(6 February 2008) When the political animals (members of the two large political parties) in 24 of the 50 US states are voting all on the same day - even if it is "only" in Primaries - one can see quite clearly if there are trends and where they are going. Yesterday's results from across the USA were interesting and consolidated the bigger picture one is getting from this year's presidential election, but there were no great surprises. We spent all night in Dun Laoghaire with a good crowd of mostly young people - Irish, Americans and various others - and watched on the large TV screens the news coming in on CNN. There was much skillful analysis - on screen as well as in the Lime Club (where politics.ie hosted this birthday party cum "Super Tuesday" watch) - and many a good conversation was heard until the dawn touched us all, reminding us of other duties we have to attend to.
On the Republican side John McCain has gained much support, especially in the larger states (including California), while his two remaining rivals for the nomination - Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee - performed predictably. It was no surprise that Romney - a Mormon - took Utah (the only predominantly Mormon state in the USA) and that Huckabee - a Southern Baptist preacher and creationist - won his home state Arkansas (where he was governor in the past) and did well in the adjacent Tennessee (now that Fred Thompson is out of the race). Huckabee also won Alabama, Georgia and West Virginia, and it is clear that all his support comes from right-wing fundamentalists and creationists in the so-called "Bible Belt". This will never be enough for a nomination, but being a fighter and convinced of his own "mission", the rather bland and uninspiring former governor will hang on for another while.
So does - surprisingly - Texas congressman Ron Paul. The "lone ranger of libertarianism from the lone star state" might be a maverick and the most unlikely outsider in the run for the Republican nomination, but he is still standing after coming second in Montana (with 25% of the votes) and third in neighbouring North Dakota (where he polled 21%).
Mitt Romney, now the second-favourite Republican after McCain, is gaining his support from a number of different directions. Besides his home state Massachusetts (where he was governor), he also won Maine and the chain of northern states bordering Canada (Minnesota, North Dakota and Montana). They tie in nicely with Utah and Wyoming, bot Romney also gained Colorado and Alaska. Nevertheless, most of these states have a relatively small population and therefore send not many delegates to the nomination conventions.
The great winner in the more populated states (including the important marker California) was - to no one's surprise - John McCain, who won in his home state Arizona, in Oklahoma, Missouri and Illinois, as well as the crucial vote in New York (now that Rudy Guliani is out of the race and has endorsed McCain as his favourite). "Super Tuesday" has been good for the former war hero, and in my opinion his nomination as the Republican candidate for the 44th presidency is as good as certain.
Now the real big question is who will be the nominee for the Democrats. With only two potential candidates left standing and both polling very strongly, there is not much room between Hillary Clinton (who - after winning New York and California - has so far more delegates on her side) and Barack Obama (who won more states, and all of them - except Missouri - with a very clear margin).
Both senators are fighting sophisticated campaigns with highly skilled teams of supporters, but it is becoming quite clear that Hillary Clinton is slowly and steadily losing momentum. She might be an energetic woman with an extremely high grade of recognition, but she has no new ideas. All she can offer the American people is four (or perhaps even eight) more years of the same old policies that have been the hallmark of the USA since the 1950s. This might still find support and create satisfaction with older voters and women (who are more "conservative" in their general views and electoral behaviour than men), but it does not inspire young people.
Surveys are showing that the younger the voters are, the more likely they are to support Barack Obama, who is the only "new kid on the block". If he can win the Democrats' nomination and translate this party support into actual votes in November, the USA and with that the world might see a new beginning with hope for a better world, very much as John F. Kennedy tried to create it in the early 1960s. For me Obama is and remains the only alternative to the "bad old US style" of politics (at home and abroad) in this year's presidential elections. The crucial questions are: Will the Democrats have the guts to nominate him? And will the Americans then have enough wisdom to see what is at stake and vote for him?
The Emerald Islander
P.S. Due to technical problems this entry from February 6th could only be posted on the 7th