Super Tuesday Unspun

Last night one party all but annointed its nominee, while in the other party sparks flew, both contenders landed solid blows, but when the dust settled no winner could be called.  This is the final tale of Super Tuesday, one that will be cemented later on today when the calculations are completed, checked, and verified.

So let’s take a look at what happened, and what this means going into the rest of the race.

For the Republicans, helping John McCain were several factors.  The first was the winner-take-all status of most Republican contests which allowed McCain to continue to put distance between himself and the rest of the competition regardless of the winning margin.  This helped him more than double Romney’s delegate total 615-268.

Second was the deep divisions apparent in the party.  Romney just couldn’t get a foothold in the South or amongst Evangelicals, thus ceding a lot of ground to Mike Huckabee, a dynamic McCain was counting on going into Super Tuesday.  McCain was shaky among Republicans, as is to be expected, but the split among more traditional Republican voters between the Huckster and Romney gave McCain an open pathway to clear frontrunner status.

That’s the easy contest to call.

For the Democrats I think we’ve still some time to know exactly what all has happened.  CNN gives Hillary a hundred point delegate advantage, MSNBC’s Chuck Todd gives Obama a slim four delegate advantage, and ABC News gives Hillary an 80 delegate advantage.  None of these numbers are hard, last I checked NM had still yet to be called on CNN, the full California breakdown has yet to happen, Missouri which was called for Obama late has also yet to be tabulated.

The general picture though is that essentially Clinton and Obama are tied in delegates with final tallies capable of going either way.  Also, part of the narrative is of course that Hillary has won the bigger, more delegate rich states such as California, New York, and New Jersey, but by far Obama has won the most states last night, encroached on Hillary’s territory a little in Connecticut and elsewhere, and has shown strong enough in the big states to keep Hillary from pulling away.

Josh Marshall preempts a lot of the spin and makes it clear that last night proved only one thing.  Two candidates, each are very strong, and it’s not likely that the road to the nomination is going to get any easier.  Meanwhile Kevin Hayden backs Josh up and agrees with him.

Does that mean Super Tuesday is completely a wash?  I agree, expectations games are moot at this point.  Polls shifted too quickly at the end of the game and too unreliably to allow Hillary to call her victories an upset.  At the same time, while I don’t think it’s wrong to say that it’s impressive to see Obama show as well as he did last night, it’s hardly unexpected given his current momentum.

Still, I think there is some advantage to be had.  Ron Chusid points out that the upcoming schedule highly favors Obama, as well as the ability for Obama to return to a more retail style campaign that suits him better.  Also he makes mention that Obama’s January fundraising numbers alone tripled Hillary’s pointing to a possible money advantage that could make the difference.

I will only add that the significance of a close delegate count is not going to slow Obama’s momentum.  Those who are already in his camp are going to feel energized, they’re going to feel that this thing is still in reach and they’re going to work over time to make it happen.  Also, I think you’re going to see that Obama’s electability credentials are going to be reinforced which is more of a psychological boost for the campaign and voters are who are starting to look his way.

So, ultimately, the one thing that has been decided last night is that nothing’s been decided for the Democrats.  The race continues on, and we got a long and bumpy road ahead.

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