After Super Tuesday, presidential contest clearer

Published 9:23 pm Wednesday, February 20, 2008

By By Steve Flowers
Now that the dust has settled from Super Tuesday the presidential contest is much clearer, especially on the Republican side. Arizona Sen. John McCain has emerged as the GOP frontrunner. He has come full circle in the process. A year ago he was considered the favorite. During the summer he faltered and was counted out for dead. Then he arose from the dead like the Phoenix from Phoenix. His staff calls him Lazarus.
The maverick western Republican has a seemingly insurmountable lead in the delegate race and will more than likely be the GOP standard bearer in the fall. His emergence has not delighted the right wing of the Republican Party. During his 25 years in the Senate McCain has not been a darling of the right. He has marched to a different drummer and many times has chosen not to dance to the tune played by the extreme right. He has been denounced with vitriolic diatribe from far right extremists, including Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, and James Dobson.
If McCain is to have any chance of winning a general election against either Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton he will need to shore up his weakness within the right wing of his party because if these voters stay home he loses. However, because of his moderate record, he is able to attract independent voters and he matches up well against a Democrat head-to-head but it appears to be imperative that he select a running mate from the right.
The most obvious choice appears to be Mike Huckabee. The former Arkansas Governor carried our state on February 5th along with Georgia, Tennessee, West Virginia, Kansas and his home state of Arkansas. These two men seem to really like each other. They certainly teamed up against Mitt Romney in the primaries. Despite spending close to $40 million of his own money, Romney never seemed to connect with voters.
The Democratic race is too close to call and may well go all the way to the convention. The Barack Obama story is the phenomenon of the campaign. Hillary Clinton has been hit by a tidal wave of enthusiastic support for the Junior Senator from Illinois. Obama carried Alabama handily 56 to 42 over Clinton. He has carried more states than Clinton. They both have run exceptional campaigns and have each raised more money than all of the Republican candidates combined. It appears from polling that each of their supporters would openly and gladly vote for either candidate. The Democratic base seems energized and ready to vote for either Obama or Clinton in the fall.
It was expected that Super Tuesday would give a clear indication as to who the Democratic frontrunner would be. However, currently they are in a virtual tie. Obama has been on a roll the past two weeks. He has won eight contests to Clinton’s none. The momentum is definitely on the side of Obama. Hillary has a daunting task to derail the Obama train. She is hoping that Texas and Ohio provide a firewall for her. This Democratic contest has reached epic status. It is unbelievably close. It is truly one for the history books.
The proportionate distribution formula used by the Democrats is fair. However, there is a caveat. In a throwback to days of old the Democratic process gives each state a large number of uncommitted super delegates. These anointed delegates are congressmen, senators, governors, and party big wigs who are delegates due to their positions. They can vote for who they want to at the convention. The numbers are significant. For example, out of California’s 441 delegates 71, or 16%, are super delegates. In New York 49 out of 281, or 18%, are uncommitted anointees. We in Alabama have 60 total delegates and 7 of our 60 are super delegates who can vote for whoever they choose.
It looks to me like these super delegates may very well decide the race. It will probably boil down to these party leaders as to who will be the Democratic nominee. One given is that if Hillary Clinton prevails she almost certainly will have to offer the vice presidential spot to Barack Obama. It will be the ticket that most Democrats are dreaming of and hoping for come September. It may be summer before we know the outcome on the Democratic side.
See you next week.
Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist. His column appears weekly in 70 Alabama newspapers. Steve served 16 years in the State Legislature. He may be reached at

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