents were 20% of the Virginia Democratic primary. Obama won two-thirds of them.

Republicans, yes Republicans, were 8% of the Virginia Democratic primary. Obama won nearly 80% of them.

With independents and moderate Republicans flocking to the Obama banner rather than voting on the Republican side, the Virginia Republican primary, where turnout was not big, was dominated by even more conservative voters than usual. Nearly half were evangelicals, the core of Huckabee’s support.

4:20 pm PST — Huge Virginia Win for Obama, McCain in Tight Race with Huckabee

John McCain has a slight edge in Virginia Republican primary exit polls over Mike Huckabee, indicating that the late tracking poll I reported on late yesterday and this morning showing a Huck surge was accurate.

On the Democratic side, it’s an Obama runaway in Virginia, Hillary Clinton’s best contest in today’s Chesapeake primaries.

Not quite a third of the Virginia Democratic primary vote was African American. Obama beat Hillary, 90% to 10%.

Among white voters, Hillary barely shaded Obama, 51% to 48%. Obama won white men with 55% of the vote.

35% of the voters today were first-time Virginia primary participants.

Incidentally, Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, a major Hillary supporter, said today that white men won’t vote for Obama in Democratic primaries.

3:28 pm PST — Obama Makes a Move for White-Collar Men

Barack Obama is about to make a significant adjustment to his campaign message.

Obama is in Wisconsin tonight, where he will greet the returns from Virginia, Maryland, and the District of Columbia at an election night rally in Madison, home of the massive University of Wisconsin.

Obama is very strong with the college-educated, and of late has been winning the votes of white men in his tough race with Hillary and Bill Clinton.

But his area of vulnerability in that segment has been with blue collar men. He and his campaign have emphasized the Harvard Law Review president side of his persona more than that of the gritty Chicago community organizer who worked with people affected by plant closings.

That starts changing tomorrow morning, when Obama tours the biggest General Motors plant in America and then delivers a new economic policy speech.

In the words of the campaign spin doctors, “he will lay out his comprehensive agenda to restore economic balance and fairness, reclaim the American dream, and create millions of new jobs.”

Hillary very narrowly came from behind to win New Hampshire after the Clintons tossed up a kitchen sink of tactical and thematic moves in the final 36 hours of the campaign there. One key element of that was turning blue collar voters in Manchester and Nashua away from Obama and back to Clinton, something the former president was instrumental in pulling off Obama had no counter to that.

But looking ahead not only to Wisconsin, which has a substantial blue collar vote, but also Ohio and Texas on March 4th, where Hillary will make what is beginning to look like a last stand, the blue collar appeal is key.

Obama also needs to find a way at another core element of the Clinton coalition, the so-called 50/50s. Those are women 50 and over who make under $50,000 a year. That’s another move.

2:06 pm PST — A Possible Turnout Wrinkle

Says correspondent Brad Rourke: “A thin film of rain falling and freezing has snarled the DC area’s rush hour. This may make evening voting tough. Official offices are closing (no poll closure reports) and people are trying to get out early. One traffic reporter said that he believed no ramps on the infamous Mixing Bowl (a key Beltway interchange) were moving. Having just driven from downtown Washington to Rockville, Maryland, I can attest to the traffic. Up to this point, turnout at Maryland polling places has been on the high side, according to sources.”


1:38 pm PST — Clinton Counter-Moves

Trying to shift attention away from today’s Chesapeake primaries — and next week’s contests in Wisconsin and Hawaii — Hilllary Clinton’s campaign rolled out two fairly big endorsements today for the Ohio and Texas primaries, which are still three weeks away, and made some California fundraising moves. This as she goes to Texas today to campaign in El Paso.

In Texas, Hillary is endorsed by former Congressman Charlie Stenholm. Elected in 1978 representing Abilene, Stenholm was one of the most conservative Democrats in Washington, as a leader of the Boll Weevils faction. A longtime supporter of a constitutional amendment for a balanced budget, Stenholm was one of only three Democrats in the House to vote against the Americans with Disabilities Act. He voted for three of the four articles of impeachment against former President Bill Clinton.

But it as all for nought, as he became a target of Republican Tom DeLay’s mid-decade redistricting scheme in Texas in 2003, losing his seat in the process. Now he’s a lobbyist, working to keep foreign-owned horse-slaughter plants open.

Obviously, the Hillaristas are going for the conservative Southern white male vote with this endorsement, since his views are anathema to her New York constituents.

In Ohio, Hillary was endorsed by former Senator John Glenn, the first American to orbit the earth in 1962. Glenn, who became the oldest man in space when he flew on the space shuttle Discovery in 1998, at the age of 77. Glenn ran his own presidential race in 1984, which did not go all that well. Seen as the main challenger to former Vice President Walter Mondale, Glenn was quickly supplanted by Gary Hart when the actual voting started in Iowa and New Hampshire. He did stay in the race long enough — thanks to an unsecured $3 million in loans from Ohio banks that he didn’t pay off for years — to siphon enough anti-Mondale votes away from Hart to allow Mondale room to get back in the race.

With the campaign’s finances somewhat unsteady, Bill Clinton is coming to California for three high-dollar fundraisers next Monday, on Presidents Day. That will help keep the Clinton advertising on the air. Obama is relying almost entirely on Internet fundraising at this point.

11:43 pm PST — Virginia Turnout Running Up

My shy Virginian cousin outside Charlottesville reports that her sources in state politics say that turnout in the Virginia primary is running about 25% higher than four years ago.

Barack Obama, she says, will win Virginia pretty easily.

Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton today is off to Texas, saying that the real contests don’t come until March 4th. In Texas and Ohio, where she currently leads.

She will contest Wisconsin next week, however, where she has long led. But the new poll I reported earlier this morning, taken last night, shows Obama with the lead there. As well as the backing of Wisconsin’s governor.

11:27 am PST — Conservative Mischief Making In Virginia?

Will there be some conservative mischief making in Virginia today?

Correspondent Rick Steroni reports that many conservatives he knows are disaffected from both remaining Republican candidates, presumptive nominee John McCain and hard-charging populist preacher runner-up Mike Huckabee. Many he suggests, may vote for Fred Thompson or some other name left on the ballot but out of the race.

Then there is a rumored “Block Hillary” bloc. “Speaking with my staunchly conservative dad, I found out he voted for Obama today. Why? Because he can’t stand the thought of Hillary winning Virginia. Seems he’s not alone.”


Of course, there is something else going on in Virginia, as I first reported yesterday on New West Notes, and again this morning here. Mike Huckabee has closed most of the big gap between him and John McCain. But McCain still had an 11-point lead, and Virginia is winner take all for delegates.

10:39 am PST — Maryland Turnout Revving Up

Correspondent Brad Rourke reports that a friend texted him from her polling place saying: “Long lines, people comparing it to flu shot lines. ‘I’ve never stood so far back [in line] is the buzz.'”

At another polling place this morning, he reports a young woman voting for the first time coming out with “a big grin on her face, skipping and chanting ‘Barack, Barack, Barack’ under her breath. When she got in her car, she whooped and screamed, ‘I just voted!”

10:13 am PST –Obama Takes Wisconsin Lead

Next week’s Wisconsin Democratic primary has looked like an opportunity for Hillary Clinton to end Barack Obama’s post-Super Tuesday winning streak. However, a new tracking poll last night by Public Policy Polling (PDF) shows Obama leading Clinton there, 50% to 39%.

John McCain leads Mike Huckabee in this Wisconsin Republican primary, 53% to 32%.

The firm polled 642 likely voters in the Democratic primary and 700 in the Republican primary.

Wisconsin has a large youth vote and big state university, but it also has many blue collar voters and is 92% white.

Obama leads by only a few points among self-described Democrats. But among independents, who can vote in either primary, he leads by a whopping 63% to 25%. Obama leads among women and men, and among whites and blacks.

09:01 am PST — Obama Takes First Lead In Gallup National Poll

Barack Obama has taken his first national lead in the Gallup Poll over Hillary Clinton. In the poll taken Friday night through Sunday night, Obama leads Clinton, 47% to 44%.

On the Republican side, John McCain leads Mike Huckabee, 53% to 27%.

In general election match-ups, Obama leads McCain, 50% to 46%.

McCain does markedly better against Hillary, 49% to 48%.

Intriguingly, McCain is given a big edge over both Democrats on the question of who would best handle Iraq, prevailing 54% to 40% over both Obama and Hillary. He has an even bigger edge on terrorism. The Democrats’ edge over McCain on the economy is in the single digits.

08:26 am PST — Crowds

My cousin, one of those shy Virginians, who lives near the University of Virginia outside Charlottesville in the Old Dominion’s horse country and knows a little bit about politics, notes that Barack Obama is drawing much bigger and more enthusiastic crowds than either Hillary Clinton or former President Bill Clinton.

Last night, for example, Obama drew 18,000, filling the basketball arena at the University of Maryland in College Park.

But he also drew 18,000 at a rally the night before in Virginia Beach, the state’s biggest city. Which, she points out, is not a hippie college town, as it’s home to several military bases.

While Obama was rallying his fans in College Park, Maryland, Bill Clinton drew one-twelfth as many at Virginia’s George Mason University in Fair Fax County. Correspondent Brad Rourke notes that Clinton also appeared in Silver Spring, Maryland, at Leisure World.

07:38 am PST– Weather and Turnout Expectations

There’s cold rain and sleet in and around Washington, D.C., but the weather isn’t too bad elsewhere for Chesapeake Tuesday.

State elections officials in Virginia and Maryland are predicting big turnouts. Virginians have taken a record number of absentee ballots. Maryland may see a new record for primary turnout, breaking the record set in 1976 when Jerry Brown beat Jimmy Carter there.


Obama received a rock star reception in College Park, Maryland, yesterday, with 18,000 screaming his name. Clinton has held smaller and more low key events as she and husband Bill, the former president, campaigned in the region.

Says correspondent Brad Rourke in Maryland: “In my high-turnout neighborhood, the length of the wait to get into the school board multipurpose room where we cast our ballots is often a good indication of turnout. This morning it took me twenty two minutes, start to finish, which is about half the time it usually takes. The line to go in was shorter; there were fewer cars in the lot than usual.

“This may be because the election officials are finally getting used to the state’s new Diebold machines. Last two elections (if you count local), there have been snafus that had people waiting as if they were stranded at Dulles in a snowstorm.

“Speaking of weather, it is crisp and cold, overcast, but with a winter weather advisory issued for later — sleet and freezing rain.

“Local households have been contacted multiple times by Obama volunteers (calls and leaflets) — zip from the Clinton campaign, save one yard sign at a neighbor’s house.”

06:59 am PST – Where Are They Today

Barack Obama is attending to Senate duties in Washington, D.C. and holding a rally tonight in Madison, Wisconsin. The Wisconsin primary is a week from today, as are the Hawaii caucuses.

Hillary Clinton is attending to Senate duties in Washington, D.C. and then doing events in El Paso, Texas. The Texas primary is on March 4th, and has become a must-win contest for Clinton.

John McCain is attending to Senate duties in Washington, D.C. and will have an event tonight in Alexandria, Virginia.

05:58 am PST — Game Day: Chesapeake Tuesday

Voters are going to the polls today in Virginia, Maryland, and Washington, D.C. It’s Chesapeake Tuesday, as two states and a pseudo-state, each given historic life by the massive Chesapeake Bay, make what could be consequential picks in the very tight Democratic presidential race between longtime frontrunner Hillary Clinton and new co-frontrunner Barack Obama.

There are Republican primaries as well, and they have a certain importance, though John McCain, after his backbreaking win over Mitt Romney last week in California, is the mathematically all but assured nominee. McCain leads in all three contests over the persistent populist preacher Mike Huckabee. But a late tracking poll in Virginia showed a surge toward Huckabee, who took two out of three over the weekend from McCain with an overwhelming win in the Kansas caucuses and a narrow win in the Louisiana primary (which yielded him no delegates, as he was well under a majority), apparently losing only in Washington state. McCain needs wins in all three contests today to help consolidate his hold over a fractious bunch of Republicans; Jeb Bush’s endorsement late yesterday will help in quelling the uproar from the talk show wing of the party. McCain especially needs to hold off Huckabee in Virginia, where his backing from Senator and former Navy Secretary John Warner will help the Vietnam War hero.

Of course, the real contest is on the Democratic side. Obama has substantial leads in Virginia and Maryland. There isn’t much polling in the District of Columbia, but with a very large African American vote and the backing of the mayor, his victory there is expected.

In Virginia, the biggest contest of the day, Obama has the backing of Governor Tim Kaine and former Governor-turned-Richmond Mayor Doug Wilder, the South’s first African American governor since Reconstruction.. Senator and former Navy Secretary Jim Webb is neutral. Obama wowed the Jefferson-Jackson Dinner Saturday night in Richmond, following Hillary to stage, with Governor Kaine introducing Obama by saying, “Now for the main event.” In Maryland, young Governor Martin O’Malley endorsed Clinton last year, but his political mentor, former Senator Gary Hart, recently came out for Obama.


Here is how the voting will unfold today.

Virginia Democratic Primary

Polls open at 4 AM Pacific and close at 4 PM Pacific.

83 delegates, proportional representation.

Virginia Republican Primary

Polls open at 4 AM Pacific and close at 4 PM Pacific.

63 delegates, winner take all.

Maryland Democratic Primary

Polls open at 4 AM Pacific and close at 5 PM Pacific.

70 delegates, proportional representation.

Maryland Republican Primary

Polls open at 4 AM Pacific and close at 5 PM Pacific.

37 delegates, winner take all.

District of Columbia Democratic Primary

Polls open at 4 AM Pacific and close at 5 PM Pacific.

15 delegates, proportional representation.

District of Columbia Republican Primary

Polls open at 4 AM Pacific and close at 5 PM Pacific.

19 delegates, winner take all.

Finally, a word about why this is “Chesapeake” Tuesday. It was the Chesapeake Bay, one of the greatest bays in the world into which many rivers -including the Potomac- flow opening on the Atlantic Ocean, which enabled the colonies (ater states) of Virginia and Maryland to flourish and Washington to become something more than a fetid swamp.

It was also on the Chesapeake Bay, on which I’ve enjoyed sailing, that the American Revolutionary War was won. It was actually a naval battle, the Battle of the Chesapeake, that led to America’s victory over Britain in the Revolutionary War. The Royal Navy was attempting to resupply Cornwallis at Yorktown. But was defeated in a great battle on the Chesapeake. By… the French Navy.


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