The Duck of Minerva

The Duck Quacks at Twilight

2008 Election: New favorite Among Dems?

February 7, 2008

I don’t typically blog about domestic elections at the Duck, preferring to save my analysis and preferences for my personal blog.

However, Super Tuesday was a unique political event. No primary election ever had so much at stake — at least in terms of the number of states and delegates to the national convention.

Hillary Clinton was once the odds-on favorite to win the 2008 Democratic nomination. She secured backing from much of the Party establishment, raised tons of money and led in the polls throughout 2007.

Now, she’s the former frontrunner — managing to earn only about 50,000 more votes on Super Tuesday than her chief rival, Barack Obama, out of 14 million votes cast. That was virtually a statistical tie. Apparently, the two candidates essentially tied in delegates earned on Tuesday, though many analysts say Obama eked out a few more than she did.

Chris Bowers and numerous MSM pundits point out that the February campaign schedule seems to favor Obama. The race is turning towards Louisiana, Washington, and Nebraska this weekend, then to Maryland, DC and Virginia next week. After that, the battlegrounds are Hawaii and Wisconsin.

Clinton may be the favorite in Virginia, but that’s about it so far as I’ve heard. Washington may seem like California, but it is a caucus state and Obama’s organization has done very well in caucuses. He even took more delegates in Nevada despite losing the overall vote there.

Obama is now favored on the political trading markets.

Those markets are not the only way to “follow the money,” of course.

Clinton revealed yesterday that she has loaned her own campaign $5 million even as Obama was raising nearly $4 million — yesterday, online. The bigger fundraising picture is even worse for Clinton.

Obama raised more than twice what Clinton did in January and is getting much more cash from small donors. This is a good thing because he can call on them again:

A report just completed by the Campaign Finance Institute showed Clinton raised more than half her money in 2007 from donors who gave the maximum allowed by law. Obama, in comparison, raised just one third of his money from $2,300 donors.

“It means, Sen. Obama has the ability to keep going back to his donors, while she has a more difficult burden of having to seek out new donors,” said Weissman, who is the institute’s associate director for policy.

Clinton also had more trouble attracting support from small donors, many of whom gave over the Internet. While 47 percent of what Obama raised last year came from donors who gave less than $200, those small contributors made up just 15 percent of Clinton’s donor base.

In January, when Obama swamped Clinton by raising $32 million, compared to her $13 million, the vast majority of his total — $28 million — came over the Internet.

Is Barack Obama the new frontrunner?

After February, the candidates will square off in Texas and Ohio on March 4. That will be a telling confrontation — will Obama’s momentum secure victories in states that might have gone for Clinton this past Tuesday? Bandwagoning is a powerful political force in domestic politics and seems to be appearing in the fundraising.

A word of caution: I saw Gary Hart on TV a few days before Super Tuesday. He told viewers that he won 11 of the final 12 Democratic state contests in 1984, but ultimately lost the nomination because Walter Mondale was far more successful in securing the so-called “superdelegates” to the Democratic National convention.

About 40% of the 2008 convention voters are superdelegates, so this race might well hinge on their decisions made privately over the next few months.

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Rodger A. Payne is a Professor of Political Science at the University of Louisville. He serves on the University’s Sustainability Council and was a co-founder of the Peace, Conflict, and Social Justice program. He is the author of dozens of journal articles and book chapters and coauthor, with Nayef Samhat, of Democratizing Global Politics: Discourse Norms, International Regimes, and Political Community (SUNY, 2004). He is currently working on two major projects, one exploring the role of narratives in international politics and the other examining the implications of America First foreign policy.