Some random thoughts on today’s results and related matters.
1) In terms of delegates, this appears to be a tie (9 each for Clinton and Obama, 4 for Edwards). This will be sold as a Clinton win, of course, but if we paid more attention to what actually matters for the nomination, rather than all kinds of ad hoc theorizing about momentum and bounces, we’d be talking about 1 win and 1 tie for Obama so far. I can’t accept the notion that if he had 10,000 more votes today, he’d have a virtual lock on the nomination, and I can’t accept the notion that because he didn’t get them he’s going to lose.
1b) As I understand it, Dartmouth is the only college currently in session in NH. Given Obama’s success with young voters, I wonder what the outcome would be in a few weeks when all the students would have been back on campus.
2) On the GOP side, the big loser in the current media frames is Romney. Imagine if the story went something like this: “In the first three GOP states, we have one win for Romney, one for Huckabee, and one for McCain. While Romney’s win was the least conseqential, he’s the only candidate to perform well in all three states and he has a solid lead in delegates so far. Given these facts, Romney should be considered the frontrunner at this point.” Nothing here is wrong, and in fact it makes a whole lot of sense, but given focus on coming in first in states, and the refusal to pay any attention whatsoever to the Wyoming caucuses, we certainly won’t here it.
3) My response to tonights results lies somewhere between Rob and Scott’s; I’m mildly dissapointed. Rob’s right that this means we’ve got a fight (I certainly don’t see HRC as inevitable now, although she should probably be mildly favored. I didn’t see Obama as inevitable yesterday or HRC as inevitable in the fall, either. These things have to play out), and it’s a good thing that Iowa and NH didn’t decide this race. However, a McCain/HRC matchup in the general looks a fair bit more likely than it did 24 hours ago, and from this distant vantage point that looks like the greatest chance of a republican presidency to me. On the other hand: this vantage point is very distant, and we ought to keep that in mind. Also, per Steinem, the fact that sexism surrounding narratives about Clinton has been far worse than racism surrounding narratives about Obama tempers my dissapointment with her victory.
4) McCain as inevitable is considerably less tenable than Clinton as inevitable. I’ve been trying to think through Huckabee’s chances, coming out of a strong performance in SC. As Rob reminded me earlier, states that support Republicans in presidential elections in the past get a bunch of extra delegates. If Romney, McGain, and Gulliani all stick around (with Paul siphoning off 5-10 percent in most states), this could push him through. A long time ago, I fully absorbed the conventional wisdom that “the GOP establishment gets what they want out the Republican Primary.” It’s pretty clear they don’t want Huckabee, but I don’t know who they do want. Furthermore, while I’ve long believed that wisdom to be true, I confess I have no idea precisely what the mechanisms are that produce that outcome. So maybe I’ve been a bit too quick to dismiss him? I just don’t know. His trouble with Catholics in Iowa isn’t really a good sign for him.
4a) For the 15th consecutive month, it’s impossible for any of the GOP candidates to win this nomination. I just hope this keeps up for 8 more months.
5) Is there strong evidence that Edwards will draw significantly more votes from Obama than Clinton? I’m not sure that it is. There seems good reason to believe Edwards will draw more votes from Clinton than from Obama in South Carolina, and that could produce an Obama victory. It seems this dynamic might repeat in other southern states with sizable black minorities. It seems his presence might hurt Obama in Nevada, but if the unions back Obama, that should be minimized. I knew several strong Edwards supporters this morning; they’re all Obama supporters tonight (myself included). My hunch is that Edwards share of the vote, outside of a few states, will dwindle considerably, and for some who aren’t interested in supporting Clinton or Obama, he’ll be a convenient protest vote. I doubt he’ll tip the race one way or another.