UPDATE, FEB. 20: More on exactly how Hillary Clinton is trying to "jimmy the tracks" -- amazing revelations, to me, from a reliable source -- are here.
ORIGINAL POST: Primaries are being held today in Hawai'i (20 elected or "pledged" delegates, plus 9 "superdelegates" (more on "supers" here)) and Wisconsin (74 "pledged" delegates, 18 "superdelegates"). Hillary Clinton's campaign, which originally focused primarily on larger states and conceded smaller states and "caucus" states to Obama, has tardily recognized its error and has been fighting hard to win these contests, especially in Wisconsin. Obama similarly wants to win both states for several reasons -- to add to his "momentum" meme by increasing his winning streak to 10 in a row; to prove (in Wisconsin's state) that he can win in an industrial state similar to Ohio and Pennsylvania, whose primaries are coming soon; and of course to increase his lead in democratically-elected pledged delegates and therefore his moral entitlement to the votes of the SuperDelegates that Hillary's hoping will act contrary to their constituents' desires and throw their support to her (it's still an open question whether Hillary, who has Bill's Rolodex and an Establishment Democrat's ability to offer favors to Friends Of Hillary, does or doesn't retain her lead in the SuperDelegates who, in this tight race, almost certainly will make the final decision who the Democratic nominee will be regardless of who their constituents think it should be).
CURRENT EARLY RETURNS: CNN says Obama leads Clinton. Update: CNN projects Obama wins Wisconsin. So do USA Today and the Washington Post and, according to the WaPo, "the networks." Some interesting demographic details here. More demographics from CNN here. UPDATE, FEB. 19 11:36 PM PACIFIC: Record high turnout in Hawai'i's caucuses. Could it be that someone's energizing the electorate? UPDATE 11:47 PM: very early results show Obama winning in HI by a 2:1 margin. UPDATE, FEB. 20, 12:04 AM: News reports and analysis links: race moving to TX and OH; ditto here; different analysts' takes. UPDATE, FEB. 20, 12:38 AM PACIFIC: Honolulu Star-Bulletin: early returns show Obama winning by 3:1; turnout five times last election's.
FINAL RESULTS, Feb. 20: Barack Obama didn't just win in Wisconsin and Hawai'i; he won big: "Obama won 58 percent of the vote to Sen. Hillary Clinton's (D-NY) 41 percent in Wisconsin. Obama also captured the Democratic caucus in his home state of Hawaii by a wide margin Tuesday, picking up another 20 delegates." Now he faces two huge tests, two states that really are Hillary Clinton's "firewall": Texas and Ohio. She needs big wins there, not just slim margins, while even slim wins by Obama may force her to cave on all her anti-democratic maneuvering -- but it clearly is an uphill fight for him in both places. Of course, VichyDems will follow them closely.
(Two side notes. One is that Wisconsin's delegate allocation system is downright weird: Obama could win by 10% and still tie in delegates won. The other, for folks who quite properly are concerned about which Democrat is better able to beat McCain in the general election: Wisconsin is yet another piece of evidence that Obama, not Clinton, would be the better standard-bearer. Newsweek:
Wisconsin primaries are open to all voters. With the Republican race all but decided for John McCain, Republicans and independents might flock to the Democratic primary, and they have supported Obama more than Clinton so far this year.
So: pledged delegate gain for Obama good; continuing SuperDelegate controversy bad (and fundamentally undemocratic); Michigan/Florida question still up in the air as well.
What's a concerned citizen, who wants candidates to follow the rules and for citizens' votes to matter more than party insiders' votes, supposed to do? Here are some options:
- Write a letter to the editor of your local paper, pointing out the unfairness of SuperDelegates having votes worth roughly 10,000 citizen votes;
- Call the SuperDelegates in your state (much contact info here) and tell them how you feel;
- Sign a petition here or here;
- If you think Obama's playing fairly and Clinton is not, donate to Obama or make phone calls for him.
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