The 2008 campaign has been going on much longer than most of us expected already, and this is only the second Election Day with a candidate in a position to bury the opposition. The only comparable occasion was New Hampshire nearly two months ago, when Hillary Clinton had her back against the wall but came storming back. Will she manage to do the same today, and keep herself in the game?
That’s the fundamental question of the night. Unfortunately, answering it will be much more difficult than it was on January 8th, since it is very unclear what a win means for Clinton tonight — as I explained earlier today. To put it simply, Clinton needs to win Ohio, Rhode Island and Texas; only letting go of Vermont would be acceptable for her. And then we will have to watch for the Texas caucuses, the results of which could differ from the results of the primary.
Right now, the two campaigns are throwing around accusations of voting irregularity, though it does seem that both sides have enough legitimate complaints that we can blame the election system — especially in Ohio, where voting machines are once again proving they cannot be relied on. Another controversy today is Rush Limbaugh urging his (very conservative) listeners to cross-over to the Democratic side and vote for Hillary Clinton in order to prolong the Democratic primaries and get Barack Obama more bloodied up before he gets to turn attention to McCain (Kos had launched the inverse campaign in Michigan when he had urged people to vote for Romney).
There is anecdotal evidence of strong Republican cross-over, and that would usually mean a big advantage for Obama, who is often much weaker among registered Democrats. Limbaugh’s call could make it a bit more difficult to assume that a higher proportion of GOP voters will help Obama as it usually does, though it is doubtful how much weight such calculations really carry. We will surely get an idea of this when looking at exit polls and trying to determine the breakdown of Republican voters who migrated to the Democratic primary.
Another interesting indication to watch for in exit polls will be the breakdown of blue-collar voters who are usually Clinton’s base but who deserted her in Wisconsin. Obama has been hurt by the the NAFTA and Canada controversy of the past few days and that might be helping Clinton recover some of her strength.
There are other races to watch for today:
Republican primaries: In the week following Super Tuesday, John McCain looked like he was in for a series of tight races against Mike Huckabee; essentially assured of winning the nomination he lost a string of states the first week-end and then got into a tight race in Virginia. Since then, the GOP primaries have fallen off the media’s radar, and McCain is posting huge leads in Ohio and Texas poll. Huckabee had some hope for a while of embarrassing McCain again in Texas, so it is worth keeping an eye on the results there, but it does not look like McCain will have to break a sweat.
Congressional primaries: All eyes will be on OH-10 tonight, where Dennis Kucinich is facing a strong primary challenge by Cleveland Councilman Joe Cimperman, who was endorsed by the Cleveland Mayor. The main complaint against Kucinich is that he is abandoning his district during his presidential runs.
Other congressional primaries to watch for include OH-02 and TX-22, with contested Democratic and Republican primaries to take on vulnerable incumbents (especially in TX-22).