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McCain-Clinton General Election? (posted February 6, 2008)

Wow! What an election night. It is hard to know where to begin. But here are some thoughts regarding Super Tuesday, 2008.

The issues were very important for Super Tuesday. It is just that they cut in very different ways for the various candidates. Clinton won among those who thought the economy was the most important issue facing America, while Obama won among people most concerned about the Iraq War and foreign policy. On the Republican side, McCain did best with voters who were worried about international terrorism and foreign threats, while Romney did well among people concerned about illegal immigration.

McCain is the GOP frontrunner based on his strong performance last night. Romney and Huckabee are dividing the conservative vote and this allows McCain to win the popular vote in a lot of states. McCain has about half of the delegates he needs for the Republican nomination so party leaders will start to line up behind him.

Huckabee vows to continue in the campaign. He doesnít have a realistic chance to win but he will arrive at the convention with strong bargaining credentials due to his strength in the South and with evangelical voters. Since he helped McCain secure the nomination, the Arizona Senator may end up placing Huckabee on his ticket as vice president. This would help McCain in the South and among more conservative voters.

Romney has to be very disappointed with his performance. He has not won many delegates and clearly not appealed to political independents and those supporting Bushís foreign policy. He has to decide whether to keep investing millions of his personal fortune in a campaign not likely to produce victory. Since he is a smart businessman, I donít see him putting a lot more of his own money in his campaign. He already has spent $20 million of his family fortune for his campaign.

Clinton did well among voters valuing experience over change and who were over the age of 60. These individuals like her steadiness and competence. She won about two-thirds of the Latino vote and continued to run well among women, although not as well as earlier in the campaign. Obama did very well among voters under the age of 40 and with people who say they want a change in the status quo.

Clintonís victory in Massachusetts shows the limits to the power of the Kennedy endorsements. Obama was backed in that state by the governor and the two sitting Senators (Kennedy and Kerry), but Clinton still won. People make up their minds independently and donít let politicians tell them how to vote.

The Democratic race remains close. It is likely to continue over the next few weeks, culminating in major primaries in Ohio, Texas, and Rhode Island. Next up are the mid-Atlantic states such as Virginia.

Ultimately, the Democratic nomination will be decided by the super-delegates. These are the 20 percent of convention seats set aside for party leaders and elected officials. Right now, Clinton has a two-to-one margin among political leaders who have announced endorsements. This bodes well for her long-term prospects.

There also could be a major convention floor battle over seating delegations from Florida and Michigan. The National Democratic Committee stripped these states of all their delegates because they held their primaries too early. Clinton won those states and already has indicated she will seek to have those delegates seated at the convention. If she wins on this battle, she will be the Democratic nominee.

If I had to guess right now, I would say we will be having a general election between McCain and Clinton.